Do All the Housework, Stay Married, Die Young


Two studies were recently published concerning housework. One focused on how division of responsibility affects – or is related to – divorce. The other focused on how the division of responsibility affects – or is related to – overall health of both men and women.

The Norwegian study ironically entitled Equality in the Home, suggests that households in which women come home from full-time jobs and then do all the housework while hubby sits back and chills are less likely to wind up in divorce court than couples who share the work more equitably. Apparently Norwegian couples who share the housework 50/50 have a 50% higher likelihood of divorcing.

Co-author Thomas Hansen is, however, quick to point out that there is little indication of causality in the matter. He stated that the real answer is that couples who share the work are more likely to have a ‘modern’ attitude toward marriage in general as a ‘less sacred’ institution.

He does also note that women who have jobs of their own enjoy more economic autonomy and thus are more likely to be able to leave marriages that aren’t working for them.

But in a truly baffling – to me – moment, he also claims that there may be causality in the idea of blurred gender roles:

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes.”

Because you know what? If Mr. Twistie takes a turn doing dishes or cleaning the toilets… yeah, I can’t even make myself imagine a world in which I would consider that stepping on my toes.

My guess? How you choose to divide the housework is probably a lot less vital to how your marriage works out than whether everyone is satisfied with the arrangement. It’s also a question that should probably be revisited regularly so adjustments can be made as your relationship changes over time.

On the other hand, a Swedish study released last week has found that couples who share the burdens of housework are happier, healthier individuals. The study which began in 1981 followed participants from the age of sixteen.

The men who did not take part in routine maintenance of the home were found to have a much higher rate of anxiety, heart palpitations, and inability to concentrate. Women who did all or nearly all the housework were more likely to experience stress, and thus develop stress related ailments.

One of the biggest frustrations expressed by men about housework was the expectation that they would follow strict gender roles and mostly deal with the car and heavier aspects of gardening. Perhaps a willingness for couples to explore greater flexibility in gender roles is truly beneficial?

All I know is that while Mr. Twistie does all the driving and I do virtually all the cooking… pretty much everything else is a matter of who decides it’s gotten too bad first or happens to be on the scene when things go blooey. It works for us, and the only time we ever discuss divorce is when it’s somebody who isn’t us.

Studies are interesting, sure. Sometimes they even indicate that it might be time to sit down and take a look at assumptions. But in the end, it’s finding the path that works for you based on your individual life, desires, and comfort zone that matters.

Whether you and your spouse follow traditional gender roles, flip them on their heads entirely, ignore them since they would make life impossible what with one gender not being in the mix, or take a little from Column A and a little from Column B, it’s your marriage. You’re the only ones who can decide how it works best.

One Response to “Do All the Housework, Stay Married, Die Young”

  1. Jenn October 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    “Women who did all or nearly all the housework were more likely to experience stress, and thus develop stress related ailments.”

    You don’t say?!

    The fiance and I have been living together for a few years, now, and have developed our own workable situation: we take turns cooking but he does all the dishes (partially because I hate dealing with the dishwasher, partially because I’ve got side businesses that I work on every night after the day job). We each do our own laundry, but he takes out the trash and does the yard work. And everything else, it’s just a matter of who gets to it first (usually him, truth be told, but it’s not like he doesn’t spend hours in front of the Wii, either, so it all balances).