Why Couples Should Share Dish Duty, According to Science

published Apr 5, 2018
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(Image credit: Erin Wengrovius)

Attention, ladies: If you hate doing the dishes, we have some news that might make you hate it even more. New research from the Council of Contemporary Families looked at how the division of labor of specific household tasks impact relationship quality. Obviously, sharing chores is important for reducing relationship discord. (Less resentment!) It’s just that, when it comes to happiness, some chores are more crucial than others.

For men, the most important chore was the household shopping. The guys who split that task with their partner reported greater sexual and relationship satisfaction compared to men who did most or very little of the shopping. For women, the chore that impacted their relationship satisfaction the most was, you guessed it, dish duty.

“Women who found themselves doing the lion’s share of dishwashing reported significantly more relationship discord, lower relationship satisfaction, and less sexual satisfaction than women who split the dishes with their partner,” reports Daniel Carlson, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of sociology at the University of Utah.

More on Washing Dishes

He continues: “Sharing responsibility for dishwashing was the single biggest source of satisfaction for women among all the household tasks, and lack of sharing of this task the single biggest source of discontent.”

What is it about the dishes? Carlson gave The Atlantic two possible explanations.

1. It’s gross.

“Doing dishes is gross. There is old, moldy food sitting in the sink. If you have kids, there is curdled milk in sippy cups that smells disgusting,” he told the publication.

2. It’s a thankless job.

Unlike, say, cooking a delicious meal, washing the dishes is not likely to result in a ton of compliments. “What is there to say? ‘Oh, the silverware is so … sparkly’?” Carlson joked to The Atlantic.

There’s hope, though, as he had some advice to give: Consider sharing the chore (the old you-cook-I’ll-clean arrangement!), or do it together (one of you washes and the other one dries). Perhaps you’ve heard the saying? Team work don’t seem work!

Note: While this research is extremely heteronormative, we assume the takeaway is the same no matter what your household looks like. The bottom line: The gross, thankless chore should be split!

How do you divide up dish duty in your house? Tell us in the comments below!