The spreadsheet for a successful partnership

06/21/2019 By Hannah Melia – Materials Engineer

I believe that people are created equal but not the same and should put in equal effort. Before marrying my amazing husband, I checked that he agreed with this fundamental. I also think that spreadsheets are powerful tools. Here is how I combined these key bits of information to successfully create a 20 years and counting successful partnership.

Before starting the spreadsheet, and indeed, preferably before starting the partnership, explain to your partner that unless they put in equal effort to you in their lives, then you will leave/divorce them, as you will not feel that they respect you.  Next agree what all the tasks of effort in your partnership include. There is obviously, taking out the trash and cooking dinner. But there is also, remembering birthdays, and earning money, shopping and paying bills. As your partnership develops new tasks might be added –  e.g. changing nappies. Or tasks might be reduced – by taking on a cleaner or by you deciding that one of you work part time. So, the spreadsheet that you are about to create is going to be a living document and a joint document.

Each of these tasks goes into column A on your spreadsheet. Next you need to agree how big a task they are – this is in number of hours per week. This is obvious for number of hours out of the house earning money (include travel time) but less so for mental load items such as remembering birthdays and thinking of an appropriate present. In these cases think of it like this…. How many hours of bathroom cleaning would you pay, to not have to do it?

OK, so we have a size of task in column B. Next, we start to think about who will do all this stuff?  The next two columns are for you and your partner to rank how much you hate doing a task. I hate taking out the trash – urgh smelly, but don’t mind doing the bathroom as it will look nice and shiny at the end. So with that in C and D, we next look at capability.  Note that for hours worked outside the house earning money – we are still sizing in hours, not $. So if you have a fab $200,000 a year job, that doesn’t get you out of doing the laundry – unless you decide to outsource that to a third party.

Some people are incapable of seeing dirt – it seems to be genetic, but I have no paper to cite to prove that 😊 – just an observation.  If you, or your partner are the type that doesn’t believe that dust exists. Then accept that fact and don’t put that person in charge of dusting. Instead – give them hoovering – simple task with simple parameters. Cover every square meter with the hoover and you’re done.

OK so column E holds notes on capability.

The final step in the spreadsheet – but not the process – is column F – assigning tasks. Looking at the information you have assembled, assign each task to one person, making sure that in total the number of hours spent by each partner is the same, with a bias to doing tasks you don’t hate and avoiding tasks you are no good at.

Great – we have a plan. And we know that if circumstances change, the plan has to change. But there is another key factor. No nagging. If you nag – you are effectively taking back control of that task, and the partner will wait until you nag sufficiently loudly before doing tasks. Instead, stick to your own tasks. DO them well and on time and if the other tasks don’t get done, allow them to pile up. This way, it is abundantly clear to the partner what your expectation is.

And remember – you always have the nuclear option. If they don’t do what they agreed to do. If they don’t respect you – divorce them!

P.s. if they are ill or working on another continent – you can do their tasks.


Hannah Melia – Materials Engineer, Product Manager, Wife of 17 happy years, Mom


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