We all know that nobody really likes to do chores around the house, and that the effective division of this labor is something plenty of couples struggle with – but somewhere in the back of our minds, we probably dismiss it as a minor issue, not something that is going to make or break a relationship.
According to some recent research, however, it might be a much more important aspect of your marriage than previously thought. In a study published in Sex Roles, the perception couples have of “labor equality” (and the gender roles associated with it) is directly related to overall marital happiness.
The study looked at some 220 couples, asking questions about two main points: “cognitive egalitarianism” – how the men and women perceive male/female responsibilities, and “behavioral egalitarianism” – how couples actually put those divisions into practice.
The biggest influencer of happiness, according to the study results, appeared to be relationship between the women’s perception and how labor was actually divided. When women believed that labor should be split equally, and their reality met that expectation, the couple’s overall happiness was higher than other couples. Similarly, the least satisfied couples were those where the women believed in equal division, but this belief wasn’t reflected in their reality.
Those dissatisfied couples were mostly those where husbands simply did not think there was a discrepancy in responsibility, or those where husbands believed that household chores were the woman’s responsibility (an outdated point of view, in our opinion).
As expected, the marriages with the largest discrepancies between expectation and reality reported the lowest levels of overall happiness. It is worth pointing out, however, that the women whose husbands didn’t see discrepancies or see the importance of helping around the house reported the lowest levels of marital satisfaction. Husbands seemed far less affected by the differences of opinion.
There are a couple of important lessons to take of away from this information. First, understand that expectations are huge here. When couples were on the same page ideologically, and backed up those thoughts with their actions, they were generally happy. When expectations didn’t align with actions, couples had problems.
The second takeaway is a little veiled, but the men in the study tell a startling truth – that old gender roles are still alive for many people, and that men may be ignoring the need to step up and divide household responsibilities equally – especially if that’s what their wives expect.
However you choose to divvy up chores in your household, take a moment to talk about it with your spouse. Is there a discrepancy between what you’d like to happen and what actually happens? Getting on the same page will likely reduce stress and increase overall happiness for both of you…
You just have to talk about it!