I have a friend who parents three children – two kids and her husband. Okay, he does have a job and can dress himself. But she takes care of everything else: the kids, the food, the house admin … oh, also her job.
I don’t know how she does it. More importantly, I don’t know why she does it. I mean, I know the reason she does it now: there are actual kids to raise. But the two nippers weren’t always around.
Once, she and lover were young sweethearts living together with two facts: he didn’t lift a finger to clean the house and expected her to do all the admin. Well, to be fair, he expected it – and she obliged.
She’s long-suffering that way. I, however, am not. It’s bad news for love, sexual attraction and self-respect to care-take someone who is supposed to be your equal. The slightest hint that this is happening in a new relationship and I go full DEFCON 1.
It always starts with dishes.
Mr Man will be oblivious to dishes or that I’m always washing them. I won’t say anything, hoping that he might notice and attempt to clean a spoon. Then one day I’ll find myself passive-aggressively smashing through the dish suds. He’ll saunter in, ask me what’s wrong, and I’ll be like: ‘DO YOU EVER WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH ME AGAIN!?’
Then we’ll have a conversation about how there is nothing that turns me off a man more than having to be his ‘mom’. Result: I stop taking on all the dish-washing responsibility and he does his bit.
Sure, I could get to this point without the shoutiness. But, it turns out, I’m just enthusiastically expressing some science.
Family ecology professor Matt Johnson wrote ‘Skip the Dishes? Not So Fast! Sex and Housework Revisited’ about the connection between doing chores and a satisfying sex life. He analysed almost 1 500 couples over five years, looking at the division of chores and the perceived fairness of that division.
Johnson found that couples who not only shared the chores but considered that balance fair, enjoyed better sex, more often. ‘Knowing that a partner is pulling his weight prevents anger and bitterness, creating more fertile ground in which a (satisfying) sexual encounter may occur.’
Seems obvious, right? No woman feels sexy towards a man-child she has to parent. So how does it even get to that point? Well, if you’re ‘just going to do everything’ for your man-child from the start, he’ll keep expecting you to just do everything. That’s how children operate.
Still. I hate the perception that women have to ‘train’ some men to be adults. It’s demeaning to both sexes. And my solution to leave anyone who doesn’t ‘adult’ isn’t helpful either. Generations of gender stereotyping has left us all vulnerable to fallacies.
So I’m hoping that Johnson’s research helps us find a middle ground between DEFCON 1 and long-suffering acceptance. And what better motivation than an improved sex life?
Follow Dorothy Black on her blog, Facebook and on Twitter.