Why Do Women Make All the Household Decisions?

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Closing the Gap

If you haven't made your peace with being "the keeper-upper of everything," as one woman puts it, the fallout can be serious. Women who are overloaded with maintaining the household agenda feel greater psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, according to a study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Furthermore, frustration with the division of labor is one of the biggest sources of marital dissatisfaction among women, according to research from the Council on Contemporary Families. An interior designer from New York City blames the breakup of her marriage on this disparity. "He liked the nontraditional things I did, like earn money," she recalls, "but he closed the door on any tasks that were nontraditional for him, like cooking and grocery shopping. I ended up pretty bitter."

But there's hope for weary deciders: Domestic-domain harmony is within reach, as men and women alike begin to question old patterns and mind-sets. Linton Brown, a mother of two from Aspen, Colorado, has worked out a system in which her husband takes on roughly 40 percent of the day-to-day responsibilities and she handles the remainder. No, it's not entirely equitable, but she's pleased with it.

And happily for them, men who step up to the plate may find their reward in the bedroom -- a theory supported by marital research from the Gottman Institute, in Seattle. Diane Richards was nearly overcome with gratitude when her husband announced that he wanted to be the sole dishwasher in the family (he'd noticed, he said, how much she hated doing dishes and didn't want her to become resentful). The upshot? "We feel much more connected, and that means we have a lot more sex," say Richards. "Everyone's happier."

 

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal September 2009.

 

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