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Want a Happy Marriage? Do the Dishes Together.

Every day, they slowly accumulate. Plates covered in sauces and crumbs. Forks, knives, and spoons all gummed with bits of this and that. At the end of a long day of work, cooking, cleaning, and, for many, negotiating with small children, a couple has to face the big question: Who is going to do the dishes?

A report from the Council of Contemporary Families suggests that the answer to that question can have a significant impact on the health and longevity of a relationship. It found that, for women it’s more important to share the responsibility of doing the dishes than any other chore. Women who wash the vast majority of the dishes report more relationship conflict, less relationship satisfaction, and even worse sex, than women with partners who help. Women are happier about sharing dishwashing duties than sharing any other household task.

What is it about dishes? Dan Carlson, the lead author of the study, offers one possible reason: “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.”

Couples who do share dishwashing responsibilities seem to have better relationships. According to Carlson, that’s because a couple can do dishes as a team. When partners each handle some portion of the household tasks, they divide them in one of two ways. They either split the chores— “you cook Monday, I’ll cook Tuesday”—or they do them together, at the same time.

The nature of dishwashing encourages couples to stand in the kitchen together and work simultaneously until the job is done. That kind of teamwork, especially when practiced regularly, often makes partners feel more connected, ready to tackle the gross and the curdled, in and outside of the sink.


Caroline Kitchener, “Doing Dishes is the Worst,” The Atlantic (4-3-18)

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