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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

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136Comments
Jun 19, 2012 4:12PM
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.........wow some people. So you can work, clean the house, take care of the kids needs, help with homework, cook dinner, clean up after dinner, bathe kids, do the laundry and then take care of the biggest kid of all, the "man", or husband after he sat on his butt after work cause he had a long day.....And there is just nothin to it. A woman should be able to do that right, I mean she is a woman.......

I am glad my husband knows I work my **** off for this family.Some of you just suck...

 

Jun 19, 2012 4:12PM
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It seems women don't like being discriminated against on the basis of gender.  File this under stuff I already knew.
Jun 19, 2012 4:12PM
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I'm fine with all the cleaning and actually prefer it, but my issues is picking up after my husband that pisses me off.  Picking up his clothes, dishes, pop bottles, etc.  I'm fine with picking up after my 2 and 3 year old, but not my 29 year old!
Jun 19, 2012 4:10PM
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My husband can't even lower the toilet seat.  I sure as heck don't want him cleaning our house.

 

If this causes such strife and stress, hire a maid.  If a maid is not in your budget, forego a few restaurant meals.

 

Bottom line is this is a silly issue to fight about, and if this is the biggest problem a couple has in their marriage, they should consider themselves lucky.

Jun 19, 2012 4:02PM
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I TOLD MY WIFE: if i see 8 hrs worth of work done in this house on a daily basis...then i will share the work load...she has yet to prove to me that  even 4 hrs is being done...
Jun 19, 2012 4:00PM
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WRONG!!!!! if women had half the responsibilities working men have they would pass out from the workload...PERIOD
Jun 19, 2012 3:55PM
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Here is what's really at the heart of this issue.  If a man provides financially for his wife then she should absolutely do the cleaning and cooking otherwise she is just dead weight.  If the woman works and carries herself in the relationship and enjoys being independent then the couple should share in the chores as equally as possible.  The problem today is that too many women want to be supported and don’t want to cook or clean etc...  This essentially renders them as dead weight to their partners and causes major cold feet... 

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