Studies suggest that sharing household chores is more important for a happy relationship than ever before.
In fact, it now ranks third on the list of factors that make a relationship work, behind faithfulness (duh!) and sexual satisfaction.
That’s according to a study by Pew Research Center that compared attitudes at two different time points 17 years apart.
Across that time frame, the number of respondents who said that sharing household chores was “very important” for a successful marriage has jumped from 47% to 62%.
What’s more striking is that this rise is the same across men and women, old and young, or married people and singletons.
And the good news doesn’t stop there for couples who share household duties around.
The latest research suggests that couples who more evenly split the housework are having more sex than they used to and more sex, on average, than those where one partner does the majority of the chores.
This goes against the overall trend of partners having less sex than in decades past.
The report suggests that fairness is a key reason for this:
Couples report having more and higher quality sex when they are satisfied with their relationships. In today’s social climate, relationship quality and stability are generally highest when couples divide up the household labor in a way they see as equitable or fair. And the evidence shows that when men do a greater share of housework, women’s perceptions of relationship fairness and satisfaction are greater.
And yet another study found that couples who have a more equal split in household chores are happier and more satisfied.
As the authors conclude:
For both men and women, the highest average level of happiness and satisfaction with life on a whole occurs within the shared-roles model.
But what’s the best way to do that?
Balancing The Chore Rota
A perfect 50/50 split isn’t necessary to improve the state of your relationship, especially if one partner currently takes care of the vast majority of household duties.
In reality, people have different time commitments in terms of work and other responsibilities.
What’s important is that the person who does fewer chores gradually increases the amount they do until a workable equilibrium is achieved.
Perhaps the current split between you and your partner is 80/20 and you change this closer to 60/40. While one person still does half as much work again as the other, that person will feel that the relationship is fairer than it was.
This fairness will translate into greater satisfaction with the relationship as a whole – for both parties.
Generally speaking, it makes more sense for each person to take responsibility for specific tasks. This allows them to become more efficient and finish each job in less time.
If possible, try to allocate chores based on how much a person enjoys – or, at least, doesn’t loathe – doing them.
So if one of you really doesn’t mind running a duster over the house while the other person finds mowing the lawn a rather Zen activity, do those things.
Of course, there will be some duties that neither of you enjoy. If you both hate taking the trash out, and unclogging the drains is nobody’s idea of fun, be sure to split these fairly too.
Each person should have a mix of things they are quite happy to do, things they find a little tiresome, and things they’d rather not do.
And where there is an opportunity to do a task together, take it. Chores like doing the dishes or weeding the garden can provide time to catch up or just enjoy each other’s company – making them more enjoyable and your relationship closer.
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Another way to make the split in household chores work in your favor is to show genuine appreciation for a job well done.
When you’ve spent your free time doing the tasks required to run a successful household, I’m sure you’d agree that it feels far more worthwhile when your partner thanks you for it.
And don’t think for a second that splitting things more evenly makes gratitude any less pleasant to hear.
But this doesn’t just mean complimenting a dinner your partner cooked. It means being truly thankful for each chore your partner takes care of – from tidying up after children to cleaning the windows.
Just knowing that you are valued by your partner makes all the difference in how you feel about completing jobs that you don’t particularly enjoy.
Maintaining Balance In Changing Circumstances
If there’s one certainty in life, it’s that things change. When the circumstances of one partner change, or when the family unit changes as a whole, it is worth revisiting the chore rota to maintain a fair distribution.
There are many examples of this, and some common ones might include:
- If one partner suffers a physical injury or other deterioration in health, duties should be shifted so that they either take on less, or switch to roles that they can do in spite of their changing condition.
- If a new child is born into the family, expect the allocation of chores to change dramatically for a time as the baby takes more of the mother’s attention.
- If one partner is required to take on more paid work, they might reasonably expect the other to fill in for them when it comes to some of their duties.
- If one partner’s time is taken up with “invisible” administrative chores such as arranging a family holiday or dealing with workmen for home renovations, how you divvy up other duties could be altered temporarily.
Remember, it all comes down to finding a split that feels fair to both parties. No one wants to feel burdened with chores while their partner does none.