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Want to stay happily married? Share the chores

It may sound obvious, but now there is statistical evidence to back it up: if you share the housework with your spouse, you’ll have a happier marriage.

A new study conducted by the University of Illinois found that the way household chores are allocated between newlyweds can have an impact on their happiness in the relationship.

The results of the study indicated that if the division of chores established in the first two years is uneven, it can lead to increased conflict and decreased happiness in later life.

Brian G. Ogolsky, a professor of human development and family studies at the university, emphasised the importance of spouses having similar attitudes on the issue.

“Newlyweds need to thoughtfully plan how they can make their expectations about sharing chores work out in real life, especially if the new spouses strongly value gender equality in household labor. This issue will only matter more after children start arriving.”

He added:

“Such an understanding helps couples avoid becoming disillusioned as the marriage goes on”.

The study of 220 newlywed couples also found that the division of housework had a greater effect on women’s happiness than their husbands’.

Ogolsky noted:

“For husbands, sharing household tasks isn’t as directly related to their satisfaction. Either they don’t perceive that there is a discrepancy or they have bought into the idea that the second shift belongs to women.”

This comes as no surprise to me.

As a divorce lawyer, I have found the biggest cause of friction and unhappiness in a marriage is the unwillingness of spouses to share the workload.

Despite the massive social changes over the last few decades, women are often still expected to do it all in the home even after a full day’s work.

Women in the workplace has become the norm. Many women work shifts, nurses for example often work nights in order to be able to cope with a daily routine. Yet the tasks that non-working women do during the course of a non-working day still remain to be done.

It starts with getting a baby and maybe a toddler ready for nursery. It continues with the food shop, tidying up, doing the washing and ironing, which if you can afford it, and you’re lucky, you can get someone else to do.

The regime continues with collecting the children after a full day’s work, making an evening meal, bathing and putting the children to bed, quite apart from tending a garden, even changing a light bulb or coping with a broken down washing machine or an iron on the blink.

It’s a hectic, stress filled existence which women have fought hard to get but at what price?

As trivial as it may seem on the outside, an uneven division of housework can lead to significant resentment and spell doom for a marriage.

Sadly, it is something I have seen many times and it shows no sign of letting up even if couples do appreciate that both of them have to help out.

I’m afraid when it comes down to it; a woman’s work is never done.

Photo by Kate Sumbler via Flickr

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    Well it’s really very simple, don’t get married to somebody you don’t know very well ! Get all this sort of stuff sorted out BEFORE you get married and if you are not happy with what the other party is prepared to do don’t get married to that person !

    There is no law forcing people to get married so the whole thing seems ridiculous to me.

  2. Stitchedup says:

    I don’t mind sharing the house work if you don’t mind:

    Collecting the wood
    Chaining the logs
    Splitting the logs
    Valeting the Car
    Cleaning the windows
    Being the plumber
    Being the Electrician
    Being the Carpenter
    Being the Floor layer
    Being the painter and decorator
    Being the Car Mechanic
    Being the IT support person
    Being there to be blamed for anything and everything
    Being the punchbag
    Being the sound off board

    etc etc

    More often than not, Men and Woman contribute equally but in different ways. Very often, problems are caused by Women not recognising a man’s contribution; a man should not be expected to be a man and woman whereby a woman can get away with just being the woman. That said, I don’t know many modern men that don’t cook, clean, do washing and ironing, feed the baby, bath the baby, change nappies etc etc.

  3. Luke says:

    I think the other factor to remember as well is that on average it seems to me that women and men have different expectations about what is clean and what is tidy – and of course the woman always unthinkingly adopts her standard.
    If a man cleans and tidies a room a woman will often regard the job as slovenly – whereas he will regard her redoing it to a greater standard as just being obsessive.
    The woman is unhappy that she ended up doing it again and the man is unhappy that she is giving him grief for what he thinks was a perfectly good job – so nobody is happy 🙂

    • Stitchedup says:

      Spot on Luke. I would take my turn making the bed, cleaning etc. but I just couldn’t get the bed to look as nice as the ex with duvet and pillows fluffed up and put just so. There is such a thing as a woman’s touch imho, I could clean but she could always make things look nice far better than I.

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