If there’s one thing all humans can agree on, it’s that washing the dishes is miserable. So much so, in fact, that many professional dishwashers admit that the only way to get through their shifts is to get messed up first.
“I’ve been washing dishes for 3 years now,” writes Kyle, a professional dishwasher in Tennessee, on an Indeed forum about dishwashing. “And the thing I’d have to say I love the most is… being able to go upstairs and get crap faced every day so WASHING DISHES is actually fun!”
People find the chore of dish washing so toxic that it can split up a perfectly good couple. That’s according to a recent report from the Council of Contemporary Families, a nonprofit that studies family dynamics, which suggests that the answer to the question of who’s going to wash the dishes can have a significant impact on the health and longevity of a relationship. “Couples who do share dishwashing responsibilities seem to have better relationships,” reported The Atlantic.
Generally speaking, and as noted by my colleague Tracy Moore, cleaning is the second biggest reason why couples fight (after money). Moore suggests that the best way to avoid this is to share the responsibility of cleaning them. “Probably the best approach is to sit down and come up with something you can live with, which may or may not be 50/50, but for reasons individual to you, are tolerable and make sense,” she writes.
In short, washing the dishes sucks for many, many reasons. But since it’s just a habitual part of most of our lives, we got to wondering if there was anything good to say about it. Like, for example, could doing a lot of dishwashing give you those much-sought-after buff forearms?
Well… no. Jonathan Jordan, an award-winning personal trainer, nutrition coach, massage therapist and fitness blogger, tells me that unless you’re washing some really heavy dishes, it’s not a good exercise. And even if the dishes are heavy, he says, it’s still not a good exercise unless it leads to sex. “You can always focus on squeezing your bicep more when it’s flexed, but I’m pretty confident it’s not going to get you ripped,” he explains. “But doing it might get you laid, which is great cardio!”
He’s not wrong to point out the connection, either: According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, when male partners reported making a fair contribution to housework, the couple experienced more frequent sexual encounters, and each partner reported higher sexual satisfaction. To that end, the same study from earlier this year also found that women whose partners share the responsibility of doing dishes also reported having greater sexual satisfaction. “Women who wash the vast majority of the dishes themselves report more relationship conflict, less relationship satisfaction and even worse sex, than women with partners who help,” The Atlantic reported.
There are non-sex related advantages to washing the dishes, too. Apparently, it could help with your anxiety, as Time reported in 2015:
“The researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25 percent and lowered their nervousness levels by 27 percent. The group that didn’t wash the dishes mindfully did not gain any benefits from the task. ‘It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,’ the study authors conclude.”
So, y’know, don’t just scrub off that crusted on marinara sauce — really take some time to smell those lemon-fresh bubbles. Then take your pants off.
Of course, none of this even touches on the main reason for washing the dishes, which is that you end up with an empty sink and a dish rack full of bowls, plates and silverware to use. Which means no more of the spiraling emotions of dread that come along with seeing a mountain of dirty dishes every time you walk past your kitchen sink. That’s peace of mind you can’t pay for.