Women are making strides when it comes to equality outside the home, but somehow most of us still end up bearing the brunt of the housework. A new report finds sharing dish duty could improve your relationship.
A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms what most women already know: women have disproportionate responsibilities when it comes to housework. While men have increased their contributions at home over the years, reports show that, on average, women spend an hour more doing household activities than men.
The question remains: Are all household activities created equal? According to a new study from the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit organization that examines family dynamics, the answer is a resounding "no". Researchers concluded that the chore that most negatively impacts a marriage is doing the dishes.
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Utilizing data from two separate surveys consisting of approximately 3500 couples researchers assessed shifts in the division of housework tasks and their association with the couples' relationship quality.
Routine household tasks included preparing and cooking meals, washing dishes, cleaning around the house, shopping for groceries, and doing laundry, while non-routine tasks included home maintenance or outdoor tasks and bill paying. Researchers examined six outcomes including sexual frequency, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, relationship trouble, separation discussions, and physical arguments.
The study found that for women in heterosexual relationships, sharing the responsibility of doing the dishes was more important than sharing any other chore. In fact, women who wash the majority of dishes themselves reported less relationship satisfaction, more conflict, and less sexual intimacy than women who share that responsibility with a partner. Women desire to share dishwashing duties more than any other household task, such as laundry or cleaning.
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Lead author Dan Carlson offered The Atlantic a few possible explanations for the results of the study, "Doing dishes is gross. There is old, moldy food sitting in the sink. If you have kids, there is curdled milk in sippy cups that smells disgusting." He also suggests that doing dishes offers fewer rewards, such as compliments from others, than other household tasks such as gardening or cooking. "What is there to say? 'Oh, the silverware is so … sparkly'?" he added.
Ideally, working hand-in-hand on tasks that can be accomplished together is helpful for a relationship, the study concludes. As washing dishes has traditionally fallen on the role of the female in the relationship, continuing to be the sole person to carry that load is particularly damaging to couples.
Additionally, unlike taking out the garbage, dish duty is a task that can easily be divvied up, such as one-person washes and the other dries. In other words, household chores that are done together create a sense of teamwork that can lead to stronger bonds of connectedness.