VoiceMale author finds marriages less rocky when men help with housework

By Maureen Kyle

(LOUISVILLE) -- Men typically have the stereotype of being simple-minded when it comes to relationships. So why is it that women are always trying to figure out their husbands? One Kentucky author spent five years researching how men think when it comes to marriage, fighting and housework. WAVE 3's Maureen Kyle sat down with Neil Chethik for a look inside the mind of the American male.

Evon and Lynn Biggers have been married for almost 24 years, and while marriages may be measured in years, the true value is the time spent together.

"We made it through the first year," says Susie Ulmer, who has been married to her husband, Nick, for 30 years. "And it was like, 'do I really have to wash his underwear?'"

Married couples admit that it takes years to figure each other out.

"I say, 'why don't you just listen to me?' explains Evon. "And he says, 'Well, I know you're going to tell me again anyway.' And that just really ticks me off!"

Lexington author Neil Chethik set out to do the impossible: get inside the minds of American men and get them to open up.

It was a 5-year research project that resulted in his book, VoiceMale.

"I think a good strategy for women in getting men to open up, is staying away from the 'F' word," says Chethik.

In this case, the "F" word stands for feelings. "A man is more likely to say what he did, thought or said, than what he felt," Chethik says.

Lynn Biggers found a way around talking about his feelings to his wife. "I can always act like I didn't hear her," he says.

Evon is wise to that tactic. "He's good at that," she says.

"I work that one pretty good," admits Lynn. "I actually went to a doctor and had him certify me unable to hear the female voice."

To which Evon adds: "He's not kidding."

Chethik has some advice for women who want to bring up issues or argue with their husbands. "What I suggest to women is to, one, don't go face to face -- that can be intimidating. A good time to talk to men is in the car -- for 30 minutes."

Sitting side by side, Chethik got men to reveal their thoughts.

He found a direct correlation between men who grew up playing team sports and the desire to find a teammate, or a partner, in life. "There's nothing better for a man than to be in the same space with a woman with necessarily not a whole lot of words being said. But doing something together toward a common goal."

The Biggers agree. "When we're working together on something, either making a meal or painting a room, those are the times when I feel closest," says Evon.

And speaking of working together, Chethik says "there's a connection between housework and sex: essentially, the more housework he does, the more sex they have."

"Our sex life is good, so I must be one hell of a housekeeper!" laughs Nick Ulmer, but Susie quickly chimes in: "Good for you -- who have you been having that good sex with?"

According to Chethik -- despite women's lib -- cooking and cleaning most often falls on the wife's shoulders.

"Men have to, I believe, respect that, and it goes a long way in telling a woman that you appreciate this reality," Chethik says. "Men who do more housework argue less with their wives; they're happier in their relationships overall, they're less likely to need marital counseling."

As for those men who came into the marriage with bad habits -- such as leaving clothes on the floor or dishes in the sink -- Chethik says those habits can be changed, but he did find that positive encouragement worked better than nagging.

Besides, when it comes to marriage, Chethik says men know the value of time and effort.

"It's amazing how many men will say I really -- I would do anything to make her happy. They'll say that again and again. And they believe that they are doing it. And you'd probably have half the women say I can't believe that's really a motive of his. Because he just doesn't do the things that I'd like him to do."

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Online Reporter: Maureen Kyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever