I think many of us have a similar story from the past. I had an older brother, Larry, and when our mom had one piece of pie left, she’d give the command, ‘One cuts, the other chooses.’ I suspect there was not a 64th of an inch difference because we both knew intuitively what was fair.

How about our relationships with our partners? Is there a sense of fairness? I tend to be the cook in the family. My wife tends to be the one that cleans the house. I suspect we both put in about the same numbers of hours in a week doing our chores. If one partner spends considerably more time on a task and the other is watching TV, unfairness comes in and then comes resentment. How about money? Both should be able to spend about the same amount of money in a month as the other does. If one is a golfing and spends $100 in an afternoon, does the other have the same freedom to do the same? For some couples that have a budget, whenever all of their budgeted bills are paid and savings set aside, what is left should be about equally divided to spend without comment or criticism from the other.   This does not have to be precise, but there needs to be some ‘rough accounting’ to see if it is fair, is equitable.

This process can go far into the decisions couples make—can one choose what restaurant they’d like to go to and the other partner choose the next time? How about vacations and where you go? Whose family gets time at Christmas or Thanksgiving? In my marriage, we often invoke the three-vote rule. If I really don’t care what choice my wife might make, she gets all three votes for the decision. If it is less important to me, but still mildly important, Chris gets two votes and I get one, meaning we’ll have to discuss what my needs are. If it is more important to me, I get two votes and I seek out Chris’ input. What this indirectly does is force us to clearly state our preferences and our values. Sometimes it is not that clear and we may fall back on who made this type of decision last and it is now the other’s turn.

Sometimes this doesn’t work because of special circumstances—physical limitations, finances, and a variety of other reasons, but the goal is to make the relationship as fair as possible. Again if the relationship is not fair and your ‘drudge meter’ is flashing, resentment is not far behind. One last note. There are a fair number of polls suggesting that men that are actively involved in household chores have a higher frequency of sexual contact than men that don’t—what I call ‘choreplay.’ In talking with men, sometimes they don’t get it; every woman I talk with about it understands the importance of support and the division of chores.

Terry Copeland

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