How to Influence Your Spouse to Do More Chores

Uncomfortable Relationship Contexts

Some contexts in which a relationship exists, are enjoyable. Some are not. How people respond to each other in specific contexts can make the context enjoyable or unenjoyable. The context, by itself can be neutral, positive, or negative. The interactions people have in those contexts are independently neutral, positive, or negative. Specific interactions often only take place in specific contexts. Not that the interactions can’t change, they can. They just don’t because we don’t actively change them. Instead, we succumb to a gravitational pull of habitual behavior that fits in lock step with out partner’s behavior.

The more our relationship is negative in relation to a context, the more the context feels negative. The more the context feels negative, the more we gravitate away from it. The more our relationship is positive in relation to a context, the more the context feels positive. The more the context feels positive, the more we gravitate toward it.

Often, what we are doing to change someone else’s behavior, is the very thing that perpetuates it. People’s interactions fit together like a coupling, each behavior sliding into a reactional behavior of the other. If person A slowly pushes forward, person B will slowly slip away. If person B slowly steps forward, person A will slowly back up. If person A is increasingly communicating with heightened emotion, person B will gravitate away from the emotion. If person B gravitates away, person A may feel that their partner is slipping away and becoming unresponsive. Person A might push harder, with heightened emotion, in an effort to reason with person B and save the relationship. Like a coupling locked in step, person B will likely gravitate farther and farther away.

Unless people actively motivate themselves, people tend to gravitate toward what feels less uncomfortable. If Person A is overwhelmed with chores, person A will start pushing person B to help. If person A only pushes in the context of chores. Person B will find that the relationship with person A, within the context of chores, is uncomfortable.

A willful decision may be that person B decides to do more chores, so that the relationship within the context is no longer uncomfortable. People don’t do very well at sustaining willful and uncomfortable decisions. Over time, person B will likely stop making willful decisions and start gravitating toward what feels less uncomfortable. This will be moving away from the context of chores with person A. Person B may be active in doing chores within any other relationship, but still avoid doing chores in relationship with person A.

Removing Emotional Attachment to Chores

If people want their spouse to do more chores, first they have to remove their emotion from the situation. In actuality their spouse is simply not doing chores. That’s it. End of story. If they let their negative emotions influence their speech and their actions, their spouse will pull away from topics, contexts, and people that surround the negative emotions.

The problem is exasperated when people assign an emotional reason to why their spouse is not doing more chores. People may think to themselves, “he is not doing chores because…he doesn’t love me…….he cares about others but not me…….he doesn’t love his children…..he only thinks of himself….ect”. When people attach an emotional meaning to their spouse’s behavior, it creates a feeling of intensity and immediacy that requires people to work really hard to resolve the problem quickly. This results in people explaining to their spouse how it makes them feel in a very intense way. It often results in people telling their spouse their theory about what emotional reason the spouse has to not do chores. An in-depth conversation often ensues resulting in hurt feelings. The next day, the chores continue to not get done, which unintentionally acts as proof to the emotional meaning that has been assigned.

Second, people need to remove the idea that they can only be happy, less overwhelmed, and less exhausted if their spouse would do their fair share. Having these assumptions will result in people pushing their spouse harder than is necessary. It will result in them building up animosity toward their spouse. Also, it may not be true.

Many people report that when their spouse is gone on a trip or vacation, they can get more accomplished than if their spouse was present. They also report that they are happier and more content during those times. It is often because people plan their day differently when they are by themselves than they do when they are with their spouse.

When people are by themselves they know that no-one is there to back them up if they slack off. In those moments, there are immediate consequences that will occur if they are not on top of things. During those times, people tend to plan their day more efficiently. They tend to not allow themselves as much down time between tasks. They are careful to not over plan.

When people are with their spouse, they plan out their day in their mind a little differently. In their head, they have unspoken agreements about who is going to do what that day. People formulate expectations about what their spouse “should” accomplish. When the spouse fails to meet the unagreed upon expectations, the schedule for the day starts failing. The tasks start piling up. Feelings get hurt. People feel overwhelmed.

Creating a Comfortable Relationship Context

People gravitate toward what feels comfortable. Unless people are willfully pursuing a goal, they are moving in incremental gravitational steps toward what fits or feels right at the moment. If person A wants person B to naturally gravitate toward doing chores, person A needs to cultivate a comfortable relationship within the context of chores.

What is comfortable to person A is not what is going to be comfortable to person B. The first step is to look at what naturally motivates person B. What does person B gravitate toward? What is person B naturally interested in? Does person B enjoy words of affirmation, cuddling, being together, having fun, relaxing, playing games, ect.?

Chores, by themselves, are not inherently rewarding. They are work. People have to expend energy to do them. The body and the mind do not like to expend energy on anything that makes them feel drained. This is why people steer away from tasks that appear draining.

If doing X makes person B feel rejuvenated instead of drained, the next step is to make X, part of the context of doing chores. If person B enjoys being together, do each task together. If person B enjoys cuddling, ensure that you don’t overload your chore list so that after every night of chores there is time to cuddle. If person B enjoys fun, plan something fun to do after chores are complete. If person B enjoys words of affirmation, offer sincere thanks and appreciation. The paring of positive experiences with chores results in person B’s mind and body anticipating that the result of completing chores is a rejuvenating feeling. The result of person A being the one to introduce X to the context of chores, builds a positive relationship between person A and person B, within the context of chores.

Progressive Approximations

If person B is not currently doing chores, it will be difficult to pair X with chores. Person B might not be doing chores consistently at a 100% level, but person B is likely to be performing chores inconsistently at a 5% level. The inconsistent 5% level will be the starting point for person A and person B to build on.

When person B first performs chores at the base level, it is important to introduce X to the context as soon as possible. When person B performs nothing, then nothing positive or negative should be introduced to the context. The absence of negative and positive to a situation will make it neutral. The neutrality will not detract progress.

Whenever person B increases consistency of the 5% work level and/or increases to a higher percentage, the positive X activity should be introduced. This will result in feeling that consistency and/or increased effort equals a positive relationship within the context of chores. Person B will start gravitating to what feels good.

If person B is performing at a high percentage and then slides back, offer a neutral response. If person B is performing at a high percentage and then increases consistency or effort, offer a positive response. If person B slides back several percentage points and then does not appear to move forward again, then start offering positive responses for incremental increases and/or consistency once again.