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Sharing the chores can lead to divorce, study says

Sure they look happy, but tensions could arise.

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You do the dishes. Your partner does the cooking. Domestic bliss means divvying up the household chores, right?

Well, not exactly. According to the Telegraph, a new study out of Norway has found that divorce rates are as much as 50 per cent higher among couples that share the load equally, compared with households where women do the majority of the chores.

But wait a minute. Aren't households in which women do all the cooking and cleaning simply more traditional, and less inclined to see divorce as an option?

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The researchers acknowledge this could be one explanation.

"Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage," the co-author of the study, Thomas Hansen, told the Telegraph. "In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially," and therefore less apt to be trapped in an unhappy marriage.

But, he noted, the findings could also be interpreted another way.

"What we've seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn't necessarily contribute to contentment," he told the newspaper, explaining that marital strife could arise when one person senses the other isn't pulling his or her weight, or when both people share the same household tasks. "Maybe it's sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity… where one person is not stepping on the other's toes."

Um? When was the last time you quarrelled because you actually wanted to do the laundry?

Anyway, sociology professor Frank Furedi of the University of Canterbury offered yet another theory. Couples that divide the household labour are more focused on making sure everything is contractual, he told the Telegraph.

"The more you organize your relationship, the more you work out diaries and schedules, the more it becomes a business relationship than an intimate, loving spontaneous one," he said.

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Certainly, there is far more to marital happiness than determining who is responsible for taking out the trash and who does the grocery shopping. But in a Globe and Mail article, couples counsellor Karen Hirscheimer suggested that drawing up a schedule and a contract actually helps reduce tension, as it ensures the roles are clear.

However, she also warned that partners should be willing to cut each other some slack. "There is a difference between being equal and fair," she said.

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More


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