There are many reasons for divorce, and some are more obvious than others. In a study from Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia, the top reasons for divorce were infidelity and drifting apart. That’s probably not news to most people, as these are age old concerns that everyone has heard about.

The number three reason on the list, though, is more direct and perhaps more surprising: disagreements about housework. While most couples can relate to the issue, most likely don’t expect it to top a list of reasons for divorce, as compared to playing a more trivial role in the overall health of a relationship.

It’s often more than just one cause

The study goes deeper than chores though. It’s about time communication and spent as a couple as much as it’s about the dirty dishes. Specifically, the identifies data suggesting that couples who spend money on housecleaning services (or couples who skip certain chores completely) are happier, in part because they are spending time as a couple instead of dealing with routine household upkeep. The data doesn’t mean that hiring a housekeeper will save a troubled relationship, but it may reduce the tension.

Changing, complex lives

Just as the study shows that household chores are ultimately about more than dirty dishes, a marriage or a divorce is rarely about just one thing. Relationships are complex and always changing. They require trust, maintenance, time and energy. Miscommunication or a lack of cooperation about chores may be a signal of something else, such as a couple growing apart.

Just as marriage is complex, so is divorce. If you are considering divorce or separation, an attorney can help you explore your options. When lives become interconnected through marriage, it becomes a challenge to disconnect finances, arrange custody schedules and uproot your previous life.