If you think skipping the dishes will make time for more action between the sheets, think again! Scrubbing at baked-on lasagne may seem like the ultimate romance-killer, but not pulling your weight around the house can lead to sacrificing more than you bargained for.
We probably don’t need research to tell us that if you’re both working outside the home, doing your share on the domestic front will strengthen your relationship. But linking it to more sex? Most would agree that watching your partner pull the hair from the shower drain or scrub the highchair free of pumpkin mash isn’t exactly a turn on.
But a recent study into how chores shape the dynamics of marriage (Council of Contemporary Families, 2018) has found exactly that. Couples who share the housework enjoy a key benefit beyond a sparkling floor; more action in the boudoir.
THE LINK BETWEEN SEX AND CHORES
- Part of the reason scouring those pots together improves your sex life might simply be putting you in close quarters, providing an opportunity to vent your day’s frustrations. Similarly, doing the shopping together gives you a chance to plan your week’s meals – considering each other’s needs and making decisions collaboratively, which are the building blocks to a solid relationship.
- Mopping the floor is no aphrodisiac, but housework might be a proxy for a general willingness to invest time in shared interests, a symbol of commitment to the relationship – a deeper bond. And there’s definitely a certain romance in working on the same task – to build a life together.
- It can be said that a clean, orderly home makes it easier to unwind, which can lead to more quality time together. But being pedantic about the state of the house can have the opposite effect –cutting off intimacy and reducing quality time.
HAVE OUR EXPECTATIONS CHANGED?
The gender revolution has shaped the way we arrange our lives. In earlier decades, couples who shared the chores reported less satisfying sex lives. The culture at the time (think ‘Mad Men’, with wives serving dinner in full hair and makeup the moment their husband arrives home) was the norm, and it seems, deviation from this expectation wreaked havoc in the bedroom. By the nineties (which also saw a hike in men’s contribution to the housework), the reverse was true, with couples who shared the domestic chores equally reporting more satisfying relationships. By the naughties, the division of housework in contributing to the relationship quality had even more impact. It seems our attitudes on who does what, and how much, are highly influenced by what is ‘expected’ of our generation. And these attitudes impact on our view of our partners and their attractiveness.
Today (despite still doing less around the house on average than their wives) men contribute twice the amount of housework than their fathers did, and triple the amount of child care – and enjoy better marriages because of it (Social Forces, 2012). In fact, Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage, a History,” states having a partner who does their share around the house has become a bigger factor in women’s marital satisfaction than a man’s wage, or shared religious beliefs. (So, is this research suggesting little girls, nowadays, should dream of a man who can do the night feed over a knight in shining armour?)
WHAT IS EQUAL CONTRIBUTION TO YOU?
But it’s not quite that simple. It seems that when it comes to the division of labour, it was each partner’s perspective of fairness that mattered, and translated to more sex. When each partner felt the distribution of tasks was fair, both reported better sex (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2016). For the record, sex frequency increased when men did 35-65% of the chores, but who’s counting? (We are, apparently!)
Marriage, as with life, ebbs and flows through changes in circumstance that impact on our ability to contribute to the household chores – exhaustion from caring for young children and elderly parents, busy times at work, and even illness impact on our ability to chip in. So, it may not be a case of equal division of labour, but a fair division. Discussing your expectations, particularly at time of change (new babies, new jobs) and how you hope to be supported is critical in ensuring neither party gets that ripped off feeling – which can’t be great foreplay for anyone.
NOT ALL HOUSEWORK IS CREATED EQUAL
It seems that particular tasks have a bigger impact on the relationship quality, with dishes and shopping coming up trumps. A message to men: the sexiest thing you can do is get your hands busy in the sink.
Parent’s note: Interestingly, it was also found that increased time parenting had the reverse impact on a couple’s intimate relationship – so it seems too much time with the kids can reduce your energy for romance. (So, if more love is your aim stick to the dishes?).
Further tip: Research on this topic is unclear, however for some, sticking to traditional tasks led to greater sexual satisfaction. Therefore, blokes – mowing the lawn or changing the oil may just be what the doctor ordered to improve your love life.
So, the jury is in – sharing is caring. As parents, you’re also modelling behaviours and teaching your kids what to expect, and what respectful relationships look and feel like.
IS PUTTING THE DESIRE BACK IN YOUR MARRIAGE THAT SIMPLE?
Of course, there are no guarantees that merely taking on a few chores will instantly solve all love life dilemmas. Correlations in research don’t necessarily establish causation, and there will be marriages where no amount of sink scrubbing will make a woman find her husband more attractive – even if she does feel closer and happier with him. So, what could this link be based on?
Other research suggests all this ‘friend zone’ egalitarian, respect business breeds benign indifference more than sexual heat. They argue that no one person can adequately fulfil the role of best friend, co-parent and passionate lover but some couples are happy to sacrifice heat in the bedroom for a solid marriage.
So, while there are no promises pulling your weight in the laundry will make you irresistible between the sheets, it’s bound to make your marriage, and your wife, happier. And it certainly won’t hurt your chances. Happy wife, happy life?
For more free articles on parenting, click on My Child July 2019 Edition
By Kylie Kaden (BSSc. Hons.)