When it comes to chores, we all have our preferences. I, for instance, will fight people to do the laundry. Folding is my favorite thing ever … well, next to sorting loads of clothing to be washed. Other people live to make stripes in the carpet with a vacuum or get zen with some oven cleaner.
But, few (if any) people are itching to wash dishes, which is why they tend to pile up until someone is forced to tackle their grossness. And who ends up with the chore the most frequently has a substantial impact on the satisfaction felt by people in heterosexual couples.
A soon-to-be-released report from the Council of Contemporary Families (CCF) — a nonprofit organization that studies family dynamics — suggests both the longevity and the health of relationships hinges on who does the dishes. Researchers examined a group of household tasks, like laundry, shopping, and housecleaning, and they discovered women in heterosexual relationships find sharing the responsibility of doing the dishes more important than any other task.
This isn’t exactly a new finding, as previous studies have also shown that women who shoulder the vast majority of dishwashing report less satisfaction in their relationship, as well as more conflict and worse sex than women with helpful partners. And, women are much happier sharing dish duties than they are about any of the other household chores.
Dan Carlson, an assistant professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, and the lead author of the study offer up a few reasons why this might be. First of all, washing dishes is gross af. Dried on food, slimy residue, the sludge that can end up in the sink if you get really lax? It’s all nasty. And, when the dishes are done, there isn’t a lot of praise to be heaped upon the washer.
What is there to say? It’s a clean plate. Yay?
Sadly, the least popular household tasks are often placed on women, according to Carlson. Traditionally, women get labored with cleaning up after other people. Think toilet cleaning, laundry, tub scrubbing, and dishwashing. Meanwhile, men take out the trash, perform yard care, and service the car. There isn’t as much up close and personal time with other people’s filth. Women who have to fill a traditional role can get resentful about having to shoulder the burden of cleaning up their own grime and that of another person.
One reason that couples may have better relationships when they share dish duties is that washing pots and pans and cutlery and place settings is a two-person job. They can work together as a team. One person can wash and one can dry. Someone can rinse and the other can load them into a dishwasher. It is easy to take separate roles and work toward a common goal.
Besides, wet, sudsy, slick, dirty… we recognize foreplay instructions when we hear them.