Love is...

City Press asks happily married couples if they agree with a recent US study’s findings. Sphumelele Mngoma reports.

Do you want to be happy?

If you’re a married father, then it’s fairly simple – help look after your kids and do your fair share around the house.

A recent study by Dr Erin Holmes, an assistant professor in Bingham Young University’s family life department, along with the universities of Missouri and Utah State, found that fathers who helped care for their children, and who helped around the house, had the happiest marriages.

But the happiest couples of all, say the researchers, are not those who divide the chores between them, but those who do them together.

The UK’s Daily Mail newspaper reported Holmes saying: “We found that it didn’t matter who did what, but how satisfied people were with the division of labour.

“We found that when wives are doing work together with their husbands, they are more satisfied with the division of labour.”

To establish the factors contributing to a happy marriage, the study, which was published in the Journal of Family Issues, looked at how 160 couples, aged between 25?and 30, handled housework and child-rearing duties.

The research also found that the quality of the husband’s relationship with the children was the number-one secret to living happily ever after.

This was followed by the willingness of the husband to perform household chores.

Nonto (30) and Musa (43) Hlongwane, who live in Umlazi, outside Durban, agree.

“Musa does everything around the house. I would not change our relationship for anything,” says a clearly delighted Nonto.

The couple has been together for six years and married for three.

Musa has a 15-year-old daughter, who lives with her grandmother; and together, Nonto and Musa raise Nonto’s nine-year-old son and their nine-month-old baby.

“We have a helper, but when she is not around, he helps out a lot. He cleans, he does dishes?.?.?.?he does the washing,” says Nonto.

Musa, a former teacher, is now studying towards a postgraduate qualification.

Nonto, who works for the SA Social Security Agency, is studying criminology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“The auntie (helper) recently left for Easter and I remember one day waking up and he had done all the work,” she says, smiling at her husband.

Musa says: “I was taught that you wash the dish you ate in. I think marriage is about compromise.”

Although the study suggests that the happiest couples do chores together, Musa and Nonto disagree.

“I think what she (Nonto) calls cleaning is actually tidying up. When I clean, I do a good job at it and usually take longer, which irritates her,” jokes Musa.

In nearby Merebank, Shallan Govender and Bradley Dutt, both 28, also go their separate ways as far as chores are concerned, saying it would take too much time if they did them together.

But Shallan says Bradley does his fair share of the housework, lending credence to the study’s finding that the happiest wives were those most satisfied with the division of labour.

“Dishes and sweeping are his, because I hate it,” Shallan says, as is washing the car and combing their four-year-old daughter’s hair. But she takes out the rubbish.

Bradley jokes that he works hard at home so that his partner has “nothing to complain about”.

Agreeing with the study’s finding that fathers who have good relationships with their children have happier marriages, Shallan says one of her favourite things is to see

Bradley and their daughter fixing cars together. “Bradley enjoys fixing cars and, as a result, my daughter knows all the car parts. She can tell a BMW from a Lexus. She recognises all the different brands of cars,” she says.

Holmes’ previous research revealed that, when they became parents, the number of household tasks performed by both husbands and wives increased dramatically.

And, although fathers did twice as much housework as before, mothers did five times as much.

According to Holmes, both spouses report higher marital quality “when wives are satisfied with the division of labour”.

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