Oct 30, 2009
The Sex-Housework Link-the more housework you do the more often you are likely to have sex with your spouse
Housework may look as if the ultimate romance-killer. But guess what?
A new report proves that for husbands and wives alike, the more housework you do, the more often you are likely to have sex with your spouse.
Earlier studies have hinted at this connection for men; the sight of a husband mopping the floor or doing dishes sparks affection in the hearts of many wives. But the more-housework-equals-more-sex link for wives, documented in a study of 6,877 married couples published online recently in the Journal of Family Issues, is a surprise.
Scrubbing the floor is no aphrodisiac, and seeing your spouse doing it usually isn’t either. ‘My husband loves doing laundry, yet I don’t get any thrill out of his doing it,’ says Chicago writer Julie Danis. And ‘I don’t think he thinks it’s sexy when I go around gathering the detritus of his daily life.’
But for some high achievers who take a ‘work hard, play hard’ approach to life, researchers say, working hard in one domain produces more energy for others. The study also found a correlation between hours spent on paid work and the frequency of sex in marriage.
‘Rather than compromise their sex life’ because of time demands at work or at home, ‘this group of go-getters seems to make sex a priority,’ says Constance Gager, lead researcher and an assistant professor of family and child studies at Montclair State University, Montclair, N.J. The study doesn’t measure what proportion of spouses fall into this group, but she believes ‘they are on the leading edge of couples we expect to see more of in the future.’
Many husbands and wives I interviewed offered an additional explanation — that housework may be a proxy for a general willingness to invest in shared interests, a symbol of commitment to home and hearth. Perhaps ‘working on the same task . . . makes the couple remember why they married — to be on the same team, to build a life,’ Ms. Danis says.
Tom Doran, a Plymouth, Mich., engineer, says doing housework ‘promotes friendship and intimacy’ for him and his wife, an executive assistant. And John Rogitz, a San Diego attorney who has been married for 30 years, says, ‘If you’re both around doing housework, that also means you are alone together, and in a place where both are relaxed and comfortable.’ He adds, ‘It’s pretty hard to have sex when you’re not together in a place that permits it.’
Another husband, a St. Paul, Minn., accountant who describes himself as happily married for 20 years, says housework reflects a deeper bond. Although he does plenty of housework, ‘to me it’s not the dishes, laundry, vacuuming (or Viagra) that matters,’ he writes. Sharing chores reflects a ‘willingness to hold my wife’s needs and wants on a par with my own. For us, the key to intimacy is the sharing and minimization of selfishness.’ His wife, a nurse, agrees, saying that ‘doing the household chores is certainly part of the sharing.’
It’s also possible that one reward of doing chores — a serene, well-tended home — can be conducive to intimacy. Tracy Evans, New York, says she and her husband ‘definitely can relax better if the house is clean,’ she says — to a point.
But plunging too deeply into chores also can have the opposite effect, she says, if it is linked to ‘this perfectionistic type of thing where you want to get everything done’ — for example, deciding you can’t rest until your entire spice rack is in alphabetical order. ‘Before you know it, it’s one in the morning and you haven’t spent any time with your spouse,’ Ms. Evans says. Researchers didn’t explore whether housework reached a point of diminishing returns — where time on chores expanded so much that it choked off intimacy.