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OPINION: Spousal approval ratings from inside the COVID confinement pod

17-point gender gap on satisfaction with 'taking care of children' during the pandemic: 63 per cent of men 'very satisfied' compared with 46 per cent of women

Over the past few weeks, several Canadian provinces have started to reopen after a prolonged lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic compelled Canadians to figure out certain things that few of us had considered before.

For instance, two-thirds of provisional home workers in Canada (65 per cent) told us that they want to continue working from home at least some days after their regular offices are available again. Most Canadians were also paying more attention to news and information, making changes to their exercise routines and acknowledging challenges with their diet.

As the lockdown lifts, we have a unique chance to study the intricacies of the Canadian household. The data collected by Research Co. and Glacier Media since March has shown remarkable gender gaps on issues such as the best moment to ease restrictions. This time, we wanted to take a look at how things are going inside the "confinement pod" for those who have lived through the lockdown with a spouse or partner.

At first glance, the findings point to a high level of satisfaction. Across the country, 46 per cent of Canadians who live with their spouse or partner claim the COVID-19 pandemic made them grow closer to their significant other. A similar proportion (47 per cent) report no change.

Only six per cent of Canadians who are living with a spouse or partner disapprove of the performance of their significant other during the COVID-19 pandemic. This does not mean that the rating for our spouses or partners is close to perfect. While 69 per cent of respondents "strongly approve," 22 per cent only "moderately approve." This means that more than one in five Canadians are looking at their significant other across the room and thinking that an improvement would be welcome.

Gender and age decidedly play a role in the way we feel about our spouses or partners. Men are more likely to give an undisputed thumbs up (73 per cent) than women (65 per cent). While 85 per cent of Canadians aged 55 and over "strongly approve" of their spouse or partner, the rating drops to 58 per cent among those aged 35 to 54 and 56 per cent among those aged 18 to 34.

Another key differentiator is how long a relationship has lasted. While the level of strong approval is 77 per cent among those who have lived together for more than 10 years, it falls to 58 per cent for those who have cohabited from six to 10 years and only 46 per cent among those who have been together in the same household for five years or less.

Regionally, the pandemic seems to have led to more blissful couples in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (83 per cent), Atlantic Canada (80 per cent) and Alberta (75 per cent). Three other provinces are below the 70 per cent threshold on strongly approving of their spouse or partner: Ontario (66 per cent), British Columbia (64 per cent) and Quebec (also 64 per cent).

We can see that there is some hesitation about providing perfect marks to a spouse or partner that-in most cases-we chose. The difference between men and women being "very satisfied" with their partner is minimal in these areas: taking care of pets (57 per cent from men, 58 per cent from women), overall attitude and demeanor (57 per cent from men, 52 per cent from women) and making decisions on what to do (56 per cent from men, 50 per cent from women).

The needle starts to move on two other issues: personal hygiene (72 per cent from men, 66 per cent from women) and providing emotional support when you need it (57 per cent from men, 50 per cent from women).

Women become decidedly more critical of men on the remaining three aspects tested. While 62 per cent of men are "very satisfied" with their partner keeping the home clean and tidy, only 46 per cent of women provide the same glowing marks. Similar fluctuations are observed on taking care of children (63 per cent of men are "very satisfied", compared with 46 per cent of women) and cooking meals (64 per cent of men are "very satisfied", compared with 48 per cent of women).

Few people can say they began 2020 expecting to spend most of their time at home, unable to go to the office, gyms or restaurants, and slowly welcoming other persons into their social circle in the summer. The COVID-19 pandemic compelled Canadian couples to rely on their spouse or partner in new ways.

While very few Canadians are voicing outright dissatisfaction with what they have witnessed from their spouse or partner in a time of crisis, there are some aspects-such as child rearing, meal preparation and cleanliness-where women have done better than men. A 17-point gender gap on satisfaction with "taking care of children" during the pandemic is not a great thing for Canada's dads to find out right after Father's Day.

Mario Canseco is the president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from June 8 to June 17 among 796 adults in Canada who are living with a spouse or partner. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error - which measures sample variability - is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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