When an Iowa State University study concluded that women wield more power than men in household decisions, nobody blinked. Of course we do. We usually notice what needs to be cleaned/fixed/planned before guys do, and we fret more about getting chores done right. Meanwhile, men are taking things easier: According to research out of Princeton University, guys spend 90 more minutes a day than we do having fun. And data from the University of Pennsylvania show that, for the first time in decades, men are the happier sex.
All of which begs the question: WTF?
"Women often complain that they put too much energy into their relationships as their partners watch from the sidelines," says psychologist John Arden, Ph.D., author of Stop Spoiling That Man. It's a cycle that begins the second we make dinner for a new boyfriend or plan the first weekend away. "When one person takes on more relationship duties, they're engaging in a behavior called 'overfunctioning,' and the other person automatically begins to 'underÃ‚Âfunction,'" says Jackie Black, Ph.D., author of Meeting Your Match. "Women often overfunction because they don't believe or trust that their needs are legitimate and/or will be met." (Trust issues--we should have known!) The only way to break the cycle: Stop doing everything! Here's how to shift more responsibility onto male shoulders--so you can let go and relax.
Making double dates
Why you do it According to The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine, M.D., women crave face time with friends because connecting through conversation activates the pleasure centers in our brains and triggers a dopamine and oxytocin rush; it's not unlike our neurological reaction to sex.
Why he doesn't A 2007 University of Manchester (U.K) study found that men are more calculating about who they buddy up with; they're thinking about what's in it for them. Blame testosterone: High levels of the hormone make guys more competitive and less likely to seek out emotional support.
Strike a balance Tap into that testosterone by planning competitive activities with friends, advises Les Parrott, Ph.D., author of Trading Places. Next time you decide to play hostess, get everyone together to shoot pool, or play tennis, or set up a poker table at home. Before long, he'll be the one begging for play dates.
Maintaining the yard
Why you do it When you step out of your pad, you're more likely than your guy to notice weeds and drooping flowers. Tests show that women outÃ‚Âperform men at spotting altered or out-of-place objects. The evolutionary theory: All that time spent looking for signs that a baby might be sick makes us view the world as a "what's wrong with this picture?" puzzle.
Why he doesn't What weeds? Overall, men are less aware of their environment, Parrott says. Your guy isn't ignoring the rotting leaves; he just really doesn't see them.
Strike a balance "If your yard is a source of stress, it's time to rethink your landscape," says Stephanie Coontz, Ph.D., author of Marriage, a History. "Shake off the pressure to impress your neighbors or live up to your mom's standards." Maybe it's time to replace that exotic flower bed with a few hard-to-kill bushes or a patch of grass. Of course, everything green takes maintenance. "This is why smart women give men power tools," says Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., author of The Lazy Husband. "Guys can't wait to see them in action." You might think it's ridiculous to buy a riding lawn mower for a yard the size of a ping-pong table, but if that's what it takes to score more free time for yourself, it's worth it.
Why you do it Sure, a poolside massage is a higher priority for you than for him, but that's not the only reason women find themselves knee-deep in travel guides. For one, we're better at coordinating details that mesh logistics and aesthetics (a hotel's location, the thread count of its sheets, the atmosphere in its lobby...). According to Brizendine, the female brain boasts more connections between hemispheres, a characteristic that lets us more efficiently process different types of information.
Why he doesn't Because we seem to enjoy it. "Every time we handle all the aspects of a trip, we condition men to think we don't want them to chip in," Coontz says.
Strike a balance Choose three destinations together, then ask him to make the final call. "Granting him that power will pique his interest," Parrott says. Suggest that you each make a list of the things you want to see and do. "Then you should each make half of the arrangements," Arden says. The hard part is fighting the female urge to supervise. "Show that you trust him to follow through," Coontz says. That said, you might want to put the stuff you really care about on your half of the list.
Dishing up grub
Why you do it Women are more concerned about calories and cholesterol and more aware of how food affects mood and energy levels, says American Dietetic Association spokesperson Katherine Tallmadge, R.D.
Why he doesn't Most guys grew up with moms who cooked for them, so now they see the kitchen as foreign territory, Coleman says.
Strike a balance There's no need to beat around the broccoli. Hand over a stack of fast-and-easy cookbooks and tell him point-blank that you expect him to cook three nights a week (which, he'll have to admit, is more than fair). "Men want to make their partners happy and like being told exactly how they can accomplish that," Coleman says. If his first few meals bomb, just remember that you didn't have to make them. "Once you let go of the reins, as hard as that is, you'll feel relieved and less critical," says Noelle Nelson, Ph.D., author of The Power of Appreciation. Then, when dinner tastes great (or at least not awful), heap on the praise. "Nothing makes men more eager to help around the house than appreciation," Coleman says. Should you have to tell him he rocks just because he made couscous? No. But don't knock it if it works.