A major French study found that women are more likely to cheat on men who don’t put in their fair share around the home. According to The Telegraph, “a poll of 10,000 female subscribers to Gleedon — a top site for married and unfaithful people — suggests that the best way to a woman’s heart is by doing the dishes […].”
Seventy-three percent of women who responded to the survey said that a major factor in their infidelity was because their partner didn’t help with such basic chores as cleaning the toilet and emptying the dishwasher. The study also found that “86 percent of respondents said they were deeply frustrated by their man’s tendency to avoid housework and 84 percent admitted to it having caused arguments.”
I believe anyone currently in a marriage will find that last part unsurprising. The equal distribution of housework is an all too common argument — at least it has been in my marriage. But what I find the most fascinating is when this study is juxtaposed with a 2014 study in The American Sociological Review titled “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” which was the backbone of Lori Gottlieb’s viral New York Times article “Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?”
Gottlieb states that the study, “surprised many, precisely because it went against the logical assumption that as marriages improve by becoming more equal, the sex in these marriages will improve, too. Instead, it found that when men did certain kinds of chores around the house, couples had less sex. Specifically, if men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming — the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do — then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores, like taking out the trash or fixing the car.”
As a husband of 12 years, when I look at the findings from both studies, I feel a sense of “damned if you, and damned if you don’t.” If I don’t do traditional housework (cleaning the toilet and washing the dishes) then my wife will cheat on me. However, if I do those chores around the house, my wife will stay, but she won’t have as much sex with me. I honestly don’t want to get divorced, but I also enjoy regular sex.
But if you are a man reading this, and you are like me (not particularly handy), it can feel like no matter what you do, you’re screwed — or in this case, not screwed.
But is sex really what this is all about? I mean, I get it. Sex is really important in a marriage. When I’m intimate with my wife, I feel valued. I feel close to her in a way that is difficult to describe but seems to make me feel all the more valued in our relationship. But ultimately, there is much more to marriage than just sex, and helping out around the house really shouldn’t be about tit for tat.
Housework shouldn’t be about receiving sex or fear of infidelity. It should just be about marriage. It should be about duty and obligation. It should be about pitching in. The fact is, housework never ends. Children are never content. Parenting and marriage is an all-encompassing, costly, and never-ending shitshow that is both rewarding and frustrating. And very little of it falls neatly into gender roles. Parenting and marriage are about partnership, and when something needs to be done, you do it — regardless of whether or not you will get laid or because you are avoiding future infidelity from your partner.
And honestly, this is about both men and women. According to a 2013 Pew Research study, 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. Dad bringing in the bacon and the mother being the sole caregiver for children isn’t what it used to be. We are in an egalitarian age, where mothers contribute to finances and fathers are expected to pick up around the house.
It’s just the reality.
The lesson we, as parents, husbands, and wives, can learn from these two studies is that we are in this together, and if you don’t accept that and act accordingly, your marriage might come out sideways. It isn’t about placing breadwinning and housework in a cute little box anymore. It’s about working with strengths and ultimately doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
It isn’t about reward or punishment — it’s about maturity. It’s about love and marriage and making sure that the demands of it all are adequately satisfied. And I can say, honestly, that if you begin to think about marriage in that light, you will work harder, fall more in love, and each partner will enjoy the rewards.