With the smell of wilting roses and conversation hearts still permeating the air, it’s time to talk about love. Not the Hallmark kind that inspired your partner to present said tokens of affection. Not the pheromone-induced kind that led to the progeny with whom you spent the last week cutting out hearts or addressing valentines. I’m talking about the nitty-gritty daily affection you show (and hopefully receive from) those other humans with whom you share your life. Love made visible every day via 1000 acts of service, small and large, manifested in meals served, toilets cleaned, cars serviced, groceries purchased, papers filed, trash taken out, schedules managed, errands run, laundry washed, folded, and (in cases of extreme adoration) put away.
There is no measure for love. It’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty, or at least with any scientific backing, that one person’s love for someone is greater than another’s. And hopefully you and your partner love each other equally. Yet, when you consider those 1000 acts of service rendered in the name of love, do they divide as evenly?
If not, you’re not alone. How many couples have you heard complain about the same thing: one partner ‘nags’; the other is ‘lazy.’ Yet, I’m willing to bet that few of these relationships began with these troubles. At one time it was Hallmark moments and pheromone-induced highs. Now both sides feel trapped by perceptions. And as they say at the CIA, “perception is reality.”
Because whether you both work full time, part-time, from home, or not at all, the issue of divvying up chores is frequently more loaded than the washing machine. All you have to do is type “load sharing” into your browser’s search bar, and you know right away you’ve hit a hot-button issue. There are sites that offer practical charts or lists designed to make it easier to more evenly distributing the load. Faith-based family groups and feminists address roles within a household, frequently seeking to redistribute the mental or emotional loads more equitably.
Forget about balancing the load for a minute. How do you even discuss it when the topic is so fraught? Religious or feminist perspectives aside, figuring out who’s putting in how much effort around the house can feel like comparing apples to bananas. Cleaning the toilet may be grosser than tossing the towels in the washer, but it takes less time than sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting those towels away. Vacuuming and lawn mowing may look similar to some, but when you check out frequency and duration of time spent, or total surface area maintained, there may be some big differences. Does staying on top of car maintenance equal staying on top of sports schedules? Is filing equivalent to meal prep? What about the dishes?!?