Studies: Divorce, Household Chores Share Messy Relationship


  • Research suggests that divorce and the completion of chores share a connection.
  • Gender equality is often a topic of discussion, related to the reasoning behind the marital discord.
  • Research does not factor in individual marital characteristics that lead to a divorce.

"Nonetheless, it is probably better for one’s future emotional well-being to end an unhappy marriage for a better reason than someone not wishing to fold towels."

Marital discord has a range of causes. People in relationships have been fighting over a range of topics since the dawn of time. Between the mundane topics like what color of couch they should purchase to the bigger topics of how many children they should have, there are an infinite number of possibilities that can spark debate and disagreement within a relationship. In particular, the mundane topics and tasks in this world have a way of becoming bigger over the course of time.

Doing laundry or dishes is a common occurrence in most households. Clothes and dishes both get dirty, and someone’s got to clean them. If you are married and do not have any children or if your children are too young to handle the responsibility, it falls on the married couple to get these types of household chores done. This is often where the problem lies.

The Research

When neither spouse wishes to complete these mundane tasks, conflict can arise, and according to studies done at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway, it can lead down the slippery slope to divorce. The research studied the impact of husbands doing housework and how it can affect the possibility of divorce. Surprisingly, the studies showed that the divorce rate among couples who share the chores equally was 50 percent higher than among those where the wife does the majority of the work.

The researchers were under the impression that having clearly defined roles would lead to fewer arguments. They also equated doing housework to equality in the home.

The study also found that the women in the study did the majority of the chores of their own volition and were described as being as happy as what they defined as “modern” couples, couples that were depicted as dividing chores among themselves and include wives who have both a high level of education and a well-paid job.

Additional research through Stanford University’s “How Couples Meet and Stay Together” study found that women are more likely to ask for a divorce, at 69 percent, due to the frustration from men failing to do household work and childcare-related tasks.

Researchers with the Stanford study suggested that not only did these women become fed up with the lack of gender equality, but that the institution of marriage has been slow to catch up with expectations of gender equality itself.

A Pew Research Center survey in 2007 found that sharing household chores was among the top five in important tasks that make a marriage work. The results found that 62 percent of adults saw sharing chores vital to marital success. The survey did not find any difference between groups of men and women, groups of married and single individuals, or groups of older and younger adults. This was a rise from the 47 percent that found chores vital to marital success in 1990.

Reports from The Atlantic have claimed that male participation in household chores in U.S. families has doubled in 40 years, with their time dedicated to childcare tripled. The report broke down how a couple interacts with each menial household task and how a nuanced approach in the way a couple interacts with one another during and after the tasks themselves lent itself to a couple’s sense of well-being and relationship satisfaction.

The characterization of marriage as a partnership comes into play when thinking about a couple’s relationship with household chores. Over time, individual spouses develop tasks that they find themselves doing as part of a routine, in maintaining the household. When a spouse finds themselves rebelling against the routine, it can be jarring, even on an emotional level, and that could find itself as the starting point for additional points of contention.

The reality

Some of the points of contention stem from identity and employment. Unemployment is a serious cause for concern among husbands, and many men find the idea of losing themselves in the day-to-day of household chores, rather than seeking meaningful employment as a way of losing their identity, according to Today. They reach a low point in their lives and lash out, causing hurt feelings, interruption in household routines, and overall marital discord.

Maintaining one’s identity does not equate with not having to do household chores. As an able-bodied individual living in a household, tasks need to get done. It is simply a matter of what’s getting done and who is doing it. However, those who have suffered divorce through disagreements regarding the workload of chores do not deserve to be demonized. Individual personalities, moods, emotions, and a wealth of other outside factors all come into play into the decision-making, regarding the household chores.

While research and studies can offer generalities regarding trends in relationships and how they interact with the institution of divorce, they do not factor in the specificity of the situations that the couple faced. Each relationship is different and can end for different reasons. Nonetheless, it is probably better for one’s future emotional well-being to end an unhappy marriage for a better reason than someone not wishing to fold towels.

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply