Jo Stanley: The equal division of domestic duties is key to relationship success

I wouldn't say that my husband doesn't pull his weight around the house, but I feel that the amount of time he spends on ...

Let me give you a peek behind my marital curtains. I recently said this to my husband: “If you want to seduce me, you should fold the laundry.” That’s not a euphemism and I don’t have an unusual laundry-folding fantasy, although now that I think of it, a shirtless Zac Efron skilfully folding a fitted sheet is just about the hottest thing I can imagine.

No, my statement to my husband came at a time when we were arguing over two things, both of which I’m certain – without having done any research – that all couples argue over.

First, the age-old tension over frequency of sex and mismatched schedules and tiredness and the eff ort required to remain vaguely attractive after you’ve seen each other in the least sexy situations possible – Bali belly, giving birth and a regrettable road rage incident come to mind.

And then there are domestic duties, and who does what and who does more and who seems to barely lift a finger while the other adult in the house feels like a Victorian-era scullery maid.

Now trust me, I’m no clean-freak – I found a cockroach in my handbag the other day – but I’d like whatever housework we do to be equally split.

I wouldn’t say that my husband doesn’t pull his weight around the house. But I feel (note use of non-accusatory “feel” word, as learnt in couples therapy) that the amount of time he spends on the couch watching TV is equal to the amount I spend on my feet doing housework, and I feel like if he did less couch and more domestic duties, I’d feel less tired, less cranky and far more in the mood for feeling him up.

In fact, it may not seem romantic, but for endearing himself to me I’d far prefer folded laundry to a bunch of flowers (which, by the way, I’m not exactly drowning in either). To put it more bluntly, if he actually put the laundry away?  Wow. He could seriously put me away.

My husband’s response to this was typically funny. He appeared one night from around the ensuite door, wrapped only in a towel with a rose between his teeth, folding a T-shirt like someone in a 50 Shades of Grey trailer.

And I succumbed to his charm because he makes me laugh and I love him and also a woman has needs. But the next morning I got up, and the washing was still unfolded!

So I yelled and carried on and he said I was overreacting and suddenly we’re having the same old fight again. Only this time he added that romantic gestures and fun are more important than a clean house in keeping a 17-year marriage alive, and aren’t we in trouble when housework becomes foreplay. It’s rare, but on this occasion he gave me pause for thought.

I acknowledge that when I think about the 17 years we’ve shared, and the times that drew us together and strengthened our love, it’s not a perfectly folded T-shirt or a vacuumed rug that come to mind. I don’t imagine at the end of our lives I’ll say, “He always took the time to pair up the socks.”

Instead, we remember the moments where we made each other laugh or feel loved or understood or cared for. It’s the funny texts, the dinners cooked, the emergency Macca’s run for hash browns to cure my life-threatening hangover.

And it’s the dark times when one of us has allowed the other to see our sadness or flaws or shame, and stuck around anyway. That’s true romance – romance being just another word for kindness.

So if it means I feel supported, loved and equal, and it frees me up to actually sit on the couch next to him, I can’t think of a more romantic and yes, downright sexy thing than giving my smalls a good fold. Done right, that really would be a euphemism.

 

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