Here’s what I recommend.
1. Create a list of all the chores that exist; everything from paying bills, doing taxes, dishes, laundry, yard, child-related activities such as driving, play dates, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, etc. Don’t forget planning trips, setting up adult social engagements, and so on. Those take a lot of effort, too.
As an aside, I was sent a “Couples Contract” that consists of 52 pages of chores to divvy up. If you want to be that detailed, look for it. I have other ideas for what a couples contract could be, which is creating a constitution for your marriage. This consists of three-five strong statements that lay the foundation of the marriage, just as our constitution for the country does. These might be things like: Our marriage comes first and individual needs come second. Or, We’re in each other’s care. Or, I’ll do what I say when I said I would. Any decisions the couple needs to make can be put to the test of their constitution: either it’s yes because it falls under the document, or it’s no because it doesn’t.
2. Make two copies. Have each person mark what they prefer to do. Compare lists and see where there’s overlap and what no one chose. Each person takes the chores they chose where there wasn’t overlap. For the rest, the couple either needs to negotiate or flip a coin to assign the remainder of the chores. Negotiating can be anything from I’ll do this month, and we’ll flip it each month to I’ll do because I know how much you hate it, and while I don’t like it, you don’t like it even more. You could hire out certain chores. Be creative.
3. If one person is working outside the home and one is taking care of the children, don’t discount the hard work of parenting--it’s a full-time job, too. If the kids are launched or there aren’t any kids and one spouse is staying at home, take that into consideration as you negotiate divvying things up.
Remember to go back through this list together periodically. Situations change, and may call for chores to be done differently.
Don’t fight about chores, and don’t nag each other about them--and most of all don’t judge the other’s efforts. In other words, be a responsible adult--both in putting in your best effort (don’t do things half-assed) with a good heart, and don’t treat your partner like a child by nagging or belittling him or her.
If you can’t stand the way your partner does a chore, ask questions and be curious. Your ‘normal’ upbringing is not your partner’s ‘normal’. Try saying, “When the laundry gets washed and dried and left in the dryer, my clothes are wrinkled, making more work for us. I wish you would pull the clothes out right away, or at least let me know when they’re dry so I can grab my stuff before it wrinkles.” Notice the lack of the word ‘you’ in any mean way in the sentence. Generally making ‘you’ statements is incendiary, no matter what the topic. In the laundry example, one person could sort, wash, transfer to the dryer, and the other person could fold. Be imaginative!
What ideas do you have? How do you do things at your house?