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The Fair Play System: How It Works

Updated: Mar 15

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Many husbands want to shine as active partners and fathers. The challenge for many married couples is understanding how to work together to juggle the caregiving and home management details. 

This post aims to share with couples how the Fair Play System can make for a happier marriage. 

The Ground Rules

Establishing the Fair Play System in your home first requires understanding three key ground rules. 

1. All time is created equal

My view of this ground rule is that spouses should value and respect each other’s time while also recognizing that there could be differing stress levels throughout the workday that should be a factor in how the cards are divided. 

For example, Modern Husbands Advisory Board Member Christian Sherrill is married to an ER physician. Her high-stress, high-stakes job requires an emotional space at home commensurate with what is needed to be at her best at work. 

With that said, the following emphasis in Rodksy’s book resonates with me:

“Self Worth, Not Monetary Worth” - Rodsky

2. Do not keep score

Fair isn’t always equal. Consider prioritizing having the same amount of leisure time between you when dividing up the cards.

3. Collaborate and communicate

Take on tasks that can be completed from start to finish.

Rodsky shares in her book that interviewing all types of husbands/fathers found that most men respond positively to a direct approach, an explicit and collaborative request for help. Remember that for the system to be structured successfully, men are helping by owning a task from start to finish. 


Related: Do you and your spouse lose track of what needs to be picked up at the grocery? Use the Coexist mobile app grocery template for seamless communication and tracking.


Step 1: Build Your Deck Together

Start Where You are Now

The Fair Play book recommends couples begin with the Marital Mash-Up. 

The Marital Mashup

My name is _________. I currently hold  __________ cards. I am a ___________ . I am married to a  _____________ . My intention for playing the game is ____________ .

You must purchase Fair Play to fully understand what this means, which I highly recommend. In the meantime, you can try this process. 

  1. Use the online interactive to divide the cards (tasks) you currently hold.

  2. Have your spouse do the same.

  3. Share your goal for dividing the tasks based on the upcoming conversation. 

Click on the image below and use the online Fair Play card interactive. 

The Fair Play System: How It Works

In the Fair Play System, there are 100 cards that you divide up based on your family's needs. The cards are divided into categories covering the range of a typical household's activities, including 40 cards devoted to child-related care alone.

Pull the cards from the box and divide them by category. 

You do not need to initially play with all 100 cards, using the cards you value most. Rodsky encourages folks to avoid doing so and, during the process, take a half-time break.



Step 2: Deal the Cards

Conceive, Plan, and Execute

In the second round, you divide the cards by who typically handles the task. 

Deal the cards and decide based on individual preferences, availability, and capability. The person holding the card is responsible for every stage of work that goes into the task, called Conceive, Plan, and Execute. And be sure to divide up the daily grind fairly. 

Try to avoid dividing up the workload of the card, and keep in mind that task assignments can change over time. 



Establish a minimum standard of care

When dividing up cards in the third round, discuss the CPE for each card and agree on what the Minimum Standard of Care looks like. This is an ongoing point of contention in our marriage. What I define as complete isn’t always the same as her definition. 

In a previous post, Why spouses argue about whether a chore needs to be done, we highlighted recent research out of the University of Cambridge that argues that:

“Through societal norms, women are more likely to see crumbs on the counter, believe the kitchen is not clean, and feel it needs to be cleaned right now. Whereas men don’t see the crumbs.”



The card division is not focused on 50/50 but rather on the ownership of tasks, including the mental load of the task. In my view, this is the secret sauce of the Fair Play system.


For our relationship, this has been the most important aspect of the system. When you own a card, you own everything about that task. I don't assume the mental load of ensuring my wife's tasks are finished, and she doesn't do that for me. I cannot stress enough how liberating it is for both spouses when you accept the responsibility of ownership and trust your partner to do the same.


We all have our own way of getting things done. My way might be different from my spouse's, and your way might be different from yours. Set boundaries. Do not micromanage your spouse and vice versa.

Step 3: Claim Your Unicorn Space

The Unicorn Space card sets aside an hour a day for yourself, free of work inside and outside the home. Everyone needs this for their own well-being. 

To find your Unicorn Space, review our Health and Happiness page, where we regularly share evidence-based ideas to help men live happier lives and exercise ideas for perfecting the Dad Bod.

Step 4: Make it Last

  1. Don’t give feedback at the moment. Wait until your partner can receive the feedback as it is intended to be received. 

  2. Meet daily or weekly to discuss what is and is not working. 

  3. Start with your “why” if you’re stuck, sharing why certain things are important to you. 

Eve Rodsky on the Modern Husbands Podcast

Winning ideas from experts to manage money and the home as a team. 2023 Plutus Award Finalist: Best Couples or Family Content

🔔 Click here to listen and subscribe to the Modern Husbands Podcast on Apple.

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