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Study: How Household Chores Cause Relationship Stress

For women, gender inequality makes housework worse.

By Kristin Wong Jun 18, 2012 4:35PM

Photo: John Lund/Marc Romanelli/Getty ImagesEven the happiest of couples are bound to occasionally argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes. But for some women, the topic of housework might be a little more unsettling. A recent study from Sweden's Umea University revealed that, for some, the issue actually causes psychological distress.

Researchers studied 723 subjects—men and women—and asked them about their relationship issues. At age 21, they found that both men and women had approximately the same level of psychological distress. By age 42, men's stress levels stayed the same, but women reported higher levels of distress. The key contributor? An uneven distribution of chores.

But of course, the issue runs a bit deeper than doing the laundry. The women who tackled most of the housework only experienced "distress" if they also described their relationship as "not gender-equal." The women who felt they were in an equal relationship didn't seem bothered by the fact that they did more housework than their partners.

"The results of this study indicate that it is not only a matter of whether the responsibility for domestic work is equal or not, but also the relational context in which the responsibilities are divided within the couple relationship," the authors wrote.

How did men fare in the study? Researchers found that one of the biggest causes of psychological distress for guys was earning less than their partners.

Psychologist Jill Weber tells WebMD that the findings are unsurprising:

"In general, men who earn less than their wives or who are out of work don't feel respected, and respect is a hot-button issue for men," Weber says.

As for the ladies, Weber says it's not really about the chores.

"It's the feeling that the woman is not getting support from her partner. Inequality often translates as a lack of emotional support."

So basically, a woman isn't as bothered by doing most of the scrubbing, vacuuming, dusting, etc.—if she has an emotionally supportive man by her side.

But I'm guessing it doesn't hurt if he can scrub a toilet, too.

Photo: John Lund/Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

More on love & sex from MSN Living:

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The Dos and Donts of Sex in 2012

136Comments
Jun 24, 2012 2:52PM
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Relationships are not easy.You won't always get what you want. Wheather it's more sex or more emotional support. Couples need to find a happy medium when it comes to both subjects and other things like cleaning or date nights. Saying things like men are above women or you should do more sexual favors for your boyfriend or husband to make them happy is low.
Jun 21, 2012 4:38PM
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YOU CANIHAVSUMORE ARE A REAL TWAT!!! I SURE FEEL SORRY FOR THE SLAVE YOU OWN. UNFORTUNATELY I WAS BROUGHT UP IN A DAY AND AGE WHERE THE HOUSEWORK WAS LEFT UP TO THE WOMAN. AND THE CAVEMEN WENT TO WORK. BUT I SURE DIDN'T BRING MY SON AND DAUGHTER UP THAT WAY. MY SON WORKS RIGHT ALONG SIDE HIS WIFE WHEN IT COMES TO CHORES. AND MY DAUGHTER'S HUSBAND DOES ALL THE LAUNDRY AND COOKING. SO WAKE UP AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM. IN MOST HOUSEHOLDS BOTH PEOPLE WORK. SO  THE CHORES SHOULD BE SHARED. YOU BOTH LIVE THERE.
Jun 20, 2012 3:09PM
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To the person who responded to my comment  in reference to calling himself awesome:Do you know the definitions of the following terms? Egotistical, Shallow, Immature,Arrogant and Humility? Are you trying to convince yourself that you are awesome or everyone else? Apparently you are lacking many fine qualities of a stable and knowlegeable human being. People like you need lots of prayer and 12 step programs to  bring them back to reality!
Jun 20, 2012 12:36AM
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Assume the position Sundance. Know your role.
Jun 19, 2012 10:43PM
Jun 19, 2012 8:44PM
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Women were put on this earth to serve man.We are now and always shall be your master and superior.
Jun 19, 2012 8:19PM
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Wow, the comments here really give me an insight into the simplicity of men's minds.  Apparently all the blood drains out of their brains at puberty and into their dicks.  This says so much about the difference between men and women.  Women have evolved waaaay beyond cavewomen, while men have not evolved beyond cavemen.  Men deserve to be treated as the primitive beings they are:  kept on a leash to be fed and walked when necessary.
Jun 19, 2012 8:02PM
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To all you women out there: If you want to improve your marriage give your man more head;)
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