Dr. Jess on Sex: The connection between tidying up and turn-ons

How maintaining your household and sex life go hand in hand with your partner

Doing the dishes can lead to more sex.

“If he makes dinner, cleans up or helps with laundry, I’m more likely to be in the mood,” explains Wanless Park resident Sheree, who has been married 12 years.

“It’s not that I’m turned on when he does chores, but when he pulls his weight, I’m not as exhausted and I like him more. I work long hours too, and when we first had kids, I felt pressure to do everything around the house because that’s what my mom did when we were growing up. But she didn’t work outside the home, and I ended up worn out and resentful.”

Sheree confirms what the research says: how you divide chores can affect the outcome of your relationship.

A study from the University of Western Ontario suggests that couples who share responsibility for paid and unpaid work report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. And couples who share chores have 20 per cent more sex than those who divide tasks unevenly.

This may be owing to the fact that they have more energy and less conflict and are therefore more open to sex including “maintenance sex” — the type of sex you have when you’re busy and perhaps not spontaneously in the mood but want to stay connected and reap the benefits of intimacy, stress relief and pleasure.

Resentment reduces the likelihood of sex but may play a more significant role in stymying maintenance sex since it often requires that you work together to get in the mood.

Gender certainly plays a role in expectations of both household labour and sexual relationships, and although our attitudes have shifted significantly, in heterosexual relationships, women still perform a disproportionate share of household and family chores even when they work longer hours and earn more money.

This uneven division of labour may put your marriage at risk, as conflict and resentment increase, along with the risk of divorce.

This uneven division of labour may put your marriage at risk, as conflict and resentment increase, along with the risk of divorce.

One representative study reports that 30 per cent of divorcees cite “disagreements about housework” as the number one reason for splitting up — almost as common as infidelity and drifting apart.

Conflict related to housework, however, is manageable if you’re both open to making adjustments and willing to acknowledge that your perception of how much you do may not be accurate.

You can set yourself on the right path by making a list of tasks (from cleaning and picking up the kids to helping with parents and buying groceries) with estimates of how long each one takes to complete.

You may opt to divide the list into daily, weekly and monthly undertakings and rank them in order of personal preference. Apps like Chore Pad and Trello can also help — the former offers a “parent mode,” which is helpful if you’re getting the kids involved in sharing tasks.

Share and review your lists and see if you can trade, rearrange, take turns or reassign chores so that you both perceive your responsibilities as fair.

You’ll likely want to consider how much time you each have for the “second shift” after work and rid yourselves of the notion that your partner should be expected to perform a task simply because they’re better at it. Anyone can learn to dust, cook or fold laundry — if you can hold down a full-time job, run a company and/or raise a child, you can plan and make meals without your partner’s coaching.

Dividing tasks via a list or app does not amount to keeping score, but instead can make you more aware of discrepancies so that you can adjust your behaviour to be a better partner. This isn’t a one-time conversation, as the list of tasks will change over time and you’ll need to make adjustments.

Once you have your list of chores, you may also want to consider outsourcing some of the lower ranked and/or time consuming tasks if you have the resources to do so.

Research suggests that you may be able to buy marital bliss, as couples who spend money on time-saving purchases (e.g., hiring a cleaner or having groceries delivered) report higher relationship satisfaction: they have more time to spend together, less conflict and lower stress levels.

Check out Toronto-based app, Adam Helps, which allows you to hire local community members to help with all sorts of chores from pet walking to painting.

Finally, if you find your household conflicts are related to clutter or cleanliness, you may want to consider the Marie Kondo approach and purge those items that don’t bring you joy. Paring down may be just what you need to reduce clutter in the home and spark more joy in your partner.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO