A Norwegian study reports that couples who make a concerted effort to divide the housework are more likely to divorce than couples where most of the chores fall to the woman of the house.
The study results may puzzle the modern person, who has been informed from the cradle that gender roles imposed by a patriarchal society are meant to be exposed and shattered into a million little pieces. It is much better that everyone carry their own freight (or do their own laundry) under the banner of fairness.
Lest the reader write off the study results as a case of “Norwegians just being Norwegian”, a recent article in The Atlantic offers circumstantial evidence from a dinner party attended by women (all divorced save for one) in Los Angeles that suggests that the increased divorce rate among the multi-degreed, professional class is skyrocketing.
The Atlantic article recounts the story of a married woman who has a wonderful well-paying job and a house husband, who seems like a pretty cool guy, and content in his role. The wife asked the husband to replace a broken light-bulb in the garage, and he didn’t do the assigned task in a timely manner, which resulted in the wife banging her shin one dark night. She became unhinged, and the result was a costly “emergency therapy session.”
In this instance, most or nearly all of the home chores fell to the man, so it is not fair to use him as an example of what’s wrong with the 50-50 approach to marriage. If this particular union ends in divorce, it could be due the wife’s financial independence or the modern tendency to view marriage as a business contract rather than a sacrament—both reasons that the study authors offer for the increased divorce rates in 50-50 marriages.
What is really going on is that the poor men—from the fjords of Norway and to the suburbs of Los Angeles—do not have a clue. The men do not have the most basic realization that his home is his wife’s castle, and she has very definite customs, habits, and expectations, all of which he hasn’t noticed.
He has never observed that the top sheet has a very definite top and a bottom. He does not recognize that the duvet cover has a several buttons at the bottom, which should be to the foot of a made bed. When he makes the bed, the covers go any which way. The result may be functional, but may not please the eye of the wife.
He doesn’t see the smear of balsamic vinegar on the shelf or the ring of dried ketchup at the neck of the bottle. He doesn’t sense the internal order in the way the dishes are stacked or how the silverware is arranged. He doesn’t care that the clothes are inside-out as he folds them from the dryer. There is a lot going on in his own house that is outside of his awareness.
The trouble is that the wife is perfectly aware. She sees right away that things are out of order. She can either heave a quiet sigh and re-stack the dishes, and tidy up the silverware drawer and be grateful that she has a life’s companion, or she can make a federal case out it, and summon the emergency therapist—or the divorce lawyer.
I don’t have any scientific data to back me up, but I would guess there are between 12 and 20 ironclad expectations that any wife has for her house. These expectations vary from woman to woman. Men in a second marriage will quickly learn that what worked with number one isn’t necessarily going to work with number two.
So, for the upper-income man to stay married, he needs to learn what she wants. (Note: She already knows what he wants.)
Some wives will want an everyday vacuum run and bathroom polish. Others don’t mind a once-a-week vacuum and a deep clean of the tub on Sundays. Some wives are a maniac for order in the kitchen, and won’t go to bed with dishes in the sink.
The strategy of some men (likely those with less education and not as much income) is to have her do the work herself. These louts manage to stay married.
For a man to be king of his castle, the queen has to be happy. As sexist and backward as that sounds, that is the biggest key to martial harmony. Researchers: start your data collection.