The biggest marriage killer is NOT what you think, says Tracey Cox

The biggest marriage killer is NOT what you think, says Tracey Cox – as she shares a warning to men who don’t pull their weight

  • UK sex expert Tracey Cox outlines what a ‘doesband’ is; and asks if you have one 
  • READ MORE: Three women ask an ex for the brutal truth about why they split 

Today, while I’m writing this column, my husband will do the grocery shopping, make some meals to freeze (chilli con carne, if you’re interested), pick up some things from the chemist, fix a leak in the bathroom and do the washing.

He works as a freelance hairdresser but automatically steps into traditional ‘wife’ mode on days when he has no clients.

We take a good stab at a fair and equitable split of all the things that need doing to make our lives run well and be enjoyable.

It doesn’t always work (my computer skills are better) and he does ask a lot of questions like, ‘But what sort of tomatoes?’ but that’s because I’m a control freak and I go bersek if the tomatoes aren’t the right sort.

He’s at least a three-quarter ‘doesband’ – a husband who does stuff without being asked – and like the journalist who coined the phrase, I know I am lucky to have him.

Except…why should I feel lucky when this is the way all households should run.

It’s not infidelity or arguments over sex and money that break up today’s marriages. It’s men leaving women to shoulder the lion’s share of the relationship work. Stock image used


Why is it unusual to have a husband who shoulders his fair share of the work?

Journalist Harriet Walker posed this question in The Times.

It sparked fiery Instagram debate, with women describing their husbands as so ‘useless’ they felt like married single parents.

A TikTok video – now viral – tackled the same topic. It features one of New York’s top divorce lawyer’s announcing that men not pulling their weight is a top reason why women file for divorce.

It’s not infidelity or arguments over sex and money that break up today’s marriages. It’s men leaving women to shoulder the lion’s share of the relationship work.

While men can see their wives doing the dishes or chores, many have no idea how much mental effort she’s making to ensure things run well.

And matters get worse if you’re a woman who earns more than her male partner.  

Tracey Cox asks why we should feel lucky when households are run the way they are supposed to be – equally

Research in Australia and the US found that although women decrease their housework as their earnings increase, this is only true up to a certain extent.


Take the test! If you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to most questions that apply to you, give him a high-five. Score extra points if he does each task without being reminded or asked.

Does he take turns in being the one to get the kids up, dressed and ready for school?

Do you both share the bedtime rituals for the children?

Does he clean out the fridge and chuck out food that’s going off?

If he makes the kid’s lunches, are they thought through and healthy?

Does he also keep track of birthdays and important events of those close to you?

Do you both shoulder equal responsibility for keeping up with friends and family (calls, texting, commenting on social media)?

Do you take turns planning out the week’s meals, making a shopping list and doing the online shop?

Does he put on a wash without asking you to sort it into piles first?

Do you manage the finances jointly and both accept responsibility for bills being paid on time?

Does he come up with ideas for the kid’s birthday presents in time for you to buy them?

Does the school have his phone number as well as yours and know they can count on either of you to rescue, if need be?

Does he only sit down to relax when you do the same?

Is he attuned to your emotional state and offers support without being asked?

If you were suddenly taken sick, do you trust that he could step in and run things without relying on you for guidance?

Once women out-earn their partners, couples often revert to more traditional gender roles with women picking up the disproportionate share of housework.


Women compensate and play ‘the little woman’ at home to make their husband feel less emasculated by them earning more.

Our earning power may have soared but attitudes towards women earning more than men have not.

‘The day I found out I was going to out-earn my husband we had a very delicately handled discussion to see if he could handle it,’ one woman told me. ‘This would never happen if the roles were reversed.’


This pre-thinking – we should be booking flights now, I need to work out what to buy Dad for his birthday, I must check on Jane because she’s going through a rough time – is often more stressful than performing the actual task.

‘It’s having to be the one who remembers everything. The one who is organised, on top of it, thinking ahead,’ one working mother told me.

‘All the women I know do this on top of doing all the childcare and chores and working in a job that doesn’t restrict itself to 9 to 5. I’m coming back as a man next time around. They have an easy ride.’


The division of labour used to make sense: the man went out and earned the money, the woman stayed home and looked after the house and kids.

But in most households today, both partners work.

Three in four mothers were in work in the UK in 2021, reaching its highest level in the last 20 years.

Yet it’s estimated by the ONS that women still do 60 per cent more unpaid work – childcare and domestic chores – than men. The United Nations states that women do more than twice as much.

Women out-earn male partners in a quarter of all UK households.

Yet, in the UK, 45 per cent of female breadwinners still do the majority of household tasks.

The average female breadwinner spends the equivalent of an entire working day taking care of the house on top of their full-time job.

This leaves them feeling chronically overworked – and marriages threatened.

Here’s some incentive for men to up their contribution…


Couples where the husband pulls his weight in the relationship report less resentment, more energy, more fun, happier kids and happier marriages than those who don’t.

Here’s another thing that study after study shows: households where men do more housework have more sex and rate it as more satisfying.

No surprises there.

Instead of secretly seething because you feel like a slave, women feel respected and valued. These qualities aren’t often listed as known aphrodisiacs but believe me, they should be.

‘He spends all night watching TV and playing on his phone. I spend mine running around looking after everything and everyone,’ one woman complained, echoing the comments of many.

‘When we get to bed, he initiates sex and it feels like he’s saying, “Now come service me”. Not “I want to give you pleasure”.

‘How can he not see that?’


My Instagram poll currently stands at 53 per cent yes and 47 per cent no.

These were some of the comments made.

‘By the time I’ve explained it all, it’s easier to do it myself. He holds down an important job but can’t work out how the washing machine functions.’

‘The bed looks better before he’s attempted to make it than after. I wonder if he deliberately does things badly, so I don’t ask again.’

‘My husband is amenable and will do pretty much what I ask. We have a cleaner but he’ll always offer to help if he sees me doing something around the house. But it’s still left up to me to do the thinking. Do the bins need emptying? Is it time to put on a wash? I’m always the instigator, then he chips in.’

‘Our friends often make jokes about my husband being ‘under the thumb’ because he’s the one to clear the plates or do the washing up when we have friends over. We laugh it off, but I know while the men are thinking, ‘Poor guy!’, the women are envious and thinking, ‘Why doesn’t my partner do that?’.


Want to ask for more help but not sure how to? Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Think about his parents. The more conservative his parents, the more likely he is to have been indoctrinated into thinking that’s how a marriage works. Try introducing the topic of gender-based division with a group of friends who are more fair thinking when he’s around.

Make a detailed list of all you do to keep your lives in order. Spend at least a week composing it. Not just dishes, cooking and cleaning up. Picking up last minute groceries, phoning friends and family, answering texts, booking restaurants, buying birthday cards and presents, looking for holiday destinations that take dogs.

Tell him you need his help on running your lives. Say, ‘I’m feeling stressed because I feel like I’m doing the lion’s share. Can we have a chat about working out a fairer system?’.

Tell him you’ve made a list of some of the many things you do behind the scenes that you’re sure he is unaware of. Then show him.

Most men are astonished when confronted with this. We make it look too easy: the gliding swan on the surface, feet kicking like crazy out of view.

Presented with evidence, most immediately offer help. Other men will glance at it, say, ‘None of that takes very much time’, and need reminding that all those ‘little jobs’ add up to one very big one.

If your partner says, ‘They are your jobs. I look after the garden’, answer with, ‘OK. Let’s look at the amount of time per week you spend doing ‘man’ jobs and the amount of time I spend doing ‘woman’s work’. Once you’ve proved your point say, ‘Given we both also work full-time, I’m sure you agree this isn’t fair’.

Divide the list into sections. Social jobs. Household chores. Parent jobs etc. Each choose the jobs you most like doing, then split the rest between the two of you.

Be willing to compromise on standards. Do those cushions really need to be plumped once a day? Can it be enough that they’re tidied, and the coffee table is wiped down? The trick to solving this isn’t about him doing everything on your terms, it’s agreeing on splitting what needs to be done so both are happy.

Resist wanting to instruct. Lots of men will resent being ‘taught’ how to do what they consider to be a straightforward task, not realising what looks easy sometimes isn’t. You’re usually better off letting him give it his best shot first, then stepping it if asked.

Reward don’t criticise. This is how lots of women shoot themselves in the foot. When their partner does do something to help, their response is ‘You call that making a bed? I knew this would happen. I might as well just do it myself!’. I’m not saying you must live with complete disorganisation. But I am saying stop sweating the small stuff.

NEVER rush to ‘redo it’. He’ll think ‘What’s the point of even trying, it’ll never be good enough for her’ and you’re back at square one. If you honestly can’t bear to live with the result, say, ‘Next time, do you mind doing X? It would be mean a lot to me if you did.’

Tracey’s product ranges, Tracey Cox Supersex and Edge, are available at

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