Marital Roles & Expectations

“Wait, what do you mean you’re planning on staying home with the kids? I thought you were going to go back to work?”

“I’m not cleaning that toilet… that’s your job.”

“Well I’m not cleaning it either!”

“Did that bill get paid this month?”

“I thought you were going to do it!”

Without clear expectations around marital roles, questions like these become commonplace in a marriage.

We all come into marriage with a set of expectations around what the husband does and what the wife does. These are typically formed by watching our parents’ marriage. Did you mom do the cleaning and your dad did the dishes? Was your dad responsible for making sure bills got paid while your mom did most of the cleaning? Did your parents tag-team most of the responsibilities?

The problem, though, is that what’s considered “normal” in your home is different than what was “normal” in your fiancé’s home.

We bring those expectations with us into marriage.

One of the best things we did during our engagement was to follow the advice of Dr. Gary Chapman in his book “Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married” and write down our expectations around marital roles.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Separately grab a piece of paper and split it into three columns… label them: “his job”, “her job”, and “both"
  2. Next, write out and categorize all of the roles in marriage (washing dishes, cooking, paying bills, etc). Have your partner do the same on their sheet of paper.
  3. Compare your lists. What’s different? Why?
  4. Reach agreement on each marital role and create a new, third sheet of paper titled “our agreed expectations.” This will be your roles guide as you head into marriage, giving you clarity around who does what.
EXTRA: We put together a starter marital roles checklist that has a bunch of roles already filled in and blanks for “his job”, “her job”, and “both.” All you need to do is print it out, grab a pen, and jump in.
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