Whether you have just moved in with your new spouse or you have lived together for some time before marriage, there's no question that the marriage ceremony changes relationships. You have to adjust to an entire life ahead, sharing space and duties with your new partner.
The rules and roles in a household are important to establish upfront so you and your partner can avoid resentment and share duties in a way that feels fair to everyone. If children are involved or your household is blending kids from previous marriages, this discussion will be more complicated, but it can be tricky even with the two of you involved.
Here are some questions to sit down with your spouse during a quiet time and answer. Make sure you can agree on or compromise on the answers so both of you feel satisfied, and neither of you feels like you're making undue sacrifices.
Who Will Work and When?
This is one of the most important things to establish upfront. If you're going to be working unevenly or caring for anyone at home, you need to establish who is working and when. This is easier to predict with regular office hours, but you may need to decide who will come home to feed the dog and walk him at lunch, or who should work longer hours each day in order to have Fridays off if your children only have half-days at school. If one of you needs to manage a home business, they should still establish working hours so you know who is free to run errands at particular times or clean the house.
What are Each of Your Strengths?
If your spouse is more talented with a wrench and you burn everything you try to cook, the answer to this will be obvious. You may have similar or complementary skills. If your skill sets are similar, consider learning more household maintenance skills together or see if one of you is interested in, for example, buying a cookbook and learning to make some simple meals.
Remember that you won't always feel like doing things around the house, even if you're good at them. Individual tasks might be boring or annoying sometimes, but make sure you're not having the un-handy partner in the relationship fix the sink or the easily-distracted one cook. Gender roles may or may not fit you, but don't stick to them if they don't apply to your relationship!
What Needs to be Done?
Work together to make a list of common tasks. For example, dishes, laundry, and vacuuming are some of the most common chores. If one partner is staying home (and isn't working from home during daytime hours), it will usually make sense for that person to take responsibility for doing most of the chores, but even in this situation you shouldn't leave them to do all the work, or resentment may build.
Even if the working partner commits to doing one or two chores like washing the car on weekends or going to the store to grocery shop before coming home from work, it can help balance out the load. Keeping the home running can be just as much work as going to a traditional job!
Do You Have Any Rules You Need to Establish?
Every individual has individual quirks. Some people can't fall asleep with the front door unlocked, while others might need to wash the dishes before going to sleep. Your partner might be very sensitive to cigarette smoke, or you might enjoy entertaining a whole host of people at hours when your partner prefers to sleep.
Brainstorm a list of things that are very important to each of you, including quiet time in the household, whether you need to let each other know before bringing friends or family home, and whether any tasks or chores are particularly important to stay on top of in order to avoid distracting and worrying you. Even if it seems silly to you, it may be very important to your partner, so respect rules that are suggested and see if you can work out a compromise.
One example of a way to compromise on rules is during friends' visits. If one partner likes hosting parties on Friday evenings and the other works on Saturday mornings, you could agree to limit the time and make sure everyone is out of the house by a certain time, or agree that "quiet hours" begin at a certain time and anyone in the house has to start being quiet to let the other partner sleep.
How Will You Revisit These Roles and Rules?
Many people have this kind of discussion once and then settle on whatever is decided for years to come. If resentment builds up, there are no built-in times to talk about it, and the resentment festers until you two fight. Then, both of you are startled by everything that suddenly comes out! Instead of letting this happen, you can make sure you each have an opportunity to express what's important to you and what you feel needs to be done more often in a more gentle, loving way.
Set up a regular date—whether that be one Sunday a month or even every few months—when you can relax, talk about what you feel is working for you and what could be working better, and listen without the judgement and defensiveness that crops up when you mention something out of the blue.
Whatever you do, prioritize communication. Try to understand that if your partner yells at you for being lazy, it probably means they feel the work in your household is unbalanced, not an attack on your character. After the argument is finished, gently revisit the subject and see if there's something else you can do to help out. Similarly, if you feel frustration, word it in terms of specific tasks you would like your partner to do rather than a general attack.
The post-marriage honeymoon phase is a fantastic one in most marriages, so take advantage of the warmth, respect, and generosity you both feel towards each other to establish the roles and rules in your household. By taking this time now, you and your new spouse can avoid resentment and keep the household running smoothly.