Sex and Dirty Dishes

Every semester I tell this story to my Introduction to Psychology class. It is by far the most popular story I tell. And I think the guys, in particular, need to hear it. I thought I'd share it with you out in front of Valentine's Day.

Awhile back Jana, the boys and I are driving home. It's late. The end of a long day. As we drive through the dark streets I hear Jana let out a tired sigh.

"You okay?" I ask.

"I'm just exhausted," Jana starts, "I didn't get the dishes done last night after dinner. I shopped today and didn't get a chance to put the groceries up. So there bags all over the kitchen. Plus the house is a wreck. I'm just not looking forward to walking into the house and seeing the mess."

We get home and, yes, the house is a wreck. Dirty dishes in the sink. Grocery bags needing to get unpacked. A house to be picked up.

Jana helps the boys get ready for bed and goes to tuck them in and help them say their prayers.

And I, and this doesn't speak well of me, decide to do something unusual while Jana is in the bedroom: I go into the kitchen and start to do the dishes.

Soon Jana comes back and sees me.

"Sweetie, you don't have to do that," She says.

"No, I don't help enough. You rest and let me finish these."

But she doesn't rest. She comes up beside me to help. I wash. She dries. And we visit about our day. Suddenly, washing the dishes becomes the best moment of our day.

As we finish Jana offers the following assessment: "You know, I wouldn't say you doing the dishes for me is better than sex...but it's close."

I laugh and laugh. "I understand," I say, "You know, I bet if we called all your friends tonight and asked them the question, 'Would you rather have sex with your husband tonight or have him wash the dishes?' that 100% would say 'Wash the dishes.'"

She agrees. But I have a crazy idea. "Let's put this to the test!" I say, "Let's call your friends and pose the question."

So Jana starts making calls. Asking wife after wife the question: "If you could have sex with your husband tonight or have him do the dishes what would you choose?"

The results rolled in. Like election night.

And the verdict?


"Do the dishes."

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17 thoughts on “Sex and Dirty Dishes”

  1. What I want to know is, what happens if you poll the *husbands*, and ask them if they'd rather have sex or have the wife do the dishes.

  2. The real moral of the story should be (or at least, it is in my house) that when the husband washes the dishes, his odds for sex go up. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation.

  3. Matt
    the answer that, us old guys would give you is.
    do you want the carrot or the stick....
    you most likely, after a couple of decades will learn to willingly chase that carrot.
    or wind up with a lot of knots on your head,and bruises around your shoulders where she didn't get a clean shot at the head...

    ya wanna talk healthy relationship talk about the word submit in conjunction with

    that will get you a bunch a knots on the head or get you the carrot...
    and you will gladly help each other with the dishes...eather way....

  4. I'm a middle-aged married woman (married 18 yrs) and I don't get this story. I've seen the recent research on it, too, which agrees with your wife and her friends, but it's not how I feel now or ever have. Dishes can always wait.

    Is the idea that one show of thoughtfulness is almost as good as sex? I'd rather have that apparently rather limited supply of thoughtfulness shown in bed, if I have to choose.

    Or maybe, in your story if not in the research, it's the time you and Jana spent _connecting_ while washing that feels almost as good as sex to her. That I can understand more ... But again, emotional connection + thoghtfulness + sex = winning combo!

    I think I'd rather my husband say 'the hell with the dishes!' and race me to the bedroom (or other suitable venue). :-)

  5. Cory

    that wasn't a very clean shot to the head although...
    it serves to check out damage control ...
    be for speaking to the tune that is always familiar although the words have changed...

    rich constant
    rich constant

  6. A.I do the dishes and always have. No biggie.
    B. The issue for this couple is that they rediscivered (as most of us need to do from time to time)that intimacy is as much, or more, about being connected than it is about having sex.


  7. We did the whole love languages thing when it was all the rage, and my wife's is definitely "Acts of service." I'm a dude so my love language goes without saying. It's all a cruel trick that God plays because He's gotta have something to chuckle at while eternity slowly rolls by.

  8. Did you see the research from the Journal of Family issues linking house chores and sex? It got boinged boinged a couple months ago. Brings the story full circle.

  9. ROFL. I love it! It is so true. I think the comment about the connectedness/intimacy part is key as Bill pointed out.

    I was at a bookstore with my wife a few years back and there was a book out on display called "Porn for Women". Slightly amazed and curious that it was there, we decided to sneak a peek together. It was that big, maybe about 10 pages or so.

    Upon opening the book, the first picture is that of a man in jeans with no shirt on, not particularly built, but the speech bubble next to it says "No honnie, let ME do the dishes tonight" The next page is a similar type picture and the man says "I've already vacuumed the house for you dear."

    ...and so on and so on. My wife busted up laughing saying how it was funny and true all at the same time. It's still a running gag with us.

  10. I get the emotional intimacy/connection and sex link. What I don't get is how a man doing housework makes a woman feel emotionally connected.

  11. I'll use my crude male logic here, but it boils down to the issue that you took the time to do a menial task like doing the dishes, which would have taken more time and energy out of her day, that she finds so appreciative of.

    You've looked into her personal needs to a smaller detail, like doing the dishes, just to make her that much happier. Even though it seems small scale to us, its huge to her.

    Now I'll let the resident psychologist chime in with a more official and robust response. 8^D

  12. I do most of the dishes, cleaning, and laundry. I give my daughter a bath almost every night and also do about half of the cooking. I also buy the vast majority of the groceries and manage to work 50+ hours a week as a faculty member. I try and bring flowers home to my wife at least once a month and we usually find a babysitter or find a way to get out by ourselves about once a week. Yet, we do not have a terribly active sex life. Thoughts??

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