Couples who are looking to boost their sex lives may want to start getting their hands dirty in the kitchen, not the bedroom. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, partners who help each other with household chores have better sex lives.

The study delves into the benefits of equal housework in relation to sex among egalitarian couples, but researchers caution that the positive benefits don’t necessarily translate for all relationships.

“In any relationship, the amount of housework is going to mean something different based on the couple’s context. Based on their own expectations for what each partner should be doing, and their comparison levels of what happens with other couples they know,” explained Dr. Matt Johnson, a family ecology professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, in the paper.

Johnson and his colleagues analyzed data from over 1,000 couples who have been in a relationship over a five-year period. The couples participated in the German Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam) project. This allowed the researchers to explore whether there was a correlation between the amounts of household chores a man does and the amount of sex the couple had. The researchers also looked at men’s perception of whether they made a fair contribution to housework, and how that was related to their sex life.

The findings revealed the amount of housework a man did was not a predictor of a couple’s sex life. Rather, men who perceived their contributions to housework as fair reported more sex, with both partners more satisfied with their sex lives. The study, however, does have limitations — women were not surveyed for their thoughts on whether they believed the men fairly contributed to housework.

"Equal housework equals better sex" is not necessarily a surprising finding. If a partner isn’t pulling their weight in housework, either one will have to pick up the slack, or the chores will remain undone. This will develop tension and bitterness in the relationship, which will transfer into the bedroom. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Family Issues found tensions over the division of housework, especially if women perceived the division as unfair, were tied to a greater likelihood of unhappy marriages and divorce.

“When those feelings are in a relationship, it’s not conducive to a healthy and satisfying sex life,” said Johnson, about his study’s findings. “Simply doing one’s fair share of household labor likely insulates the relationship from these negative feelings.”

His findings go against a popular 2012 study published in the journal American Sociological Review that found men who performed a higher proportion of “traditionally feminine housework” — defined in the study as washing the dishes, cooking, and laundry — had less sex with their partner. Johnson acknowledged that while there may be cultural differences (on average men in Germany tend to do less housework), his study did not find a pronounced negative impact of housework on sexuality. Johnson said: “It didn’t fit with my intuition and background experiences as a couples therapist.”

Johnson and his colleagues only add further evidence gender roles and perceptions of equity in household chores are associated with relationship quality, including sex. A 2014 study published in the journal Sex Roles found couples who split the housework fairly were truly the happiest between the sheets. Those who had a fair division of chores had the most sex, were the most satisfied with their sex lives, and expressed the highest level of sexual intimacy.

These studies challenge the conventional view that sexual arousal for heterosexual couples is tied to traditional gender roles, or in other words, a man being manly and a woman being feminine. The changes in attitudes over time and what people want are reflected in this series of studies. The conventional gender behavior is not what always turns couples on.

So men, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty in the sink, because after all, fair housework and hot sex go hand in hand.

Sources: Johnson MD, Galambos NL, and Anderson JR. Skip the Dishes? Not So Fast! Sex and Housework Revisited. Journal of Family Psychology. 2015.

Frisco ML and Williams K. Perceived Housework Equity, Marital Happiness, and Divorce in Dual-Earner Households. Journal of Family Issues . 2003.

Kornrich S, Brines J, and Leupp K. Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage. American Sociological Review . 2012.

Ogolsky BG, Peltz Dennison R, and Kale Monk J. The Role of Couple Discrepancies in Cognitive and Behavioral Egalitarianism in Marital Quality. Sex Roles . 2014.