A study published in the September Journal of Family Issues that involved more than 17,000 people in 28 Western countries concluded that live-in boyfriends performed more household labor than married men. So, what's going on with those live-in boyfriends? Are they just doing all this housework to trick their girlfriends, knowing full well that they won't lift a finger around the house after they get married? Researchers don't think so. They have concluded that it's more likely that the "official" status of marriage suggests to men and women that they should adopt the more traditional roles that perhaps their parents or grandparents had around the house. There haven't been enough generations of married men and women performing the same roles for this concept to be embedded deeply enough in the culture. For years some people have felt that marriage takes the romance out of a relationship. Now it might be said that marriage takes the man doing the laundry out of the relationship.
Neil Chethik wrote a book called, "VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework and Commitment." You might think that after writing a title that long, Chethik didn't have any energy or words left. But he did. Along with the University of Kentucky Research Center, Chethik's study with 300 American husbands found that housework was very important in marriages. Wives were less likely to have affairs, couples were less likely to consider separation or divorce, and couples were more likely to say they were happily married if the husband did more chores than in other marriages.
Another gender expert, Michael Gurian believes this is so because it's such a pleasant surprise when men do more around the house than expected. These experts aren't saying that women are consciously trading sex for housework, but that seeing their men do more of it puts them in a better mood in general.
According to Chethik's study, a man doesn't have to do exactly 50 percent of the housework to please his wife. If he just does enough so that she feels supported, she'll be happier. And obviously, the exact amount that each of them does around the house can be negotiated based on things like the number of hours each of them works, how much time they spend with the children, etc.
Chethik even quantifies how much more sex a man is likely to have if his wife feels he's helping out appropriately around the house: about one time more per month. I'm sure there are cynics and just lazy guys out there who might respond, "It's not worth just one more time a month for me to mop that floor." But keep in mind, none of these researchers is just talking about sex. They're all saying that a man can make his mate happier by doing more of the housework. Sex is only a side benefit.
All the same, if more studies agree with these, and if an increasing number of men believe in the results, I think we'll see more and more guys grab brooms, irons, and rags, and get to work. They'll reason that if some help will yield one more time a month, just think how much more sex a lot of housework will yield. We might even get to a point that women will ask men to do less around the house. In other words, someday we might see the old cliché change to, "Please honey, don't do the dishes tonight. I've got a headache."
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover, and is presently reading the latest Consumer Reports ratings on laundry detergents.
By Lloyd Garver