Doing the dishes with your significant other can lead to a better relationship and even spice up your marriage, according to a new study. But it’s not all good news: Leaving your poor spouse to scrub by themselves can lead to resentment, acrimony, and even divorce. Consider this a heads up, fellas.
That’s the consensus of a report from the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF), a nonprofit organization that studies family dynamics. The organization studied a variety of different household tasks including shopping, laundry and housecleaning, and found out that guys are in a lot more trouble than they may have known. (The findings in this study reflect cisgendered, heterosexual couples. All others, please continue being your fabulous selves.)
The report indicates that women who wash the majority of dishes themselves report more relationship drama, less relationship satisfaction, and worse sex than women with partners who share this household responsibility. Women are happier about sharing dish-cleaning duties than any other household task, which means spouses who help out are likely to enjoy better relationships – and more fooling around. That’s quite a benefit from spending 10 minutes scrubbing up after dinner.
The thinking seems to go like this: Women have traditionally borne the responsibility for chores that involve cleaning up after a partner and children, such as doing the laundry, cleaning the shower, and, ugh, washing dishes. Men find themselves tasked with chores like moving the lawn and washing the car, which don’t require rubber gloves and someone else’s cooties. These are also tasks that only have to be done occasionally, as opposed to every single day.
There is also the historical tradition in which men were unwilling to share in the housework and so employed women found themselves coming home to a “second shift” of housework and childcare, institutionalizing gender inequality for decades.
If we extend the argument posited by the study, women who find themselves delegated to the ickier tasks can develop a simmering resentment. This is bad news for guys, especially since it’s a situation that can be avoided with a little elbow grease.
“The battle over the dishes is constant,” Dan Carlson, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Utah and the study’s lead author, said to Mental Floss. “Dishwashing, like the other tasks we examined, is historically very gendered and largely the responsibility of women. Women who find themselves doing the majority of the dishes are likely to feel deprived compared to their peers, leading to more feelings of inequity and unhappiness.”
Men are not manning up, either. Between 1999 and 2006, the percentage of couples who divide dishwashing duty rose from a paltry 16 percent to a modest 29 percent, which does absolutely nothing to lessen the wrath of women who still find the job in their hands. Even the scientists themselves can’t seem to figure out what makes guys tick: “We do not yet have a very good understanding of which men — or the conditions under which men — involve themselves in the care of others.”
The good news is that dishwashing, as opposed to non-daily chores like taking out the trash, lends itself to the spirit of cooperation. The nature of dishwashing encourages man and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend to stand in the kitchen together and work at the same time until the job is done. One to wash and one to dry, one to rinse and one to load. It can even be a kind of intimate moment to spend with the one you love.