What do couples fight about? Dishes and shopping?

Becky Roehrs

Stacks of dirty dishes by a kitchen sinkImage by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

We all know housework is a pain, but who knew it could be such a destructive force in our lives?

  • It's one of the top five reasons couples fight
  • What can we do about it?

Let’s start with the number one reason to hate housework.

1. Cleaning kills relationships.

Who fights about cleaning? A better question is: who isn't fighting about who cleans up?

Why does housework kill your love?

According to marriage and family counselor Dr. John Gottman, couples usually fight about the same old things. And they never resolve the issues!


Even if housework seems like a mundane issue to you, it can damage your love life if you don’t discuss it.

Housework has been a “female” task. Sexism can rear its ugly head when couples try to talk about who will scrub the toilet or empty the garbage.

If you do a household chore because that’s what men or women “are supposed to do”; it’s a surefire way to cause resentment.

Instead, the Science of People behaviorists recommends that you first talk about chores you don’t mind doing.

  • Then work your way towards deciding how to handle emotional topics, such as chores you hate to do.

But whatever you do, talk about it! Your relationship depends on it.

2. Housework can wreck your social life

A reason I hated housework was the fights my ex-husband and I created for other couples.

How we divided up our household chores caused arguments—a lot of angry discussions.

  • My ex liked cooking. I could make eggs and toast.
  • He had allergies, so we agreed to keep the house clean enough so he could breathe.
  • I worked long hours; he had a 9–5 job.
  • We each did our laundry.
  • I was willing to do dishes and clean-up but often missed dinner…
  • We didn’t have a yard or pets.

When we’d go to one of my co-worker’s apartments for food and fun, we'd be the cause of a scene.

When it was time to get the food out, my ex would go with the wives and girlfriends, most of whom worked part-time.

  • I would go with the guys, talk computer shop, and watch football.
  • When it was time to clean up, my ex would go with the women again.

And it never failed. A woman would come out of the kitchen, make a bee-line for her guy, and would yell, why can’t you be more like him?

Talk about fighting words!

And sure enough, the guy would say, No matter what I do, it’s not good enough for you!”.

  • And this wasn’t the complaint of someone who made a poor attempt at cleaning to get out of it.

To say we were not a favorite couple was a bit of an understatement.

  • If I had it to do over again, I’d find people to hang out with who appreciated creativity and could think a bit outside of the box.

We need to do whatever it takes to find others who are not thinking or living in the 50s.

We need support for our equal relationships!

What can you do to save your relationship?

There was no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse. — Quentin Crisp

I didn't usually have fights with my partners about cooking, cleaning, and what-not.

Why not?

I can live with incredible filth.

For example, I bought a vacuum cleaner. After a year, it was still sitting in its original box in the living room. And my place has wall-to-wall carpeting.

My standards of cleanliness are shallow.

But that didn’t mean I did nothing. But I have to admit, I often felt like I didn’t do enough. But I appreciated what my partner did.

Since I didn’t fight about chores, I wanted to find out what tasks got men and women in an uproar if you don’t do them.

A research study of male/female couples found that two household chores can make or break your relationships:

  • Shopping
  • Dishes

Who knew? Why, for heaven’s sake?

In my case, I spent a lot of time in rural communities.

  • We didn’t go to the store very often. My parents went without us since we often disappeared, especially me.

Or, at Christmas, we picked stuff out of the Ward, Sears, or JC Penney catalogs that we usually didn’t get.

  • We needed underwear and socks more than toys. Ugh.

Even though I hate shopping, I’ve noticed that there is heck to pay if I don’t go grocery shopping with my partner. So I do it.

And when I go grocery shopping with my boyfriend, we both enjoy it.

  • I sing along with the 60’s-70’s songs converted to muzak.
  • Sometimes I dance to the music (I enjoy it, but my boyfriend is afraid I’ll get carted away).

We both laugh at the kids running away from their parents. And when no one’s looking, I grab my boyfriend’s butt. And we both giggle.

I dislike doing dishes, but I don’t mind doing them.

  • But I don’t like being the one doing the dishes most of the time. And I’m not alone.

According to researchers, if you’re stuck doing the dishes most of the time, you can become resentful, angry, and unhappy with your relationship. Wow!

Even more than shopping, women hate doing the dishes. By themselves.

Researchers guessed dishwashing was so hated since dishes are nasty and stinky. And dishes look and smell worse the next day.

But researchers don’t know for sure…why dishes drive women up the wall.

I hate housework. You make the beds, you wash the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again. — Joan Rivers

What is it about dishes that we love to hate? Even more than shopping?

Tell us your story!

Remember: If you want your relationship to work:

Seriously discuss how to divide up chores fairly, not “evenly.”

  • Each couple will do it differently. You’ll have unique interests, skills, and schedules.

Find others who are sharing chores and are making it work.

  • The keyword to watch out for: “helping.” These couples are not sharing tasks.
  • It means one partner is doing all of the chores, and the other is “helping.”

No matter what, do shopping and dishes together, especially grocery shopping.

  • No matter how much you hate it, could you find a way to make it fun?
  • Or at least make it tolerable. No one wants to be with a martyr.

Good luck! Wishing you much happiness and success in your relationships!

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I write about local events, politics, education, relationships, online dating, and humor. Sarcastic and silly. Loves coffee and canoeing. I've been a computer programmer, outdoor guide, and taught programming at Fortune 500s and community colleges. Now, I help folks teach online.

Cary, NC

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