Why you should run your marriage like a divorce.

Like so many marriages, Meghan McTavish's was crippled by arguments about domestic labour

So much so, that it was slowly killing the respect they once had for one another. 

"He felt nagged. I felt like a nag. I felt like I didn't get a break to be me, and I would feel so weird that my husband never felt guilty about going to play golf on the weekend when I could see things needed to be done."

It's not because he's a bad person though, says McTavish. In fact, she says he's a wonderful and engaged dad for whom she has an enormous amount of respect – now. 

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"Like a lot of women, I was just conditioned to put my self-care aside in order to look after the house and it's not my ex-husband's fault that conditioning happened. It was just very deeply ingrained."

So, she proposed an idea. One that might seem controversial to some, but is actually really simple, and just makes sense – run the marriage like a (happy) divorce. 

While her marriage didn't survive – for a range of reasons – implementing this change helped repair the damage to their mutual respect, which McTavish says was worth its weight in gold. This is because the second best thing after a happy marriage, is a happy divorce. 


How to run your marriage like you're happily divorced. 

The concept is actually really simple, and based on the gold standard of divorce – 50/50 shared care. 

"A good place to start is to imagine how divorced parents live, especially during their week 'on' with their kids," says McTavish, host of SELF care-ISH podcast: Divorce, Dating, Doing You.

"They each have their respective jobs but they also handle all the housework and childcare during that week," says McTavish. 

"It's usually a bit of a slog, but the divorced people take comfort in knowing that at the end of the week they get a week 'off' to just focus on themselves, their friends, their hobbies, whatever they want."

This bodes the question, why can't married people enjoy the same perk? It's supposed to be a partnership after all.

The benefits are huge. 

Once the load is equally split, both partners quickly discover an intimate understanding for what actually goes into running the house and having a job and having the kids. 

"It completely removes the 'you vs me' mentality and (ironically) turns you both into a team. And you might just find your sense of attraction starting to spark again... It just brings a new level of respect into the house."


McTavish, who has spoken about this a lot to her tens of thousands of followers, says many women question the concept with: but what about romance?

"Which I always find to be a weird question because – what about it? Is it 'romantic' to just put up and shut up with having no time off to yourself? I totally understand it might seem 'clinical' but you find things actually get a lot more 'romantic' because it kind of game-ifies the domestic labour," she explains to Mamamia

You could also get super organised during 'your week' and organise a date night for you and your partner. 

Relationship Counsellor Susan De Campo says if she had a dollar for each time a separated mother expressed their surprise at how little parenting the dad did prior to separation and yet wanted equal time after separation, she'd be a rich woman. 

According to De Campo, this type of household arrangement can have clear and broad benefits for both parties. 

"An obvious benefit is being relieved of the weight of running a household every once in a while. That's huge," she says. 

"Another benefit might be a greater appreciation for what the other person brings to the family and household. One of the things I noticed during the pandemic was that if one person was isolating, and the other parent had to 'do it all', there was a definite acknowledgment of the exhaustion that accompanies the mental load of running a family."

@meghanmctavish ‘Parenting Like You’re Divorced’ is something my ex and I came up with as a solution to handling the domestic labour of the household and it completely brought back the good vibes (yes we did end up breaking up, but thats why I say it can save… or destroy your marriage. Could you do it? Would you do it? And what would happen if you did? I go deep on this topic this week. Out on Tuesday 🎧 #domesticlabor #domesticlabour #marriage #marriedlife #divorcetok ♬ original sound - Meghan | SELF care-ISH podcast

But there is a risk.

Applying a concept that forcibly evens out the marriage playing field can put a microscope on the relationship, and not everyone will like what they see. 


Statistics show that in most households, one person (usually the female in heterosexual relationships) takes on the bulk of the domestic load. That means, implementing this sort of change is going to give one person a lot more free time, and take it away from the other – and the latter person may not like it. 

For the person being relieved of their load, realising so overtly that you can do it all on your own (even if you already were), may bring to light other issues in the marriage. 

"If there are bigger issues in your relationship beyond just the drudgery of domestic labour then this approach will show you a pathway to separation."

If your partner refuses to try this, you might also have a problem. De Campo says the mental load also needs to be considered, not just the practicalities. 

"There would need to be a really clear and overt discussion about the mental load aspect of running a household," she notes. "What you don't want to happen is for your week 'off' to involve overseeing that the tasks of running a household are appropriately completed."

This is the case for a lot of divorced couples too. 

"Often even after separation, with parents who have 50/50 care, there is still one parent who tends to ensure certain tasks – dance enrolment, uniforms sorted, buying gifts for birthdays – are completed. 


"Of course, one parent will take on these roles because they don't want their child to be disadvantaged or disappointed. And, we don't want kids suffering because of a lack of skill, ability, or commitment from the other parent. I think that's the really tricky bit."

So, while the parenting like you're divorced philosophy will benefit the household, it will inadvertently prompt people to ask: why am I married? And that's a good thing. 

"And I say this as someone wanting people to stay in relationships and be married. But I want it to be because it's a partnership."

What if one partner doesn't work full time outside the home and the other does?

McTavish says she's asked this question frequently. Her response? View the daily housework or childcare as a job – because it is. 

"So if you're in that position I propose this: You and your husband each go to your respective 'jobs'. If it's him going to the office then great, and if it's you handling the house, great. But at 6pm (or whenever you decide) that is clock-off time," she says. 

Meghan McTavish speaks to Mamamia. Image: Supplied.


"So if you're a stay-at-home mum, that clock off time during your week off is when your husband comes home from work and takes over the cooking, managing the kids, all the responsibilities of the house while you get to play with the kids, or enjoy a wine and chat to him while he cooks dinner, or you can retreat to your room to read or book. No guilt trips."

Next week, it's your partner's turn. 

"After clock off, you are on duty, taking care of the cooking, kids' baths, laundry sorting, whatever needs to be done. It's a slog but doable. The funny thing is that on duty week I just described for the woman is actually what the current status quo for most married women looks like. No weeks off."

Will the kids feel neglected?

McTavish says giving both parents a break on a regular and routine basis is actually good for kids. 


"Because now mum has room to just play and hang out without being distracted cooking and running chores while on duty. And Dad gets more one-on-one time with the kids.

"But also when you're off duty, you're not a ghost. You're in the house, you're being you and being loving. You're just not responsible for the drudgery."

Why isn't this the norm?

"When I first starting riffing on this concept, it's the question that niggled my brain the most," says McTavish. 

"I've put it to a lot of people and most often the answer is usually: 'Because we go into marriage with this idea of love and romance underpinning the entire concept'.

"And I get it, you don't marry someone you don't love. But all too often, the realities of marriage are what kills a lot of marriages. There's a lot of giving and sacrifice involved on both sides, which often leads to resentment. And nobody willing to say 'Can we do things differently?'"

McTavish notes this is because societal conditioning has taught us that everything begins and ends with marriage. And once there's a ring on your finger, that's it. The work is over.

De Campo tells Mamamia it's that lack of communication or a decision to 'do things differently', that prevents most couples from improving things before it's too late – either for the marriage or for the mental health of the overburdened partner. 

"I think as a society we've bought this really unfounded idea women are 'just better' at some things. For example, doing a kid's hair, when it turns out that men are quite capable of doing hair, making lunches, making sure the library books are in the school bag, doing the grocery shopping, making dinner and changing the linen. They're just as women are capable of mowing a lawn or some other 'blokey' task."


While it might seem un-romantic to say 'Hey do you mind if we have parameters on our relationship so we don't end up arguing over silly stuff and avoid resentment?', it can save marriages, and up the romance. 

Marriage is a contract after all. And you don't even start a new job without discussing what's in your contract and what the expectations are. 

"All roads lead me back down to the question, why can't things be different? Why can't people enjoy being married? Why can't people who are married enjoy their hobbies and free time guilt-free? Why do people have to divorced to get there?" says McTavish. 

"There's a reason many people who are divorced say that they would never get married again. They're happy to be in committed romantic monogamous relationships but not married. Because of the sacrifices that traditional marriage entails. Which is a shame, because don't married people deserve to be happy too? I think they do."

What are your thoughts on this concept? Let us know in the comments below.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

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