Household Labor and…Sexual Satisfaction?
“I have a headache” has become a somewhat iconic excuse to avoid sexual intimacy…along with “I have to get up early” or “I’m not in the mood.” I recognize these may be true statements at times and they need to be accepted as such. However, at times, they can also represent a lack of desire for sexual intimacy. In such cases, one needs to ask a question: what could be contributing to a lack of sexual desire in my marriage? One study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, offers an interesting answer to consider, especially for women with a low sexual desire. So…husbands, listen up.
This study looked at the division of labor in the home and how it might impact a woman’s sexual desire for her husband. Specifically, the study used two online surveys to ask women about three things: 1) their sexual desire for their husband (the study utilized heterosexual couples), 2) the division of household labor and how they felt about that division, and 3) how dependent they felt their spouse was on them. Household labor in this study fell into one of several categories including finances, social planning, cleaning, clothing care, food (shopping, prepping, cooking), outdoor maintenance, house and car maintenance, general decision-making, childcare, initiating discussions, and contacting people.
Interestingly, the results revealed that women who did the lion’s share of the household labor had a decreased sexual desire. However, that decrease in sexual desire did not occur simply because they did more of the work. The decreased sexual desire seemed to arise because of two factors associated with doing the lion’s share of the work:
- They felt it unfair that they did the majority of the work. The greater the perceived unfairness, the lower the sexual desire. In healthy marriages, both partners engage in the tasks necessary to maintain a home and family.
- They felt their partner was dependent on them. The greater the perceived dependence, the lower the sexual desire. To state this in a different way, women want to be their husband’s wife, not their mother. They want a partner, not a child they have to care for. The more of the household labor a woman does, the more she feels like the caretaker, the mother…not the wife.
Men, if you want a healthy, satisfying life of sexual intimacy in your marriage, do your share of the housework. Women, if you want a healthy, satisfying life of sexual intimacy in your marriage, let your husband do their share of the housework. Men and women, if you want a healthy, satisfying sex life in your marriage, acknowledge what your spouse does to maintain your home and family. If you struggle to divide the household labor equally…
- Get curious about what you could do around the house. Remember, household chores involve more than mopping floors and washing dishes. It involves finances, social planning, cleaning, food shopping, cooking, childcare, decision-making, yard maintenance, house/car maintenance, and initiating discussions. It’s important that both spouses participate in household labor, not that the labor is divided between “male” and “female” duties. For instance, in our home it would not be surprising to see me (the male) washing dishes while my wife was painting the porch railing. The important factor is that both spouses are actively engaged in maintaining the home and family.
- Sit down as a couple and discuss who does what and areas where you can both become actively involved. Ask your spouse what they would like you to do to help around the house. Ask them what you can do to “lighten their load” and work together to build the kind of home you both desire. Remember, you are a team of two adults building a home together.
- Take action. Don’t just talk about what you can do. Do it. Get involved in the maintenance of your home and family life in ways you discussed.
- Give thanks. Take the time to look for the ways in which your spouse is participating in the household tasks. Verbally acknowledge their effort and their involvement. Thank them for what they have done and continue to do. (If you wonder why you should thank your spouse for doing what they are supposed to do, read Why Thank Your Spouse for Doing Chores.)
Men, I want to add one, maybe two caveats to this. First, serving your wife and family through active involvement in household labor is almost a kind of aphrodisiac. I’m not talking about trading work for sexual intimacy. I’m talking about the way in which actively serving your wife through household labor reveals a love that will promote your wife’s sense of security and one which she will find attractive. So, forget the flowers and wash some dishes to reveal the full depth of your love. Even some products knew to use this idea in their advertisements.
Second, women are especially attracted to those who show kindness and affection to “their” children. Who isn’t? With that in mind, childcare is a crucial household task for men to participate in…and not just for your spouse. After all, they are your children too. You are their parent—their father. Change some diapers. Feed the baby. Take care of the children while your wife takes a break. Become actively involved in your children’s lives. Doing so is a part of the household labor your wife will love to see. And, you will cherish the time you spent with your children.