Laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping—you name it—household chores can be such a hassle, especially when you’re also parenting little ones. Traditionally, a lot of this stuff has fallen to moms, but research suggests relationships are stronger when couples split the burden.
Now, there’s even more proof that splitting chores, especially dishwashing duties, can help keep a relationship healthy.
A soon-to-be published study from the Council of Contemporary Families (CCF) discovered that, out of all household tasks, how couples divide doing the dishes has the deepest impact on partnership dynamics, the Atlantic reports.
The new findings aren’t particularly surprising: Past research shows that relationship troubles and bad sex are more common among women who wash dishes more frequently than among women whose partners help.
So why does dishwashing cause such a rift in relationships? Because it’s not a glamorous chore, suggests lead study author Dan Carlson. “Doing dishes is gross. There is old, moldy food sitting in the sink. If you have kids, there is curdled milk in sippy cups that smells disgusting,” Carlson tells the Atlantic.
It’s not just dishwashing that has an effect on a relationship, of course: A 2011 American Sociological Review study found that moms spend 10 more hours a week multitasking than dads. In turn, mamas feel more stress, psychological distress, negative feelings and work-family conflict, the findings showed.
What’s more: A 2017 Sex Rules study discovered that moms spent more time than dads caring for the kids and housework, while dads had more time than moms to relax on their days off. Translated to minutes, that means mothers, on average, have less than an hour of leisure time, while dads had nearly two.
What’s the result? Divorce. A recent Harvard Business School study found that 25% of couples ended their relationship because of fights over household chores. And a Journal of Family and Economic Issues study showed that harmony in marriages takes a nosedive when mamas believe they’re not only doing more housework, but also sacrificing their careers.
That’s why having a serious conversation with your partner about responsibilities is so important. “Women who are mothers and also work outside the home often feel they handle more domestic responsibilities—and they often do,” Jill Whitney, licensed marriage and family therapist, previously told Motherly. “They look at the householding and childcare that gets done, see that they handle much more than half of it, and resent their husbands for not carrying more of the weight.”
Need more convincing? Well, splitting duties—at least where dishes are concerned—can lead to better sex because it leads to more happiness within the relationship, according to the CCF report. “It’s the fact that whoever leaves them in the sink expects that someone else will clean them up,” Dr. Sharon Sassler, Carlson’s co-author, tells Yahoo! Lifestyle. “I think couples who share dishes have a better relationship quality because there isn’t as much resentment.”
In other words: A more equal home is a happier home.