Can Chore-Avoidance Actually Break Up a Marriage?

As chore wars rage in the media, we couldn't help but wonder: Can little things like vacuuming actually make or break a relationship? By Lauren Le Vine, REDBOOK.

Household chores
When it comes to fights about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher, it's actually a clash of different personality types. Dr. Karyn Gordon, a relationship, marriage, and family expert, explains that there are 16 personality types, and only half of them are focused on organization, structure, and cleanliness.

Since opposites often attract, one partner may be extremely neat, while the thought of dusting may not even enter into the other person's mind. "Explain that cleanliness is important to you, and you understand that it may not be that important to them," Dr. Gordon advises. Teach them what to do and calmly let them know why neatness is something you prioritize.

Always choosing the restaurant
"Some people are much better at picking movies and restaurants than other people, so it might be that one person just has a better skill set," Dr. Gordon says. If this isn't the case and one partner does always seem to be dominating the decisions; however, it could be more of a red flag that reveals certain control issues. You'll never know until you say something, though. It could just be a blind spot for the person who likes to choose where to go.

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Always doing what you want (or vice versa)
Sometimes this is just a case of everyone having their own agenda: You scheduled a book club meeting during your spouse's work function without even realizing it. He went out with the guys on Friday not knowing that you wanted to do something together. It's important to be direct with one another and explain why you feel slighted by the other person's choices. Otherwise, it can lead to passive-aggressive behavior and resentment. "Partners need to feel significant," Dr. Gordon explains. "When they're feeling threatened and insignificant, people get very clingy and desperate."

Forgetting important dates
Dr. Gordon can actually relate to this one a lot. It's often just a matter of how someone was raised - did his parents make huge celebrations out of birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays? Gordon's did, but her husband grew up in a family that didn't really make a big deal out of important dates. So, for example, he wasn't forgetting their anniversary, he just wasn't used to celebrating it in the way she was raised to expect. "It's a skill you can learn with practice and by communicating your expectations." It also helps to have a shared calendar where you can notify each other of important events in advance.

No one says "good-bye;" no one says "hello"

Again, this goes back to what you saw your parents doing when you were growing up. Did they behave like two ships passing in the night, coming and going without so much as a "See you later?" This behavior gets ingrained in us and duplicated when we're adults. A lot of couples also manage to lose the greeting and hug/kiss habit over time if they're distracted by things like checking their email on their phone when they come home from work.

Reprogram yourselves: "When you walk in the door, you've gotta shift gears to home," Dr. Gordon says. "These attentive, affectionate qualities are important for both you and your kids."

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Not showing enough affection
This is another learn-by-example one. If you want more affection from your partner, start encouraging him or her in little ways. Hold hands while you watch TV or when you're walking somewhere. If you're also feeling disconnected in other ways; however, a lack of affection could be a sign of something deeper, and that should be addressed, Dr. Gordon advises.

No communication during the day
Does it mean something if your spouse doesn't email, text, or call when the two of you are working? "Different people have different expectations with this," Dr. Gordon says. "What we're really tapping into are people's values and what's important to them. If your spouse isn't calling, raise the issue, and then understand if it's not possible with their work schedule."

If he didn't realize it's important to you, discuss what a reasonable amount of time is that can be devoted to check-ins throughout the day. Also, check out these mobile apps specifically designed to help keep couples in sync.

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Being overly intrusive

Your spouse left his Facebook account up on his laptop. Do you click around to see who he's been messaging? Even if you don't keep secrets from one another, you could have different opinions on personal boundaries regarding things like email and Facebook. "It feels invasive; it's about personal space," Dr. Gordon explains. If the person doing the snooping can't see this, it belies a deeper trust issue. Ask them why they're doing it and explain that it's about personal space and boundaries, not trying to hide anything.

Sarcasm
You may find what you're saying - and how you're saying it - hilarious, but your partner might interpret that cutting tone an entirely different way. "I once heard a line that in every bit of sarcasm, there's a bit of truth," Dr. Gordon adds. "I encourage couples not to use it."

Sarcasm might also be indicative of a deeper issue: a "one up/one down" superiority complex. When it errs on the side of demeaning or insulting, sarcasm can reveal character issues that need to be addressed.

Social media overshares

How you feel about social media boundaries depends on how introverted or extroverted you are. An introvert might find any sort of relationship issue broadcasts extremely offensive and upsetting. Extroverts may not understand why airing even slightly soiled laundry is such a big deal. "If that happens, you just have to let the other person know that you don't want things like that shared on social media," Dr. Gordon recommends.

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