Relationship Advice: Do the Dishes to Improve Your Sex Life

November 18, 2015 by

No, that’s not a euphemism. Scientists from the University of Alberta found that men who reported a fair distribution of housekeeping duties in their relationship enjoyed more frequent and satisfying sex.

To be clear, the actual amount of housework the men performed was not linked to their sex lives. Instead, the study found what’s important is the men believed they made an equitable contribution to chores around the house.

The study was actually a reassessment of the results of a widespread 2012 study entitled Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage. The American study reported heterosexual couples with male partners who performed “traditionally female” roles—like housework—enjoyed less sex than other couples.

Researchers from the American study postulated that the results highlighted “the importance of gender display rather than marital exchange for sex between heterosexual married partners.” In other words, men and women need to stay in their traditional gender roles to enjoy more frequent sex.

If those results sound sketchy to you, you’re not alone. "(That study) didn't ring true," said Dr. Matt Johnson, a family ecology professor from the University of Alberta. "It didn't fit with my intuition and background experiences as a couples’ therapist." So he decided to investigate the matter himself.

How the Study Worked

Dr. Johnson poured over the data from a separate five-year study of 1,338 German couples. When he compared data on the amount of housework a male partner performed, he found no correlation between that data and how much sex the couple had.

Then Dr. Johnson looked at the data regarding whether men perceived their contributions to housework as fair.

"In any relationship, the amount of housework is going to mean something different based on the couple's context, based on their own expectations for what each partner should be doing, and their comparison levels of what happens with other couples they know,” he explains.

He found that couples engage in more frequent sex when the male partners believe the division of house chores is fair. He also found that both male and female partners were more likely to report sexual satisfaction in those relationships.

Though he acknowledges that comparing Americans to German couples may bring up some important cultural difference, he pointed out that couples in Germany actually tend to have stricter gender roles than in America. According to Dr. Johnson, data from some studies indicates German men tend to do less housework in relationships compared to their American counterparts.

"There are cultural differences. But if the logic held from the prior studies, we would have expected to have a more pronounced negative impact of housework on sexuality in Germany, because it's a bit more traditional. But that wasn't the case at all," he said.

The Bottom Line Is a Perception of Equality

What can we learn from this study? Dr. Johnson offers specific relationship advice: "Rather than avoiding chores in the hopes of having more sex, as prior research would imply, men are likely to experience more frequent and satisfying passion for both partners between the sheets when they simply do their fair share."

Yes, what matters is that you and your partner both feel like each person is pulling their weight. But this perception won’t exist unless you’re both actually doing the chores. So start divvying them up and reap the benefits!