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Save Your Marriage--Don't Stop Working

Vivia Chen

June 12, 2011

Typist Need a reason to keep working at your killer law firm job, besides the money? Try this: Working mothers with demanding careers have more satisfying marriages. Really.

Reports  The Wall Street Journal's The Juggle:

Working moms tend to be happier with their marriages when they are shouldering heavy workloads on the job, says a four-year study of 169 couples published recently in the Journal of Family Psychology.

One reason, suggest researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the University of California, Los Angeles, is that the husbands of busy career gals tend to contribute more to the housework. And the WSJ adds this interesting corollary: "Other studies also have shown that husbands who do more housework tend to have sex more often with their wives."

More household help for her, more sex for him, and everyone is happy. What's there not to like?

What's fascinating, though, is that having a husband who works like a dog doesn't help the marriage. "When dads’ on-the-job workloads rise, both they and their wives tend to become less satisfied with their marriages," reports the WSJ.

The Utrecht report doesn't discuss why a husband's demanding career should create tensions, says the WSJ, but we can guess: A busy hubby means the working wife has to bear most of the responsibilities at home, which means she's angry and exhausted. Which means she's not interested in sex. Which means no one is happy. Perfectly logical.

Moreover, it might not help family relations that it's the woman who usually has to give up her career when both spouses have demanding jobs. That's the finding of a Cornell study about dual career couples by doctoral candidate Younjoo Cha. Reports Science Daily about the Cornell study:

The odds of quitting increase by 51 percent for professional women whose husbands work 60 hours or more per week, and for professional mothers the odds they will quit their jobs jumps 112 percent.

The typical resolution, says Cha in Science Daily, is to "prioritize husbands' careers." The result, Cha adds, is that a hardworking husband "significantly increases a woman's likelihood of quitting, while having a wife who works long hours does not affect a man's likelihood of quitting."

I don't know how you interpret all this research, but let me take a stab: Keep mom on the job, and get dad a fresh apron.

Related post: Meet the Househubby.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist


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There has to be balance in everything, the article staes that when husband and wife are sharing things there is happiness. For the two to share there has to be a communication, feeling for each other and that is the basis of happiness in the marriage.

Is anyone bothered by the fact that the (female) author just assumes more sex is only a benefit for husbands?

"the article is saying that a more balanced approach towards work and domestic chores between the couple leads to more happiness, a logically sound argument"

Lol. No. Reading comp fail, basic reading comprehension.

Women need attention to be happy. If they're working they get it at work and from their husbands at home. If they're stay-at-homers they only get it from their husbands and when their husbands are working long hours they get less of it. Also, what Not Married said.

I think this has to do with the fact that a working mother understands more what a working husband has to do to put in a grueling 90 hr week. This appreciation leads to a less selfish view that the husband is working less or isn't helping enough with household chores. In turn, husbands with working wives are more likely to pitch in with the household chores because they understand how taxing a day on the job can be.

I agree with Vivia Chen!

the article is saying that a more balanced approach towards work and domestic chores between the couple leads to more happiness, a logically sound argument

So, women who don't work long hours are exhausted by the additional burden of a disproportionate share of domestic chores, but meanwhile the husband is unaffected (nay, perhaps rejuvenated!) by the grueling hours?

And when the tables are turned, the man is unaffected by the same demands that would have made the wife "angry and exhausted"?

Your "logical" argument is a steaming pile of BS. I suspect the same of these rigorous social-science "studies".

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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