Different role perceptions – who does the cooking, who makes the decisions, who works outside the home, etc., all have to be decided jointly, honestly and openly from the very beginning or at the first opportune moments. It's no good hoping or assuming, that the husband will help with the cooking and the wife will stay home with the kids. There could be big surprises ahead! New roles must be confirmed by both parties to avoid ambiguities.
According to Dr John Gottman, a noted marital researcher, "men who do more housework and child care have better sex lives and happier marriages". Other psychologists have found that when wives and husbands make what they both feel is a successful effort to divide chores fairly, both spouses benefit. Yet inequalities in housework and childcare have profound consequences for the satisfaction of women, which then gradually affects the quality of the relationship for the men as well.
I remember, a few years into my last marriage, one of my neighbours complaining bitterly to me that she had four children to cope with all day and her husband came home religiously at 5pm and expected his dinner "on the table". He felt that, having been to work to provide for the household, he had earned the right to put his feet up for the rest of the day. However, she got no break at all until the hyperactive children were in bed, which was often quite late at night. It meant husband and wife had little time together as a couple and she had hardly any help with the children, which made her tired and resentful. If he had helped her when he got home, they could both have enjoyed some quality time together because her day would have ended earlier. His actions would also have signalled an understanding of her responsibilities and an appreciation of her role. Instead, she was resentful and frustrated, especially as she was not assertive enough to ignore his dinner or to stand up to his selfish actions!
Equally Shared Roles
In our home we started off in the usual gender fashion of me doing the cooking, cleaning and other household chores while my husband did everything else. However, as the children grew older and demanded more care and attention, we gradually agreed to either share certain roles, like the cooking, or take over the ones we liked. It was a good move because he is a brilliant gardener. He did all the outdoor chores and shared in the cooking while I focused on the cleaning and ironing, which I preferred. For many years this worked perfectly until he decided he was a much better cook as well and virtually took it over. My little offering gradually became inadequate and resentment began to creep in.
Women feel more respected and loved when husbands share in the household chores and child-rearing. But, despite our liberated age, the latest statistics reveal that men share housework or childcare only 20 per cent of the time, on average. Women still have the greater burden of homemaking, on top of their jobs, a key reason why they are increasingly rejecting marriage or setting up home together.
Many men are often blind to the connection between how few chores they do and how their partners feel about them! Yet if a woman feels like a servant in the relationship, that will affect her perception of her value and the intimacy of the union. Being the sole person to clean the toilet and wash the floors is definitely not an aphrodisiac, or any kind of turn-on! The message you send to your spouse when you do very little around the house is mainly one of a lack of respect for her. When there is a feeling of mutual respect and appreciation, both partners tend to give more and the relationship prospers.