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The Way Couples Divide Household Chores Can Make Or Break A Marriage

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Taking out the trash, washing the dishes, or doing laundry may not seem like make-it-or-break it moments for marriages -- but according to a new study, how household chores are divided greatly affects relationship satisfaction.

In the study, recently published in Sex Roles, researchers examined 220 newlywed couples who had married within the last 24 months.

Participants were given an online questionnaire that measured two things: cognitive egalitarianism (meaning how couples perceive male and female household responsibilities) and behavioral egalitarianism (how couples actually divide household responsibilities). The participants were asked not to discuss the answers with their spouses.

After examining the results, researchers found that an uneven division of household chores negatively affected wives' marital satisfaction, especially when wives felt the roles should be more equal. The same was not true for husbands.

"These results were interesting because usually marital satisfaction is studied in only one spouse. Here we were able to see what happens when there's a discrepancy in spouses' attitudes on this issue," Brian G. Ogolsky, a lead author of the study, said in a press release. "If a woman believes that household chores should be divided equally, what happens if they adopt a traditional approach to the matter? The most satisfied couples have similar expectations and follow through on them."

"For husbands, sharing household tasks isn't as directly related to their satisfaction. Either they don't perceive that there is a discrepancy or they have bought into the idea that the [housework] belongs to women," he said.

The takeaway? Ogolsky notes that since expectations play such a large role in marital happiness, couples should discuss these matters early on. "Newlyweds need to thoughtfully plan how they can make their expectations about sharing chores work out in real life, especially if the new spouses strongly value gender equality in household labor. This issue will only matter more after children start arriving," he advised.

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