A paper published in the Journal of Marriage and Family shows that both romantic and platonic relationships that stand on the idea that both people in a pairing must make equal contributions or carry their weight tend to fail. It’s called an “exchange-orientation” – this quiet observation of whether or not the other person is bringing as much to the table as the other. This is also known as keeping score. research out of Harvard Business School reveals  arguing over household chores is a leading cause for divorce. The study advocates for hiring professional help to handle housework as a way of saving a marriage. Having someone else tackle the chores you beef over as a couple means fewer arguments and more positive interactions.

Not everyone can afford to hire a housekeeper, but what your relationship certainly can’t afford is score keeping. So if you notice that behavior creeping up, try to nip it in the bud right away. A survey published on the Inquirer listed the top chores couples fight about. The Institute for Family Studies also published a study on the top things couples with kids argue about.  Are you guilty of it?


Doing The Dishes

keeping score in a relationship

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The USDA reports that the average American spends just shy of 40 minutes a day preparing food and cleaning up after meals. If you’re in a couple, it’s easy for all of that to somehow fall on just one person, which could mean one person is doing the work of two – spending nearly 80 minutes a day prepping meals and cleaning dishes. Between three meals a day, snacks, coffee and more, a home can fill up with dirty dishes quickly. Seeing those counters cluttered with plates and mugs can make you feel like you’ve lost control of your space, and if you feel your partner is to blame, that can build a lot of resentment. That could be why 57 percent of couples argue about this chore.


Taking Out The Trash

keeping score in a relationship

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Taking out the trash ranked as the second most argued about chore. Even though it’s actually one of the quickest tasks, it’s also a very unpleasant one. Sometimes the bag breaks, leaving you to pick up disgusting waste from the floor and wipe up mysterious liquids from the bottom of the trash bin. Having to hold the heavy bag with one hand while opening the dumpster with the other is no treat either. But, if you’re like many couples, it could just be one individual who often takes this on. And they can be rather irritated at how often they find the trash bag overloading, while the other person does nothing about it. Forty-six percent of couples argue about who takes out the trash more.


Cleaning the Kitchen

keeping score in a relationship

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This task comes in high on the chart of most argued about chores and could be why Harvard Business Review recommends hiring a housekeeper. Cleaning a kitchen, between scrubbing the stove, cleaning out the oven, wiping down the microwave, sponging down the sinks and wiping off counters can take several hours. Everybody enjoys a clean kitchen, but if not everybody is contributing to its cleanliness, one can see how resentment builds quickly. Forty-two percent of couples report arguing over this chore.


Cleaning the Bathroom

keeping score in a relationship

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The bathroom is an inherently nasty place. Each person in the couple can have their opinions over who makes the bigger mess in the bathroom. Who leaves makeup out? Who splashes too much water on the mirror? Who fills the trashcan with odd products? Let’s not even get started on cleaning the toilet bowl. If you have separate bathrooms, maybe you can escape these arguments, but couples who share a bathroom reportedly fight quite a bit over who cleans this sensitive room. In fact, 36 percent of couples fight about this one.


Doing Laundry

keeping score in a relationship

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The survey shows that 29 percent of couples argue about doing the laundry. Like the trash can, the laundry basket can be a sore spot if you keep finding that your partner continues to add items to the growing mountain of soiled clothing without finally just doing a load. Now, not all couples combine their laundry. There are entire Reddit threads dedicated to discussing whether or not couples should do their laundry separate or together. If you want to avoid fights about this one, there is an easy fix: keep separate laundry baskets and do your own respective laundry.


Grocery Shopping

keeping score in a relationship

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Arguing over who does the grocery shopping tops the list as well. Grocery shopping is not only time consuming (Spendmenot reports we spend an average of 41 minutes on each trip), but it can also be stressful. Between circling to find a parking spot, waiting in line and dealing with crowds, this is one chore that can leave someone feeling flustered. No wonder 26 percent of couples argue about who does it the most. Some reports say there’s no detective work to be done: Statista shows that in most households consisting of heterosexual couples, the woman is the primary shopper and the man is a secondary shopper. However, those are self-reported statistics.


Being Too Tired for Sex

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The Institute for Family Studies looked specifically at what couples with kids argue about. There is overlap with the other survey we reference here, with chores topping the list. But some interesting quarrels unique to parents made the list, one of them being the argument over feeling too tired for sex.


Time with In-Laws

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Time with in-laws is another thing couples with kids argue about often. The reality is that when you marry someone, you unintentionally sign up for spending time with their family, even if that was not your primary goal. This argument is connected to another that made its way onto the chart: spending time together. Other people, like in-laws, can certainly interfere with quality time together with a spouse. If making in-laws happy means making your spouse unhappy, it could be time to reconsider those priorities.

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