Marriage Admin Sounds Tedious, But Can It Actually Help Your Relationship? What We Know

Marriage (or cohabitating with your partner) is a union of more than just love and passion. It's the merging of two lives into one collective life — often including children — and that requires a lot of management. Historically, it's women who carry the burden of keeping track of the necessary tasks to keep a household afloat — from scheduling to cleaning and organizing to holiday planning. Even when both partners are willing to execute the tasks that need completing, the mental load of tracking what needs to be done and when often falls to just one. Not to mention the emotional labor of managing everyone's needs.


A partner willing to contribute by checking off tasks on a to-do list they didn't create is often clueless about the invisible labor that goes into tracking and planning exactly what needs to be done to keep a household, marriage, and family functioning. Thus, an opportunity to use tactics similar to those of a business — like spreadsheets and productivity meetings — to ensure that your joint household is running smoothly and labor is being divided fairly arises. And once it is, you might be surprised how much more energy you have left over for romance. Consider this your guide. 

Division of labor

Every household task includes three phases: conception, planning, and execution, according to "Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live)" via Bare Marriage. Conception encompasses tracking cyclical tasks to know when they need to be performed again and recognizing when the need arises for a new one-time task. Planning a task includes deciding who will perform it, how it should be done, and when it will be done.


By the time a task is actually executed, two-thirds of it has already been taken care of. If you're handling the conception and planning of every task within your household plus executing half of them (while your partner executes the other half), you're still being burdened with over 80% of the total workload. This is why examining your relationship from a critical and business-like point of view is so important — no matter how unromantic the concept might sound.

How to get started

If your partner is on board and you're both ready to embrace a more organized and equitable household, the first step is to make a list of every task that's required to keep your home and family functional. If you're the one who has been responsible for most of the household labor so far, this task will likely fall to you as well. Consider it your last dance with an unfair division of labor.


Once you have a list of every task needed to keep your household running, it's time to assign each of those tasks. Start by allowing each of you to claim the tasks you enjoy or don't particularly mind completing. Next, consider each of your individual skill sets and work schedules and divide tasks accordingly. If you end up with a pile of unwanted tasks at the end, there's nothing wrong with flipping a coin to divide them up. You can trade or rework these assignments any time you want — whether that means weekly, monthly, or just as needed. 

Recommended tools

There are many tools that can help you and your partner approach a fair division of household labor in an organized manner. You might wish to write tasks on notecards and physically divide them. If you're more likely to check your phones or laptops than a written system, consider a task management app like Todoist for joint to-do lists you can both check off in real time.


When communicating about the administration of your marriage, it can be useful to dedicate a separate space for discussion. Rather than mixing conversations about chore plans or scheduling in with the daily chatter of your text message or email conversations, use a specific means of communication like a Slack channel or a Facebook Messenger discussion. Then, when you need to go back to find the details of your plan, it won't be lost in a sea of memes. Come together at the end of each weekend to prepare for the week ahead — preferably over dinner and a nice bottle of wine. 

Administration vs. romance

Critics of adding a business-like lens to marriages may argue that running your partnership like a corporate machine sucks the romance and passion out of the relationship. There's nothing sexy about sitting down to study a spreadsheet with your partner every Sunday night, right? It all depends on how you view love and romance. If you're the partner who has been carrying around the weight of 80% or more of the household labor, finding the mental and emotional energy for romance has probably become pretty challenging.


When the household labor is adjusted to be fairer to both partners, you might be surprised to see an increase in romance rather than a decrease. Clearing the way for more energy to become available means that energy can be channeled into reigniting the spark in your relationship. Watching your partner pick up the slack to make your life better and your marriage more equitable is actually a major turn-on — spreadsheet or no spreadsheet.