Housework may seem like the ultimate romance-killer. But guess what?
A new study shows that for husbands and wives alike, the more housework you do, the more often you are likely to have sex with your spouse.
Earlier studies have hinted at this connection for men; the sight of a husband mopping the floor or doing dishes sparks affection in the hearts of many wives. But the more-housework-equals-more-sex link for wives, documented in a study of 6,877 married couples published online recently in the Journal of Family Issues, is a surprise.
But whoever thought vacuuming was sexy?
But for some high achievers who take a “work hard, play hard” approach to life, researchers say, working hard in one domain produces more energy for others. The study also found a correlation between hours spent on paid work and the frequency of sex in marriage.
“Rather than compromise their sex life” because of time demands at work or at home, “this group of go-getters seems to make sex a priority,” says Constance Gager, lead researcher and an assistant professor of family and child studies at Montclair State University, Montclair, N.J. The study doesn’t measure what proportion of spouses fall into this group, but she believes “they are on the leading edge of couples we expect to see more of in the future.”
More from the authors, one of whom is a sociologist…
Dr. Gager and her co-author, Scott Yabiku, associate professor of sociology at Arizona State University, Tempe, controlled the results for “gender ideology” and found the housework-sex link remained true, regardless of people’s views on roles. Results from the data, taken from the National Survey of Families and Households, were controlled for age, health, duration of couple’s relationship, religion, income, education and marital satisfaction.
The study defined housework as nine chores: cleaning, preparing meals, washing dishes, washing and ironing clothes, driving family members around, shopping, yard work, maintaining cars and paying bills. Wives in the study spent an average 41.8 hours a week on these tasks, compared with 23.4 hours for husbands—a split that is fairly typical, and often regarded by wives as unfair. However, the effects of any fairness concerns among wives weren’t measured in this study.
Outside the home, husbands spent an average 33.8 hours a week on paid work, compared with 19.7 hours for wives. Couples reported having sex 82.7 times a year on average, or 1.6 times a week, about the same as in other studies.
After a long national decline in time spent on housework, the study joins a growing body of research on how chores shape the dynamics of marriage. A survey of 2,020 U.S. adults placed “sharing household chores” as the third most important factor in a successful marriage, behind faithfulness and a happy sexual relationship, says the nonprofit Pew Research Center. That’s a sharp increase; 72% of respondents gave high importance to housework, up from 47% in a comparable study in 1990. In respondents’ minds, housework outranked even such necessities as adequate income and good housing, Pew says.
The article also links to another sociological study:
A 2003 study by Scott Coltrane, a sociology professor at the University of California, Riverside, linked fathers’ housework to more feelings of warmth and affection in their wives. And a survey of 288 husbands, reported in Neil Chethik’s 2006 book “VoiceMale,” linked a wife’s satisfaction with the division of household duties with her husband’s satisfaction with their sex life.
One husband, Mr. Chethik says in an interview, reported that his wife enjoyed flowers or a candlelit dinner out; but “if he wants to be sure of a romantic evening, he goes for the vacuum cleaner.”