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Men Doing the Dishes Leads To Better Sex And Staying Married: Wives Will Divorce Over Housework “Second Shift”

January 19, 2017

Sounds like every woman’s dream, watching a man lather up and suds the dishes? Actually, it is, especially if he rinses well and puts them away. Studies show that men who do more housework get better sex. No, for real, do the dishes, man.

A new study from the University of Alberta found that male-female couples hadbetter and more frequent sex when men chipped in with the chores. The findings revealed that when a man felt he was making fair contributions to household chores, the couple had more sex and each partner reported more sexual satisfaction.

Could be about investment. A partner who does the daily maintenance in a house is willing to do the daily maintenance in a relationship. The dishes may just be a symptom of a partner who is willing to work at the relationship. One of the people who authored the study described it as  respect, but in either case, having another adult pull his own weight to maintain his own home is, shockingly, healthy…

“A division of household labor perceived to be fair ensures that partners feel respected while carrying out the tasks of daily life,” Johnson wrote in his paper. “Completing housework may or may not be enjoyable, but knowing that a partner is pulling his weight prevents anger and bitterness, creating more fertile ground in which a (satisfying) sexual encounter may occur.”



It’s a lot of wording, but a 2014 study demonstrated that concepts of egalitarianism, such as who actually does the work versus who perceives how the work is done, matter greatly in a marriage. Need it broken down further? Does he actually do the housework he says he does, or does he just believe he pitches in more than he does:

We used multi-level modeling to examine associations between cognitive egalitarianism, behavioral egalitarianism, and marital quality with a specific focus on discrepancies in the reports of husbands and wives. As hypothesized, both husbands and wives had lower marital quality when their cognitive egalitarianism was discrepant from their partner, and such a discrepancy had a greater influence on wives’ reports of marital quality, especially for wives with higher cognitive egalitarianism. Although we expected similar results for the associations between behavioral egalitarianism and marital quality, we found that the strength of the association between wives’ behavioral egalitarianism and marital quality decreased as the discrepancy from their husbands’ behavioral egalitarianism increased.

In other words, if he doesn’t walk the walk, a wife can tell, and it never makes her happy to do all the housework. “Man Tip #42” may well be accurate…

Expectations and follow through seem to most affect wives, when it comes to household chores, but tellingly, men didn’t notice either way:

“These results were interesting because usually marital satisfaction is studied in only one spouse. Here we were able to see what happens when there’s a discrepancy in spouses’ attitudes on this issue,” Brian G. Ogolsky, a lead author of the study, said in a press release. “If a woman believes that household chores should be divided equally, what happens if they adopt a traditional approach to the matter? The most satisfied couples have similar expectations and follow through on them.”

The takeaway? Ogolsky notes that since expectations play such a large role in marital happiness, couples should discuss these matters early on. “Newlyweds need to thoughtfully plan how they can make their expectations about sharing chores work out in real life, especially if the new spouses strongly value gender equality in household labor. This issue will only matter more after children start arriving,” he advised.

Guys, just do the dishes already. Clean the bathroom… No, really, the idea is about setting expectations in the concept of preparing to get married and follow through once the marriage begins.

The problem is that almost 70% of divorces are filed by women, so when expectations don’t meet practice, those seemingly unimportant household chores can be predictor of divorce trends.

So what is it about marriage that leaves women less satisfied and more likely to walk away? Rosenfeld told HuffPost that the findings give credence to the feminist idea that some women feel stifled and oppressed by heterosexual marriage. 

“It supports the theory that sociologists refer to as ‘the stalled gender revolution,‘  meaning that as much as women’s roles in society have changed, women’s roles within the families have changed very slowly,” he said, citing husband’s expectation for wives to do the bulk of the housework and childcare, even when both spouses work.

“Women feel stifled and oppressed by heterosexual marriage…” Sounds like a post I wrote before, one of my most famous posts and most popular among women: Women Don’t Want to Get Married and Have Children Because It’s A Lot Of Work–Who Is Surprised.  The reality amongst my friends who got divorced is that they separated from their husbands because they wanted to lower their workload. They haven’t chosen to get remarried. So I pulled this from my old post, an oldie but goodie:

Today’s European Union-funded report, which examined working practices across member states, says that the average man in full-time employment works about 55 hours a week.In the UK that figure includes about 3.6 hours commuting, and eight hours of domestic work such as cleaning, cooking and child care.By contrast, the average working week for a woman in full-time employment in the EU is 68 hours.

For British women that comprises 40 hours in the office, 3.3 hours commuting and 23 hours a week spent doing domestic work.

“The stalled gender revolution,” as it was more famously made into a book, “The Second Shift,” by Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung. The Second Shift refers to the stats of women performing more work than men in the home, and therefore, no matter their careers or jobs, are force to work a “second shift” not shared by men. Heterosexual marriage seems to reinforce this increased workload for women, which also leads to the statistic of almost 70% of divorces being filed by women.

The NY Times summed it up as a woman working an extra month more than her husband each year, or marriage forcing women to just work harder and longer:

Women, Ms. Hochschild reports, bear the brunt of what she calls a ”stalled revolution,” one that got wives out of the home and into the first shift of paid employment but resulted in surprisingly meager change during the domestic second shift. The wife, her research confirms, typically is still the primary parent and remains ultimately responsible for keeping house. In most marriages, the woman’s paid work is still considered a mere job, in contrast to the man’s career. Thus the woman’s first shift – her employment – is likely to be devalued, thereby rationalizing her continuing responsibility for the second shift. The language of domestic economics, in which husbands still ”help” wives, suggests how little conceptual change has taken place. The additional hours that working women put in on the second shift of housework, she calculates, add up to an extra month of work each year.

When this second shift plays out in a family situation, unsurprisingly women with fewer financial resources complain about the added work, but in situations where the couples have more money, it is simpler to just pay for the “role of of the mother,” whatever that may mean, and hire household help that would normally be assigned to the woman.

In principle it’s easier to traverse these chasms if you’re rich. After all, professionals address the conflict of home and career by hiring small armies of surrogate wives. But as it turns out, very few use their enhanced income to purchase leisure or more time with their children. Surprisingly few husbands choose to work part time. In general, the upper-income professionals in Ms. Hochschild’s sample tend to be the worst hypocrites. ”Other couples, however, seemed to capitulate to a workaholism a deux, each spouse equitably granting the other the right to work long hours, and reconciling themselves to a drastically reduced conception of the emotional needs of a family.” Such couples ”almost totally parceled out the role of mother into purchased services.”

The trick is the role of a wife. Does hiring a “surrogate wife” mean household help? I have always said that marriage is a demotion for women’s roles when it means taking on a maid’s status without pay. The role of a wife has changed in our society, from being a woman who supervises household help to the wife being the only one who works in the house.

Consider the following graphic, which while a funny assertion on the value of cleanliness, nevertheless assigns cleanliness to women.

Getting married may actually hurt a woman’s relationship, as dating couples tend to equally break up around gender lines (meaning the dating splits are initiated equally between genders), while divorce filling are disproportionately filed by unhappy wives, as opposed to girlfriends. What makes this statistic true? The role of a wife is inherently unsatisfying to 70% of women filing for divorce because of gender roles. According to a social scientist who studies the phenomenon, marriage doesn’t favor gender equality:

“I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality,” Rosenfeld said. “Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare. On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including women’s expectations for more gender equality.”

So I look up the term “unhappy wives” in Google images, because why not choose photos to demonstrate how people view marital relationships? Any trends? Well, not very good ones…

She is angry and he doesn’t care. Or, she is angry and it’s not rational.

She is unhappy in bed, or with sex, and he is oblivious.

He doesn’t listen to you unless you cry. Use tears to get what you want.

Notice the heading doesn’t say “Girlfriends” and use that title to cry for a toaster. The role of crying to receive an appliance to reduce work is aimed directly at a wife, who is assumed to be doing all the household chores by hand. The husband is assumed to control the money, and the gender roles of marriage reinforce women as domestic servants rather than as equal partners.

According to a recent paper, published in 2015, it’s the institution of marriage that causes the problems, because the institution of marriage imposes gender roles that are unequal and unrewarding for women, something a dating relationship doesn’t do:

Jessie Bernard (1982) famously wrote: “There are two marriages, then, in every marital union, his and hers. And his… is better than hers.” The feminist critique of heterosexual marriage is consistent with wives being more likely than husbands to want to divorce. The feminist critique of heterosexual marriage, however, has less direct application to nonmarital heterosexual relationships. Nonmarital heterosexual relationships generally involve lower levels of commitment, fewer children, and nonmarital unions are less influenced by the legal and cultural history of marriage as a gendered institution (Cherlin, 2009; Poortman & Mills, 2012; Rosenfeld, 2014).

It comes down to what most men in heterosexual marriages expect women to do for housework and care taking, and that role is that the wives will take care of all the housework and childcare:

Research on housework has consistently found that the gender housework gap was larger in marriage than in nonmarital cohabiting relationships (Davis, Greenstein, & Marks, 2007; Gupta, 1999; Shelton & John, 1993; South & Spitze, 1994). Married men resist housework to an extent that cannot be explained by practical considerations and constraints (such as the presence of children or men’s higher earnings, see Brines, 1994; Shelton & John, 1993).

“Married men resist housework to an extent that cannot be explained…” makes me laugh and laugh. There is no logical reason married men resist housework more than dating men, other than the reactions of men to marriage roles.  He’s a man, and even he can’t explain the gendered behavior patterns.

Is it the kids? Who takes care of the kids? Who makes more money? Who has the higher education? Nope, turns out that marriage isn’t as good for women as it is for men. When all other factors have been taken into consideration, women don’t get as much out of marriage as men do:

Table 3 provides an explanation: women’s relationship quality is slightly lower than men’s relationship quality in marriage regardless of whether the marriage later broke up.8 In additional analyses (available from the author), I show that the gender marital satisfaction gap in HCMST is not mediated by age, relationship duration, earnings gap, religious affiliation, education, income, race, prior marriages, or the presence of children.

It’s not the kids or the money, but the relationship that drives the divorce rate, and since women initiate far more divorces than they do dating break-ups, marriage plays a part in a women’s relationship satisfaction rates.

The researcher studying the trend of why women file for divorce more so than men lays it on the line for marriage: catch up or be thrown out:

“I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality,” Rosenfeld said. “Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare. On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including women’s expectations for more gender equality.”

Just not as good for her as it is for him, or maybe it’s not that simple. Dating couples tend to break up more frequently than married couples, but among married couples, women overwhelmingly exit the marriage when their expectations of gender equality erode their lives. According to one paper, most marriages are stable, but more women are unhappy in marriage than men:

Most married women are happily married, and married couples are relatively stable. Across 6 years of HCMST data, the weighted marital breakup hazard rate was 1.2% per year for heterosexual married couples,9 compared to 9.4% per year breakup rate for unmarried heterosexual couples who ever cohabited, and a 30.3% per year breakup rate for unmarried heterosexual couples who never lived together. Even though most married women are happily married, a modest difference in husbands’ and wives’ marital satisfaction can result in most divorces being wanted by the wife.

Guys, doing the dishes, taking care of your own housework, showing gender equality, those are the things that lead to better sex and long-lasting marriages.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2017 10:37 am

    I totally agree with this post. Gone are the days women sit at home as housewives, while men go out to be the bread winners. These days, both gender share the financial responsibility. So, it doesnt make sense to leace the house hold chores for the wife alone after a long day at work.

  2. January 19, 2017 10:39 am

    *to leave

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