In my pack, I always get stuck doing the chores. Help!

Question

Sorry for bothering you, but my mates and I have been having some trouble with delegating responsibilities in our day to day life such as cleaning, taking trash out, dish washing, etc.

I am OCD in having things cleaned up, so my mates and I have different definitions of what is a "mess" and I'm not sure what I should do. We can't seem to figure out a solution that is fair and that everyone is happy with.

I can clean up my own stuff and they clean up theirs, but the problem is, they are willing to let it go a bit more than what I'm comfortable with, and it bothers me. They tell me I'm just being a "neat freak" and that it's no big deal.

For example, it's unfair to me to constantly have to be the one that brings up, "Hey, we should do laundry." When I do bring up this topic, all I receive back are groans followed by procrastination.

For once I'd like to stop always having to be "that guy" that wants to do adult stuff.

Answer

Ah, chore distribution. This is one of the practical and unsexy parts of being in a live-in, polyamorous relationship with a larger pack. Nevertheless, proper distribution of chores can be make or break in preventing resentment and allowing for a relationship to remain healthy.

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There are a few ways to handle chore distribution in a polyamorous relationship. One is to just accept that you're in the maid role within the relationship and to stop resenting it. Remember from our discussions of cognitive behavioral therapy that how you respond to stimuli is largely up to you.

If you choose to resent your mates for not cleaning to your standards, you will end up becoming negative and bitter and will be more likely to lash out at your mates for other reasons. If instead you realize that you'll simply be happier after a mess is cleaned up, and you realize that you're the best one for the job, perhaps you can choose to just be happy that you're able to provide cleaning as a service to the people you love. Once you have cleaned up the mess, you can then get back to enjoying life with your pack.

If accepting your role as the maid still feels unfair to you, and it turns out that cleaning ends up being your responsibility most of the time, it is a good idea to work on finding a division of labor strategy that doesn't leave you feeling quite so taken advantage of. If you take care of cleaning and laundry, it would be a good idea to identify some tasks that are unpleasant for you that your mates might be able to take care of. In other words, if you take care of cleaning and dishes and laundry, they should then take care of something else to compensate.

Here is an example from my own relationship. I don't particularly enjoy cleaning, doing dishes, handling laundry, or cooking, but these tasks aren't really a big deal for Koji (my fox husband whom I live with). He, on the other paw, strongly dislikes dealing with money, paying bills, arranging travel, and making complicated plans, yet these are tasks I actually enjoy quite a bit. So, in our relationship, Koji cleans, does dishes, takes care of laundry, and cooks, whereas I manage money, pay taxes, arrange plans, and keep track of everything. That works great for us!

If the division of labor strategy does not work out well for you and your pack, another strategy is to make a task list and set it up on a timed rotation, so that each of you take turns doing various tasks that none of you enjoy. At least with such a rotation, it won't always fall on you to complete these unpleasant tasks. If you use this strategy, put the task list on a white board that is conspicuous in your home, or consider posting the list on the fridge or kitchen door so that everyone can see it and is on the same page about whose turn it is to do what.

Keep in mind that you aren't really going to be able to change your mates' set point for what they consider to be a mess, though; if you rely on the task rotation strategy, make sure there is a set time interval between tasks, rather than "when it needs to be cleaned."

Remember that "when it needs to be cleaned" is subjective, so you are asking for trouble if you leave any room for interpretation. If you don't know off the top of your head how often something needs to be cleaned, take a best guess, and revise the schedule over time.

For example, let's say you guess that the kitchen floor should be mopped once every two weeks. You put this task on the schedule, but you find out that the floor is actually getting pretty gross after one week. After rotating through the schedule once, you then revise the schedule so that mopping becomes a weekly task, rather than a biweekly one.

Hope that helps! If you have any follow up questions or comments for us, please use the comments below or get in touch with us via our contact page.

Viro the Science Collie

Viro Science Collie is a PhD virologist and medical writer, experienced in teaching, technical communication, and writing for the public. He has been active in the furry community since 2012 and has been happily and ethically non-monogamous for much of that time. His interests include non-traditional relationship structures, technology, biological science, and tennis.