Sex is an essential component of a healthy marriage; housework is another. Recently, a major study investigated how housework impacts the sex lives of married couples. The results were rather surprising.
One would expect that men who helped out more with cooking and cleaning in the house would have more sex, as a reward for good behavior. New research found that the exact opposite was true.
Married men who avoided traditionally “female” housework had more sex with their wives. When couples adhered to traditionally “male” and “female” housework and chores, they ended up having more sex compared to couples who split the housework equally.
The traditional “male” chores were defined as billing paying, yard work and home repairs.
Julie Brines, the co-author of this study, summarized the results in a brisk and straight-forward fashion: “Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks—such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance—report higher sexual frequency.”
The study was conducted by sociologists at the University of Washington, and involved over 4,000 married couples. On average, the couples were having sex fives times a month. When the couples were analyzed by the division of housework, a pattern started to emerge.
When compared to households in which the husband performed all of the female typed housework, men who did none of these chores had 1.6 times more sex. The impact on sexual frequency was inversely proportional to the amount of traditional female typed housework done by the husband.
Even in homes where the husbands did only 40 percent of the traditional female typed housework, the couple had significantly less sex as compared to homes in which the women performed all of the chores. In households where husband did all of the traditionally female typed housework, the couples only had sex an average of 3.3 times a month, quite a significant drop.
How Couples balance Sex and Housework
But before this study is used to claim that men performing housework is “unnatural”, it’s worthwhile considering some extrinsic factors that may not have been controlled for in the study. For example, it may be that couples who practice more equal chore splitting may also be more likely to both be equally employed in full-time paid jobs. With each partner having to handle two jobs instead of one – paid work during the day and housework during the evening – stress, fatigue and time constraints are compounded, all of which are known contributors to decreased sex. Other factors that may influence a man to share in more housework may be increased absences of the woman from the home, due to outside work or other factors. This would also contribute to less couple interaction and less sex.
One might also ask whether the frequency of sex that a couple engages in monthly is actually an accurate reflection of a couple’s true marital – and personal – happiness and overall life satisfaction.
So before women start to panic and men begin throwing down their brooms and crying out for emancipation, it’s important to first consider one’s own unique marital situation, one’s lifestyle, division of household labor, and the values that each member of a marriage may hold. Both sex and housework are sensitive and unavoidable topics of every-day life, and decisions made about each of these must be based upon open communication and what makes the most sense for both partners.