How Housework Can Help (or Hurt) a Marriage

Elise Solé

When you picture having a long and happy marriage, vacuuming may not come to mind, but it should. A new study of 220 couples published by the University of Illinois found that wives who want to divide household chores equally are significantly happier if their husbands agree. If their spouses don't, wives' happiness levels plummet.

Yes, it sounds obvious, but according to researchers, marital happiness is linked to housework only for wives who want their husbands to clean just as much as they do. As for women who are content doing all the housework, if their husbands end up pitching in, they’re happy just the same. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, a husband's marital happiness had nothing to do with household chores!)

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No matter how you feel about household labor, it’s important to establish guidelines right when you get married, according to the study's lead author Brian Ogolsky, PhD, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois. "The first two years of marriage are crucial for determining the division of household labor, because that's when lifelong patterns are established," he tells Yahoo Shine. "That’s important, especially if you decide to have kids down the road."

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Ogolsky and his team didn’t study the reasons behind their findings, but a wife’s happiness could be linked to chores because wives often end up cleaning more than their husbands do, spending about six extra hours cleaning the home and three additional hours caring for their children per week, according to recent research conducted by the Pew Research Center.

So what do you do if you want more help from your husband? For starters, try giving him "manly" tasks. One study published in the American Sociological Review found that guys who complete traditionally "masculine" jobs, such as taking out the garbage or fixing a broken door handle, report higher sexual frequency than those who fulfill traditionally "feminine" roles. A bit sexist, yes, but hey, whatever it takes!

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