3 Ways to Create Shared Expectations with Your Partner

Updated: Jan 26

3 Steps to Creating Shared Expectations

Do you enjoy cooking? Not just putting chicken nuggets in the oven, stirring the macaroni and cheese, and chopping strawberries and carrot sticks (#kidfood), but really cooking. Mincing garlic for pasta, searing steaks, and mixing the perfect spice blend kind of cooking.

If you like to cook, you’ve probably tried the arrangement in which you cook and your partner cleans up (and maybe vice versa, if your partner likes to cook as well). Have you ever walked into the kitchen after your partner has cleaned up only to see splattered sauce on the stove, bread crumbs on the table, a dirty pan soaking in the sink, and spice jars still sitting on the counter top? Ugh, that’s so annoying, amiright?

Or maybe you’re like me...I still haven’t figured out quite how to fold those fitted sheets and can’t be bothered to match socks (clean socks are matching socks, IMHO). Hint: this drives my partner crazy.

If any of these issues sound familiar, you will benefit from defining done. Defining done is a way of creating shared expectations for tasks and taking the time to define done will help you avoid misunderstandings and disagreements (and who doesn’t want to avoid disagreements?!) by agreeing in advance what complete looks like for everyday tasks.

To define done, sit down with your partner at a time when you can focus. Choose a few tasks that tend to be problem areas for you. Arrive with the understanding that your goal is to set shared expectations, not have one person adopt the other’s point of view. This may take some compromise and prioritization (sure, I would like our lawn to look perfect at all times, but that’s not possible unless I’m willing to let something else go).

Now that you’re ready to get started, consider three factors when defining done:

Quality - What are your joint expectations for the quality of this task? For example, if one partner is responsible for dinner, what does that look like? A home-cooked, well-balanced meal? Cereal or scrambled eggs? Restaurant delivery?

Frequency - How often should this happen: once per day, three times per week, biweekly? For example, when thinking about cleaning up the playroom, some families clean up everyday and some once a week. Both are fine as long as everyone agrees on the guideline.

Results - What outcomes are you looking for? For example, when considering children’s doctor’s appointments, you may want to ensure children are current on all required vaccines. The frequency at which you visit the doctor may vary.

Write down what you’ve agreed to and post it where you can access it when doing the task (inside a kitchen cabinet or on the laundry room wall, for example). Now that you’re on the same page, make a commitment to uphold the agreement. And don’t hold your partner to a higher standard than what you’ve agreed to.

Want to learn more about sharing the domestic load? Check out the Agile Life Starter Kit for Couples to learn more!

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