House chores and child-related tasks can be a contentious issue for many families, considering the gendered nature of this work — but there is some good news.
Recent research suggests that couples who make a habit of splitting each task — rather than having separate chore lists — are often more satisfied in their relationship.
The insights, coming out of University of Utah, found that men and women in long-term, different-sex partnerships are less satisfied when one partner tackles, say, laundry and dishes, and the other looks after cooking and cleaning, than when those same tasks are tackled together.
The study looked at detailed survey data gathered from couples in the early 1990s and mid-2000s and found that there haven’t been significant changes to the division of labour of these household chores.
Couples who participated in each task, rather than tackling their own, were more likely to say that their division of labour was fair. This is an important finding because — even though on paper it may appear that both parties share roughly the same chore-load by tackling separate tasks — there is something about doing a single task together that was linked to relationship satisfaction.
The study’s author notes, however, that it’s not clear whether more satisfied couples were likelier to partake in chore-splitting, or if chore-splitting led to greater happiness, but the link was apparent nonetheless.
Still, it’s possible that sharing chores in this way leads to bonding, greater sense of teamwork and possibly improved communication around those chores (and beyond). Splitting each chore, or even taking turns tackling the same chores, can also build greater empathy for what the other partner is going through and the amount of energy the chore requires (as it can be all too easy to underestimate the efforts involved). This understanding may lead partners to appreciate each other more.
Changing the way we think about our division of labour without necessarily changing how much time we spend on these chores may be a simple way to improve our relationship satisfaction.
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