I’ve mentioned it before, but the major conflict source I’ve had with my domestic partner in our relationship has been over chores. We don’t fight about money. Our values are in sync. The only place we’ve really warred has been in regard to chores.
And the source of the conflict is that my partner wants a neater home than I do.
I lived in a variety of different homes in my formative years — messy ones, immaculate ones, ones that were somewhere in between. And I’ve typically found that the in-between homes were my favorite. Where people made sure that home wasn’t uncomfortably cluttered, but they also didn’t spend all their time obsessing over it (because they were busy living their lives instead of doing a white glove test, off making and discovering cool things — as was the case with one friend’s parents, who were both scientists).
The folks in my childhood that were screaming at people over coasters and cleaning before things got dirty weren’t happy or fulfilled in other areas of their lives.
I’m not saying there’s always a connection there — but it definitely made an impression on me.
But I love my partner (who is a neatnik), so I upped my game. I tried anyway. I started doing a lot more chores, but often what I did wouldn’t live up to their standards. As an example, I’d fold towels one way, the way that I learned, but it was different from how they wanted them folded. So I’d have to learn that — and maybe not do it perfectly, since it was new to me.
I relearned how I loaded a dishwasher, making sure not to overcrowd it (a pet peeve of theirs). Years later, it’s still not how they’d do (they say I took the “leave space” thing a bit too far but that it’s okay, they find this failure state to be a better one).
I used to feel quite bad about the fact that I never lived up to their standards — until they admitted that they don’t live up to their own standards either. Knowing this helps a little.
As does my focus on pass/fail chores.
I Do A Lot of Pass/Fail Chores
What are pass/fail chores? Well, they’re tasks that are fairly straightforward. Where you’ve either done the chore or not. And in which success is objective (or close to it).
A good example is making up our pills. We each have pill organizers that cover two weeks (mostly filled with vitamins and sleeping aids, since we both have issues with sleep). Some of my partner’s supplements (like their fish oil) are rather large for the compartments so there’s a specific order everything needs to be loaded in order to fit.
It’s kind of a pain hauling out all the bottles and loading up the pills in exactly the right order. But I do it.
Because it’s a pass/fail chore. So long as I put the right pills into the compartment in the right order, I’ve passed. I’ve done it correctly. It’s like pressing a button combo where the inputs are clearcut.
This kind of pass/fail chore is a lot different than something like cleaning a counter. You clean a counter, and even trying your hardest, you can miss a spot or leave it too wet (which annoys the next person prepping there). That sort of thing. (These days I do clean counters, however, at about an A minus to B minus level, depending on how busy or tired I am.)
I try to seek out the straightforward tasks. Taking out the trash and recycling is another example. Are the items gone? Then I’ve passed.
The benefit is twofold: It sets me up so I can succeed and be helpful, without annoying my neatnik partner — and it also means they don’t have to do as much mindless busywork (since I glom onto the mindless busywork with a quickness) and frees them up to do the tasks that they’re fussier about.