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Division of labor in marriage
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD posted:
I recently came across a research study (Burke, 2002) that looked at the division of labor in marriage— in my experience, a frequent source of conflict for couples. It showed some interesting findings on what happens to couples when their expectations don't match the reality of their roles — and I'm curious about how your experience matches up with this research.


The study looked at newly weds over the course of three years. They found that people's 'spousal identities' (how much they thought they should do certain chores) often did not match their 'role performance' (how much they performed these those chores). For instance, a husband with more traditional thinking about roles in a marriage might not be doing the yard work as expected; or, he might be regularly doing the laundry, which was not expected. The researchers found that people corrected this mismatch over time, and that they did this in two different ways. They changed their performance over time to fit better with their identity; and, they also changed their identity (though more slowly) to fit better with their performance.


Here is an example showing how I think this might work: George marries Stacy and expects that she will clean the house and he will take care of the yard. However, due to pressure from Stacy, he initially does some of the house cleaning. Given that George doesn't think of housecleaning as part of his identity or role, he is likely to do less cleaning as time goes on (so that what he is doing matches his identity). However, if Stacy continues to enlist his help, then slowly, over time, he may begin to see cleaning as part of his duties as a husband (so that his identity matches his performance).


George might also not initially take care of the yard, even though he sees this as his domain. However, he might become embarrassed and start working on it; and/or he might begin caring for the yard after Stacy's insistence that he get to work. In both cases, he is also motivated to start caring for the yard so that his 'role performance' (what he is doing) matches with his 'spousal identity' (what he thinks he should be doing).


I have certainly seen relationships work this way. However, I've also seen people whose identities are chronically out of sync with their performance. I'm curious: Can you relate to the findings of this study? Or, is your experience different?






Burke, PJ. (2002). Marital socialization and identity change. Vancouver, BC, Canada: Pacific Sociological Association.
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isabellin responded:
well in my case im a newlywed (14 mo) and life with my husband is not what i espected but i think we are adjusting....well im the one that provides the most in him working in the afternoons and being a t home in the morning he has to do all the chores thats cleaning washing dishes and sometimes cleaning..

And in regards of the money i controlled it (not control it but manage it lol )...i decide what we can buy or whats most important

i guess what society thinks a men/woman should do in my case everything is reverse and i dont see nothing bad with it but "society" sees it as not being the correct roles get it...?

as long as it works for me and my husband and both of us are happy dont matter what "society" thinks...


XOXO :)
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to isabellin's response:
First, congratulations on your marriage! Also, I agree, what's most important is what you and your husband think.

I'm curious, though, have you had to change how you think about your roles as husband and wife to fit with what you are each doing? Or, have you and your husband always had broader views of what a husband and wife do?
 
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FCL responded:
We"re like a tag team. We have no preconceived ideas about divisions of tasks we just do what we see needs done. Stereotypical notions of gender roles tend to hinder more than they help.

I'm surprised there are so many posts from professionals here that hark back to the dark ages. It reinforces the belief that the "yard" is George's domain while the "house" is Stacy's. I know the intention isn't to do so but it may be time to burst into this century. Heck, we haven't thought like that for 3 generations ...

Keep on insisting on outdated sexual roles and their challenges, WebMD, and you'll be doing your bit to ensure that the USA lives in the past.
 
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isabellin replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
weellll... i think we're still trying to adjust to things, but like on me im a dependant woman so i dont really thought about cause you're the husband u suppose to do this and that and cause im the wife i suppose to do this....

i have always had the thinking that if im working and you're working we need to divide things.. but being me working more and getting the most money i think is fear for my husband to do the chores and he dont mind yes i have to tell him what to do but he dont mind his a GOOD husband...

yes there is certain things i had to change my way of thinking to fit what each of us is doing and only cause of the pressure of "society"...but the only thing we have in mind is the agreedment my husband and i have and the understanding...
 
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An_212809 replied to isabellin's response:
I guess I have changed how I think about the roles of a husband and wife. I always thought of a wife as someone who stays at home with the kids and does all the cleaning and cooking and the husband as the one who brings home the bacon and does the yard work. How its changed is that unfortunatly it takes two incomes to maintain our household so I work instead of staying at home and I found that working a full time job that its really difficult and overwhelming for all the housework, cooking and being the primary parent to be put on me. So what we have worked out is I make sure the kids are bathed for two days then he takes a day then I do my two he does his one like that. Housework I do most of the housework but the dishes and laundry I do about 75 percent of it and he does the other 25 percent. My job is less demanding than his physically so we try to make sure everything is pretty equally shared it works well for us and doesnt make me feel bad about not being able to take care of everything on my own or overwhelmed for having to do it all on my own. My husband is awesome :)
 
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An_212810 replied to An_212809's response:
We are a young couple also im 25 and hes 31. We would like to do the more traditional roles, but todays economy just wont let us :)
 
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Foreverinyoureyes2 responded:
I think my experience is different because I am on my second marriage.

After my first marriage ended I did a lot of soul searching on what type of partner I wanted the next time around. Not only did I take into account emotional expectations, I also reflected upon things like division of labor.

I chose a man that fit my expectations. In our household I do the bulk of the laundry, dishes and day to day upkeep on the house, and he does the yard, shovels snow and does the major home projects. I don't necessarily see this as gender roles per se, because he has strengths and abilities that I do not have. I cannot safely rewire to hang a ceiling fan, and I cannot change the oil in the car. He can.

In addition, the guideline that works best for us is, "whoever cares the most" needs to take care of day to day tasks. For example, I need for my floors to be swept on nearly a daily basis (we have 5 kids...there is a lot of debris spread around!), he doesn't care so much if there are crumbes under the table or littering the kitchen floor. Therefore I am just in the habit of grabbing the broom and doing it. I would rather sweep and have a harmonious household than nag endlessly and try to get him to share my priority.

The most important tasks we share though...taking care of the kids is a major one. We cook equally, and he doesn't have to be reminded to coordinate bath time, and we can both be counted on to take/pick up the kids from their various activities and social engagements.

Division of chores can certainly become a bone of contention in relationships and can lead to resentment. I don't want this to happen to us, and neither does he. We will both do anything the other asks, but peace and harmony are my primary goals....I would rather live in a house that is less Better Homes and Gardens with a man that I love and respect than have a perfect home and clean laundry every moment of every day.

Funny story....my exhusband used to DEMAND that the house be picture perfect at all times, and I would kill myself off trying to live up to his standards. One day he said to me, "I am anal, I can't go to bed until the house is clean." And I was forced to bring to his attention that 'anal' meant that he couldn't go to bed until HE had completed the tasks, NOT that he couldn't rest until he had nagged and bullied ME into doing them,....glad that is my old life and not my current one....
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to Foreverinyoureyes2's response:
That reminds me of an old cartoon I had seen -- I don't remember where. The husband is walking into the house, obviously confused by what he sees. The wife is on the couch and the place looks like a hurricane hit with clothes and all kinds of stuff all over. She says something like, "You know how you always ask me what I do every day? Well, today I didn't do it."

I understand that roles are changing, but I still think it's funny-- and, perhaps today there are even some men who can relate to the woman on the couch!


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