The new shows 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.
Maybe there's a connection between this study and the other study I wrote about recently which suggested that doing housework produced the same level of the feel-good hormone serotonin as being in love.
On the downside:
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.
Let's hope that word of the study inspires husbands to do more laundry.