Disgruntled wives and girlfriends, passionate about their right to expect their partners to do more household chores, have let me know via this blog and my website that they do not appreciate the following question: "And what is a 'honey-do' list but a bid to control a partner's free time?"  See previous posts: Great Mistakes - The Big Six Red Flags (Part 2) and Is your partner a matrimonial slacker?

Although these readers report that efforts to schedule a partner's leisure time prove fruitless, they stand firm in their right to expect their husbands and live-in boyfriends to "get off their butts and get to work!" 

A few assert that "research shows" women are happier with partners who help more around the house.  One reader went so far as to conclude that Everybody Marries the Wrong Person "denies research" because it makes no mention of this point. Since no reader cited specifics, it is unclear whether the "research" consisted of a poll of girlfriends, a media sound bite, or a cherry-picked fact from a legitimate study. 

Regardless, the idea that marital quality depends upon an ideal chore ratio is now ripe for inclusion as a myth or misconception in Everybody Marries the Wrong Person (Second Edition).  So, what does research say on this subject?

One oft-quoted study

  • Sociologists, W. Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock, surveyed thousands of couples, collected responses on a complex set of variables, and analyzed data from a subset of 5010 couples.  The 26-page report on wives' marital quality, published in 2008, is titled "What's Love Got To Do With It?"  The authors note that additional tables presenting analyses of husbands' marital quality are also available upon request. 

The "most crucial" determinant of wives "marital quality?"       

  • "Positive emotion work" (emotional investment) of husband." 

Also more important than patterns of household labor or perceptions of housework equity?

  • Shared church attendance and shared commitment to the institution of marriage.

And here's the twist.  Although women's contentment with the division of household tasks is relevant to marital quality, "...women who are more egalitarian-minded and more upset with the division of household labor receive lower levels of positive emotion work from their husbands." 

Oh, the irony!

Getting past the stand-off

So, how do you get past the stand-off?  Practice mature love:

  • Accept reality. 
  • Stop thinking like a victim.
  • Stop blaming your spouse for your discontentment.
  • Stop behaving as if your spouse is a renovation project.
  • Examine your expectations.
  • Take command of your negative emotional reactions, fears, and insecurities.
  • Claim the emotional freedom of self-responsibility.

For more about the book, visit everybodymarriesthewrongperson.com

About the Author

Christine Meinecke, Ph.D.

Christine Meinecke, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and author of Everybody Marries the Wrong Person.

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