Monday, October 01, 2012

Why does sharing the housework increase divorce?

Norwegian researchers have found, to their surprise, that couples who share the housework equally are more likely to divorce than those who don't (hat tip: Laura Wood).
The figures clearly show that “the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate”

I thought the researchers explained the likely reason for this quite well:
But the deeper reasons for the higher divorce rate, he suggested, came from the values of “modern” couples rather than the chores they shared.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said.

The researchers may or may not be aware but a similar research project was undertaken in the U.S. back in 2007 and it came up with similar findings.

The American research was an attempt to find out why women in traditional marriages were on average happier than those in more modern "egalitarian" marriages. The researchers found, just like their Norwegian counterparts, that:
women who earn a greater-than-average percentage of couple income ... and whose husbands take up a greater share of household labor report greater unhappiness.

But why? The researchers were intrigued to find that men in traditional marriages were more affectionate toward their wives (they did more "emotion work"). But the researchers dug deeper and came up with an even more interesting explanation.

It seems that there is a divide in the approach to marriage by traditionalists and moderns. The modernist view is described this way:
a growing number of Americans, influenced by the cultural logic of “expressive individualism”, act as self-interested agents who bargain over their marital roles and interests in an effort to maximize their personal fulfillment

The traditionalists take a different view:
These Americans see marriage as a sacred institution in the Durkheimian sense that the relationship is accorded extraordinary value. Hence, the marital relationship is supposed to trump the individual interests of partners, calling forth virtues such as fidelity, sacrifice and mutual support

This traditionalist understanding then leads to a more altruistic "gift giving" approach to marriage, rather than a critical "acount keeping" attitude:
In this setting, exchanges between marital partners are often conducted according to an “enchanted” cultural logic of gift exchange where spouses give one another gifts that vary in value, may or may not be reciprocated, and often have some kind of symbolic value above and beyond their immediate instrumental value

I think this explanation has merit and is worth serious consideration. There is, however, one further way to explain the research findings, which is that men who are overly domesticated fail to trigger a sexual response from their wives.

If the topic interests you, I wrote two posts on the American research:

What kind of marriage makes women the happiest?

So marriage is a bit of paper?


  1. Spirited discussion here:

  2. As someone on conservative reddit channel, "liberal people have liberal views of marriage."

    I think the big difference is that Christians are told in the Bible that we should basically try to out honor our spouse and to hold nothing back, taking the self-sacrifice to a whole new level, whereas the liberal view is that marriage is simply a contract about 2 greedy individuals that want something they can't get on their own. Of course, since they can't get it on their own, i.e you can't be a woman and spontaneously become pregnant unless it's by God of course, and thus this rustles their jimmies about the whole autonomy theory.

    The reason it bothers them so much is because if someone has to rely on someone else to give them something such as children, security, or love, it means that the first person has to realize that there are differences which are innate between the sexes.

    I'm really glad God blessed me with my fiancee, we talked about divorce and both share the view that marriage is a permanent contract only to be broken by death. We believe that marriage is not a 50/50 split, but an ever increasing effort to out do the other, for example I'll show her honor by bringing flowers home just to see her happy, or clean the house before she comes home from a hard day of work. Now, some may bring up the whole wife working thing, I feel that it doesn't apply to her because she's going to own her own preschool which is more hard work than some corporate office banging away on a keyboard; don't get me wrong, I'll be working as well as a web developer.

  3. I think it is more an attitude thing rather than housework itself.

    The attitude of the average man who struggles to fill a domestic role is often submissive, something that women simply don't seem to respond to on a biological level.

    I have talked with women who rave about how their current live in boyfriend does all the household chores and treats them like a princess and then spend the rest of the conversation complaining that since they moved in together he isn't passionate or spontaneous anymore.

    I also know a man who does all the housework with his live in girlfriend because he doesn't trust her to do it. The difference being that he lets her know frequently that this is the case and generally puts her into the submissive position of an Adult/Child style relationship.

    Women just generally seem to like a man with the confidence to lead, organize and give orders.

    Of course there are exceptions but they are just that, exceptions not the rule.

    I don't see anything demeaning to either party in this. It's a Yin-Yang dichotomy with each side complimenting the other.