It’s often said that, for women, foreplay starts when you’re both doing the dishes or when a woman’s boyfriend or husband picks up the vacuum cleaner. Sexy? Maybe not to you guys. But oddly, household chores and sex are linked for many couples. The thing is, studies have found that as women and men work more equal hours in the workplace, women still tend to put in more hours at home whether it’s cooking, cleaning or hanging out with the kids (packing lunches, helping with homework, bathing them). It’s not that men aren’t helpful. In fact, I think many men are incredibly helpful. But even today’s great boyfriends and husbands were, like the women they love, often raised in homes in which women did a lot of housework.
And yet, we also know from sex research that couples who feel as though they’re in more “equal” relationships tend to be more sexually satisfied. It makes sense to me. After all, if a woman isn’t feeling resentful about having cleaned while he watched TV, she might be generally happier and more inclined to sex. And if she’s not exhausted from having come home from work only to have to cook dinner and clean up afterwards, she might have more energy for sex. Is it a magic formula or a sure thing? No way. But it’s a good starting place. Some studies have even found that women are easily turned off if, in the midst of making out of sex, they catch a glimpse of clutter or laundry or dirt.
Unfortunately, it’s not always clear to men what we women mean when we ask for help around the house. Granted, every couple and every home is different. But here are some things you might consider when you look around to see how you can chip in a little more (and if she’s the one slacking, you might send her a link to this post with a hint for help around the house):
– Is she usually the one who cooks? Join in and chop veggies while she chops the meat. At the very least, make sure you clean up while she kicks back.
– Take the garbage out without being asked to. Or put a new bag in the bin while she’s taking the garbage out.
– Take the dog for an extra long walk to tire her or him out. Or vacuum the house while she’s out on her walk. Another option is to walk the dog together, thus getting quality time in at the same time you’re checking of a to-do item.
– Pack the kids’ lunches. Or clean out the refrigerator while she packs their lunches.
– Fold the laundry. Or at least don’t criticize the way she folds your clothes.
– Make the bed together. Better yet? Wash the sheets and make the bed as a surprise for her. There’s nothing like a soft, clean bed to come home to – especially if it holds someone you love and want to get naked with.
– Vacuum often (especially if you have pets). Even if the pet hair is invisible to you, I’d make a bet that she sees it and it stresses her out. As a rule, if you have a pet, you’re probably wise to vacuum at least once per week. And yes, even under the sofa cushions.
– If you’re both exhausted from work, and housework is the last thing that either of you wants to do, see if it’s in your budget to hire a biweekly or even monthly cleaning service, especially for those bathrooms and kitchens that are time and energy-sucks. Skipping a few lattes or workday lunches in order to compensate each week might be worth it.
By Dr. Debby Herbenick