New Report Shows Your Kitchen Sink Could Be The Unexpected Solution To Relationship Problems

Time to amend the "Happy wife, happy life" motto.

A healthy relationship needs honest communication, mutual respect, earned trust — and an empty kitchen sink.


According to a recent report from the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF), a nonprofit that studies family dynamics, sharing dish duty might be the key to improving your romantic relationship. After examining the toll various housekeeping tasks, like shopping, laundry, and dishwashing take on a relationship, the study found that it's more important for women in heterosexual relationships to share the responsibility of doing the dishes than any other household chore. 

Why? Because women who take on (or are saddled with) the majority of dish duty reported less relationship satisfaction, more relationship conflict, and less satisfying sex, than women with partners who share the load. On the flip side, women are happier about sharing dish duty than they are about sharing any other chore.

This may be because doing dishes isn't a glamorous, compliment-getting task like cooking, gardening, or even vacuuming, according to Dan Carlson, an assistant professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah and the lead author of the study. He told The Atlantic, "What is there to say? 'Oh, the silverware is so … sparkly'?" 

Additionally, Carson told the publication that the most unpopular household tasks also tend to be the ones most often associated with the archaic term "women's work." For much of human history, housework has been divided according to traditional gender norms. Washing laundry, cleaning toilets, and doing dishes for the ladies; mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, washing the car for the gents. As society has become more egalitarian and gender neutral, women resent still being "relegated to the tasks that people don't find desirable," Carlson noted. 

For dual-income couples where both partners work full-time, this can be especially upsetting. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the United Kingdom, men contribute an average 16 hours of housework per week, compared to 26 done by women. The report also said that when it came to unpaid chores at home (defined as work households do themselves but could pay someone else to do for them), women did nearly 60 percent more than men, including the most cooking, childcare, and housework. Though the report didn't differentiate between working and non-working romantic partners, the figures come from ONS analysis of 2015 research from two statistical bulletins on how people use their time at home.

The ONS also launched an "unpaid work calculator" using 2016 data on earnings people can use to estimate how much they could theoretically earn for doing certain household tasks. According to this calculator, women would earn an average $366.93 a week, while men would earn an average $235.17. "So not only do women do an average of 60 percent more unpaid work in terms of hours, they also tend to do the work that has a higher value," the report concluded.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that dishwashing, due to its lack of desirability, qualifies as a "higher value" task, which also may explain why women feel undervalued when they're the only one slaving over a full sink. Thankfully for the modern woman's sanity, dishwashing is one of the chores couples are most likely to take turns performing. According to the CCF report, between 1999 and 2006, the number of romantic partners who share dish duty increased from 16 to 29 percent. That's still nowhere near a majority of couples, but it nonetheless shows some progress that more couples may want to emulate, especially now that the CCF has revealed all the psychological benefits. 

According to Carlson, doing the dishes together can boost relationships because it's a team activity. Couples can either split this task by alternating between who cooks and who cleans, alternating dishwashing days, or alternating who washes and who dries. Perhaps ironically in light of the CCF's report, dishwashing is one household task that lends itself almost perfectly to a partnership. 

So for all the husbands who ascribe to the "Happy wife, happy life" motto, you may want to amend that to "Empty sink, happy wife, happy life."


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