Tag Archives: housework

Will men helping with chores lead to more action in bedroom?

vacuum morguefileResearch shows that when men do their share of the chores, divorce rates are lower, their partners are happier and less depressed, the relationship has fewer conflicts, and they tend to have more sex. The last point seems to be the most written about, as in “help with the laundry to get more sex.” More on that in a bit.

Being an active, involved father has its own share of benefits, both for men and their children. Participating in childcare helps to make Dads more patient and empathic, and it reduces rates of substance abuse in men. Fatherhood is correlated with lower blood pressure and less cardiovascular disease. Active fathers in Fortune 500 companies have higher job satisfaction. (See NYT article below.)

Benefits to children of involved fathers are numerous: fewer behavioral problems, more likely to succeed, happier kids. Dads who do an equal share of housework demonstrate to daughters that they shouldn’t limit themselves to stereotypically female jobs. “For a girl to see that she has the same opportunities as boys, it makes a big difference to see Dad doing the dishes,” say Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in the New York Times article “How men can succeed in the boardroom and the bedroom.”

With all these advantages, it’s a wonder that husbands everywhere aren’t tripping over themselves to load the dishwasher and vacuum the family room. However, it’s the talk of “choreplay” that leads some women feeling a little less than, umm, satisfied.

The latest high-profile conversations are telling men that helping out in the kitchen will lead to greater action in the bedroom. And maybe it will. But probably not if they are looking at it in a quid-pro-quo fashion.

Jessica Valenti explains the rub in her article “Women don’t need ‘choreplay’. They need men to do some chores.” She explains,” My husband does not do laundry because he wants to have sex. He does the laundry for the same reason I imagine most people do: because the clothes are dirty.”

Men should be involved in the home and promoting domestic equality because it’s the right thing to do—not as an incentive for sex, she explains. While the laundry-for-sex campaign is meant to be cute, Valenti says “in a culture where men are already taught to feel entitled to women sexually, I don’t find it cute in the least.” In addition, it creates a transactional view of sex within the relationship. (Should women also provide sex for new furniture?) It also communicates that the responsibility for all the chores was on the woman in the first place.

The truth about what women want is closer to this: women don’t want to be so exhausted with work and home responsibilities that they no longer have energy for sex. They are turned on by loving men who view them as equals and want to be helpful at home and supportive of their efforts outside the home.

So, yeah, husbands should help in the kitchen. But not as an exchange for sex in the bedroom. Helping with the kids and in the home is the responsibility of both partners. Men who do their share of chores will have happier wives, fewer conflicts, lower rates of divorce, and yeah, probably more sex. Go forth and vacuum.

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 19 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.

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Splitting Chores 50-50 with Spouse is Recipe for Disaster

I used to have married neighbors who carefully listed all their chores and divided them as equally as possible, fifty/fifty split, even though one worked full time and the other was a stay-at-home parent. Each frequently felt they were doing more than their share, and they frequently revised those lists. Perhaps this contributed to their later divorce. There is a better way.

The authors of the book Spousonomics say “there are great rewards to be had from trading smartly and great wastes of time and energy from trying to do everything yourself, or even from splitting things in half.” Think of your marriage as a business comprising two trading partners who exchange services, for example the completion of chores, they suggest.

Co-authors Jenny Anderson and Paula Szuchman recommend using the theory of Comparative Advantage, which says it’s not efficient for you to take on every single task you’re good at, only those tasks you’re relatively better at compared with other tasks. If you think of a well-run corporation, each person within the business has a specialty. The organization works more efficiently when everyone does what they are best at, even if they are capable of doing other things.

Couples who force the fifty/fifty division of chores, without regard to what each person is best at and enjoys most, lack specialties. They also tend to argue more about who is doing what and whose turn it is to take on a certain job. Life becomes about deciding what is “fair”. Other couples miscalculate their comparative advantages, perhaps insisting that the husband always walks the dog and mows the lawn when the wife is better suited to these jobs and enjoys them more.

Modern marriage has changed roles so dramatically that every task is debatable—who will do the laundry, care for the children, pay the bills, and wash the dishes. A 2007 Pew Research Center study asked couples “What makes marriage work?” The answers were 1) faithfulness 2) sex and 3) sharing household chores.  Two years later, the Boston Consulting Group asked what couples argue most about. This time money was number one, followed by household chores. Clearly, these seemingly unimportant decisions about chores can become important issues in the marriage.

The authors provided a number of case studies to play out the problems and solutions. They used economic lessons about how countries make products they are most suited to produce and then trade then rather than each country attempting to produce all their own products. They do that based on what they are best and fastest at making, at the lowest cost.

For couples deciding how to divide the work load, determine who is best and fastest at various tasks, taking into consideration what they enjoy doing most. For example, if the woman is better and faster at tidying the house and doing the dishes, those should be her jobs. If he is better and faster at doing the laundry and mowing the yard, those should be his jobs. The couple together can save significant amounts of time by assigning the person who does the task most efficiently. This is time that would be forever lost if they focused instead on what was “most fair”. Instead, they can use this time for fun and leisure.

Long ago, I determined I was best at doing the laundry and keeping the house tidy. My husband is much better at mowing the lawn, maintaining the home and the cars. We both do the cooking. It seems we determined our comparative advantage without realizing we were doing it.

Do you and your spouse argue about doing the dishes, cooking, cleaning or laundry? Is it time to do a serious analysis of your comparative advantages? How do you divide household chores?

How Do Modern Men Contribute in Marriage?

Recently, I shared some news on how men are now apt to receive an economic boost from marriage, as more men are marrying women who have either higher education or income levels. Most of you probably agree that whether husbands or wives have higher educational levels or higher incomes, other factors are more important to marital happiness. Still, experts are commenting on this gender shift, particularly in light of the stress of the recession and the large number of people still out of work.

“Shifts in gender norms come with pain and conflict. But they can also be a win-win recipe for marriage,” says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.

Coontz says there are certainly struggles, particularly with working-class men attaining rewarding, stable jobs. Some men compensate for the lack of respect they are getting in the workplace by becoming “hypermasculine” or aggressive. We hear about these abusive men in the news, unfortunately.

However, many husbands are making positive strides by making greater contributions to their homes, both in childcare and housework. College-educated men led the way with become more actively involved at home during the 80s and 90s. Since then, husbands with less education have caught up and are now contributing just as much as more educated men.

In fact, so many husbands and fathers are now active participants in the home that they are reporting the same work-family conflicts as women have for decades. Coontz says this suggests they are internalizing the importance of their role to nurture, not just to earn. “Most women now say that having a husband who is capable of intimacy and who shares housework and childcare is more important than having a partner who earns more money,” she adds.

It boils down to what you value and what makes each of you feel loved and appreciated, don’t you think? So what do men and women value?

Coontz cites the best predictors of a man’s marital satisfaction are how much sex he gets and how little criticism he gets. (How many men would like to disagree?) She adds that numerous studies report women react very positively to men who participate in childcare and housework—feeling greater intimacy and more sexual attraction.

“There’s nothing sexier than a man doing dishes,” I’ve heard more than one friend say.  Do you agree?

Children clearly benefit from more active fathers, and according to experts, guys who help out at home get more action at home. Is this a win-win situation?

In your marriage, does the wife handle more housework and childcare? How important is it to share this load, and does it depend on how much each person is working outside the home?