Acknowledge your partner’s housework or prepare for divorce, Swedish study warns

Failing to give your partner fair credit for doing a bigger share of the housework increases the risk of divorce, new research from Sweden suggests.

Acknowledge your partner's housework or prepare for divorce, Swedish study warns
Forget the roses: failing to recognize your partner's share of the housework increases the risk of divorce. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

The study by Stockholm University's Demography Unit shows that household sharing and the perception of it can have a significant impact on relationship satisfaction, even leading to separation if it isn't accurately reflected.

“We looked at heterosexual couples and whether they agree on how they share the household and if that affects their relationship,” Maria Brandén, one of the authors of the research, told The Local.

“In line with other research we find that if couples divide the household tasks unequally, so if the woman does more than the man, it reflects badly on the relationship. Those couples are more likely to dissolve and they have less relationship satisfaction,” she added.

That may not come as a surprise, but of more interest is what the research shows regarding the effects of discrepancies in perception of who does the greater share of the household chores. 

“If the woman reports they share the work unequally and the man reports they share equally, this has an even more negative effect. So, if the man doesn't acknowledge that the woman does more work, it also has a negative effect on the relationship,” Brandén noted.

And the results suggest the same applies for men:

“If the man says he does the most, and the woman says they share equally, men also have higher break-up intentions. So it is kind of the same, but it is less common, because it is not as common that the man does the most housework.”

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The research collected nation-wide data from couples in Sweden about their views on their relationships, and along with housework, it addressed other questions like parental leave.

“We have both partners' attitudes on gender equality, on household sharing, both partners' view on parental leave and what they consider a good life. We can do quite a lot of interesting research based on this data in the domain of gender equality in the family,” Brandén explained.

But it was limited in that the majority of the couples who participated were heterosexual:

“Unfortunately we had only very few homosexual couples in the data, so it wouldn't be possible to do a valid analysis with it.”

Sweden has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. So is housework the big problem? And what should couples in the country look to change this Valentine's Day if they want to beat the trend and keep their relationship alive?

“I guess what's more important is to share the housework equally, but if you don't, you should at least give credit to the partner who does the most,” Brandén recommended.


The Swedish towns where couples stay married

Sweden may have a higher than average divorce rate, but there are some areas where couples tend to stay together – at least according to these official marriage stats.

The Swedish towns where couples stay married
File photo of a couple holding hands. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

A total of 24,876 marriages ended in divorce in Sweden in 2015, according to the latest available figures from the country's national number-crunching agency Statistics Sweden.

But some municipalities buck the trend, with couples staying married the longest in Övertorneå, a northern municipality of some 4,500 residents on the border to Finland.

Övertorneå couples stay together for 42 years before they divorce or one of them passes away, followed by fellow northerners in Pajala (40.1 years) and Vimmerby in southern region Småland (40 years).

Compare this to for example Stockholm suburbs Botkyrka and Sundbyberg at the bottom of the list, where the average marriage lasted 15.7 and 15.6 years in 2015, respectively.

“The population is younger in big cities. Many people get married, but more marriages end in divorce,” Statistics Sweden analyst Tomas Johansson told news agency Siren.

The average marriage in Sweden lasts for 25 years, before divorce or death.

The lesson is not as simple as “move to Övertorneå and your marriage will last”. Much of northern and rural Sweden has an ageing population, which contributes to the statistics.

“Relatively few are at the start of their marriages, which means that the number of marriages that end as a result of a death is higher,” explained Johansson.

“For example almost five times more people in Övertorneå became a widow or widower than got divorced in 2015.”

Top-20 list of the municipalities where marriages lasted the longest before ending through divorce or death

Övertorneå: 42 years
Pajala: 40.1 years
Vimmerby: 40 years
Arvidsjaur: 39.5 years
Rättvik: 38.9 years
Grästorp: 38.5 years
Tingsryd: 38 years
Malå: 37.9 years
Munkfors: 37.9 years
Berg: 37 years
Överkalix: 36.5 years
Nordmaling: 36.3 years
Vännäs: 36.3 years
Lekeberg: 35.5 years
Vilhelmina: 35.4 years
Robertsfors: 35.3 years
Vansbro: 35.2 years
Bräcke: 35.1 years
Sorsele: 35.1 years
Örnsköldsvik: 35.1 years