This Is What Keeps a Marriage Strong

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The Rule: We Divide Chores Fairly

Tracy Wright, 40 \ Nathan Wright, 45 \ Chicago \ Married 6 years

Tracy says: "Nathan and I were both in previous relationships with partners who were lazy. I always had to clean up after my ex and it was irritating. Nathan's experience was similar. So when we got married, we were excited that we shared the same view of chores -- that it should be a team effort. We were in the army together, so we're both kind of neat freaks. Nathan likes cleaning and doing laundry and I like to cook. It was a no-brainer to divide tasks that way. It's a relief because we both know that the chores will get done, no nagging involved. But I'm extra appreciative because I know what it's like to be married to someone who doesn't pitch in."

Nathan says: "Just like the military teaches, you're only as good as the soldier next to you. My wife is my best friend -- and we own a family business -- so it's pretty crucial that we are able to work together easily. Our chore system simplifies things by taking the guesswork out of that part of our marriage, but it's not set in stone. We do help each other. If she's swamped with work, there are times when I have to get dinner on the table. And if she sees the laundry piling up, she'll throw a load in. Unlike my first marriage, we always have each other's back."

The therapist says: "Tracy and Nathan do a great job capitalizing on each other's strengths," says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You. "However, some couples will find that they both hate the same thing -- folding laundry or cleaning bathrooms, for example. In that instance, you can simply divvy up the chores by week -- 'you do laundry one week, I'll do it the next' -- or figure out which is the lesser 'evil' for each individual. The important thing is to discuss the issue, agree to a compromise, and always appreciate the other person's contribution."

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