I read this article the other day talking about how an equal distribution of household chores between couples leads to better and more frequent sex. I've been thinking about it ever since.
There are a few reasons this particular subject has stuck in my head. And it's not just because it talked about sex in all its naughty clickbait. Sex is not the real issue (though it is, obviously, a bonus). It wasn't even the main focus of the article, which was mainly about relationship satisfaction and how, shockingly, a lot of relationship satisfaction comes from a more equal division of responsibilities. (And duh, more relationship satisfaction leads to more satisfaction in other, ahem, areas.)
The issue is that it hardly seems possible that in 2015 we're still debating the benefits of both partners contributing to a relationship and a home. These are not the days of the 1950s housewife, as much as I might like to dress the part. Most of us have realized that, just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to run a household. Note: this is not just a "men, get off your asses" post. Everyone should get off their collective asses every now and then and show they care about the person they love (romantically and platonically, for that matter), according to their own unique relationship. Because what "equal division" means depends solely on the individual couple's expectations and desires.
So don't get me wrong: I definitely like parts of being a homemaker. In an ideal world, I picture myself as more of a stay-at-home wife type. I love cooking and baking and have come around to large portions of domesticity. These days, I don't even mind doing dishes that much.
But I will never like cleaning. Ever. I can create a reward system for chores. I can listen to my favorite music. I can have a drink. It doesn't matter. I'm never going to enjoy cleaning.
You know what? Most people don't. Most people wish the bathroom would magically be spotless, and that laundry would do itself, and that the dog would sweep up his own damn fur. But this is not the case. Chores have to be done. By someone. Of course, we could live in perpetual squalor, but most times, it feels like I'm only barely on the brink of acceptable cleanliness already.
And so I spend precious moments of my far-too-little free time (when, honestly, I'd rather be reading or watching Netflix) to keep the house right on that acceptable level. (I actually wish I had more time to devote to organizing the mess of my apartment.) Because it's what adults do, and I am, allegedly, an adult.
This is not new. I've been more-or-less successfully keeping the house "clean" for the past 8 years.
The difference is that now I'm in a relationship with someone who cares enough and is an adult enough to actually help out, who also spends moments of his far-too-little free time to do the not-so-fun things.
I've come home to him mopping. Or sweeping. Or fixing things. Or making dinner. Or installing lights under the counters or above the washer and dryer. Or replacing the outside motion-detector lights. He takes out the trash. He tells me I don't have to always worry about doing laundry on the weekends, because he could do it when he gets home from work.
And honestly? It is a turn on.
More importantly (and highly possibly why it's a turn on)? It makes me feel loved. For me, what it boils down to is feeling like I'm an equal, like I'm part of a partnership instead of a master/servant relationship. I don't think that should be such a novel idea, even though it is a fairly new experience for me. Sharing responsibilities for a household shows that you care about the relationship you're in and, by natural extension, the person you're in a relationship with. It shows that you value your partner as an equal as as a valid and important part of your life. It shows that you're willing to give up your free time for a even few minutes to make a difference, to pick up the slack with your partner has had a bad day, or just to help out because you can. How could that possibly be anything but good for a relationship?
The article also struck a personal chord for me, since I did the unequal master/servant relationship for seven years. I probably shouldn't be shocked that we still need to talk about this. Because I lived with a man who continually asked more and more from me from one year to the next while he sidestepped more and more chores because of one excuse or another. I was better at cooking, he didn't like unloading the dishwasher, he didn't like cleaning the bathroom, grocery shopping was too stressful, he'd help me do dishes after I baked for an event if I gave him some of the money I made. It got to the point of him asking me to clean the bathroom for a party he was throwing while we were actually separated and I was living at a friend's house.
And the craziest thing? I did it. I did all of it. I did it even though we both worked a fairly equal number of hours and made a fairly equal amount of money. I did it because it was easier than arguing, than asking for the thousandth time for him to help out. I did it because someone had to. I did it because I wanted to help. I wanted to be a good wife. But in the end, I felt resentful. I felt unappreciated. And I felt guilty for feeling that way. I felt like a nagging wife, and I really, really hated feeling like that. And those feelings? They're not sexy. They're not healthy. They're not what you want in a relationship.
Honestly, if my ex-husband hadn't stopped trying from the moment we got married, it's very likely I wouldn't be divorced right now. I could have overlooked a great number of sins if only I felt like I was valued for anything other than monetary and sexual reasons.
What I was asking for wasn't someone to help cook and clean. I'm fully capable of cooking and cleaning on my own, even with limited free time, thank you very much. What I was asking for was respect, for a partnership, for some sign that he took even a few minutes to think about me or about our life. I was asking to be treated like an equal.
Equality is sexy, guys. I'm not going to lie to you about this. Sharing a bed is pretty high on the intimacy scale, but legitimately sharing a life and a relationship? Willingly sharing the annoying, dirty, tedious parts of that relationship? Respecting another person's time as much as you respect yours? That's true intimacy.
And that kind of partnership leads to a pretty amazing relationship, in my opinion. And it's taught me what I, and what everyone, deserves in a relationship.
(If this sounds familiar to anyone else besides me, I suppose it's because today's blog is a more explicit extension, of sorts, of my blog about relationships and what they're not.)
Sometimes, I can't believe it took me so long to take the blinders off and realize what I was missing out on. After all, I'm surrounded by friends who are in true partnerships of relationships, beautiful couples who support and take care of each other in turn, who sacrifice together and work together and want the best for each other, and who want the world to know what a wonderful person they're with.
If there ever were relationship goals, those are it, guys.