A study of 6,877 married couples published online in the Journal of Family Issues found a direct correlation between doing housework and having sex. The study defined housework as nine chores: cleaning, preparing meals, washing dishes, washing and ironing clothes, driving family members around, shopping, yard work, maintaining cars and paying bills. Wives in the study spent an average 41.8 hours a week on these tasks, compared with 23.4 hours for husbands—a split that is fairly typical, and often regarded by wives as unfair. However, the effects of any fairness concerns among wives weren’t measured in this study.
Outside the home, husbands spent an average 33.8 hours a week on paid work, compared with 19.7 hours for wives. Couples reported having sex 82.7 times a year on average, or 1.6 times a week, about the same as in other studies.
After a long national decline in time spent on housework, the study joins a growing body of research on how chores shape the dynamics of marriage. A survey of 2,020 U.S. adults placed “sharing household chores” as the third most important factor in a successful marriage, behind faithfulness and a happy sexual relationship, says the nonprofit Pew Research Center. That’s a sharp increase; 72% of respondents gave high importance to housework, up from 47% in a comparable study in 1990. In respondents’ minds, housework outranked even such necessities as adequate income and good housing, Pew says.
A 2003 study by Scott Coltrane, a sociology professor at the University of California, Riverside, linked fathers’ housework to more feelings of warmth and affection in their wives. And a survey of 288 husbands, reported in Neil Chethik’s 2006 book “VoiceMale,” linked a wife’s satisfaction with the division of household duties with her husband’s satisfaction with their sex life.