For Husbands, Does More Housework Mean Less Sex?
The researchers accounted for differences in self-reported happiness in the marriage, how recently the couples were married, family structure, each spouse's time spent in paid work, the wife's share of income, education and self-rated health, among other factors.
Men and women reported having sex an average of about five times a month. For those couples in which the wife does all the traditionally female housework, husbands and wives reported having sex 1.6 times more a month than those where the husband does a larger share of those chores.
Does the data still apply now, 20 years after the survey was done? Brines said that although a lot has changed in marriage since the 1960s -- especially with women increasingly taking on jobs outside the home and men having a greater role in child rearing -- research shows relatively little change in household assignment of tasks since the 1990s.
"I'm skeptical that the relationship between housework and sex changed a lot because housework responsibilities haven't changed much," she said.
For her part, Markie Blumer, an assistant professor in the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the age of the data is a big weakness in the study. "The economic crash definitely changed a lot of the household dynamics," she said, adding that many of those who became unemployed were men who started doing most of the housework.
Lead study author Sabino Kornrich said it's possible that when both spouses work outside the home, sheer fatigue could reduce the frequency of sex.
"I suspect that in cases where people are too tired to do any chores, they just don't have sex," said Kornrich, a researcher at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, Spain. "Our research and earlier studies find that couples who do more housework overall have more sex, suggesting that those who have more energy to do housework also have more energy for sex."
Kornrich added that although same-sex couples were not the focus of this study, research suggests that the division of household labor among gay, lesbian and cohabitating couples is influenced by gender. "But differences remain in how these couples divide household labor compared to heterosexual couples, so we cannot say from our results," he noted.
Brines suggested married couples consider having direct conversations or negotiations about the division of household labor and about their sex lives. "Put it up for renegotiation at any time," she said. "If you want a different arrangement, talk about it rather than letting inertia take hold."
For more about sexual health, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.