Gender Roles & Marriage

gender-marriage-couplesContrary to popular belief, gender roles play a significant role in a marriage. These roles determine household duties, the primary decision maker and the success or failure of the marriage. If you are your spouse do not agree on gender roles, it can cause conflict within the marriage and eventually lead to a separation and/or a divorce. If you decide to stay in the marriage, despite the different views on gender roles, it can lead to indifference, hostility, infidelity, anger, resentment and unhappiness. It is imperative that you keep an open mind when it comes to gender roles, otherwise you risk losing the person you love most.

In other words, take into consideration your spouse’s background. Does he/she come from a traditional family background, in which females and males have specific household and familial duties? If so, you may want to sit down and discuss his/her experiences and compare them to your own. The key is to find a middle ground, but to do that you both will need to enter into this topic of conversation with an open heart and mind. Do not be surprised if you are asked to perform tasks that are foreign to you because compromise plays a big role in the success of a marriage.

Also, do not hesitate to ask for help even if it falls outside of “traditional gender roles.” A marriage is partnership and when one spouse needs support, the other one should lend a helping hand. It is important to note that if you and your spouse simply cannot agree on this issue, it may be time for you to seek help with a trained mental health professional.

If you are interested in learning more about gender roles within a marriage – you have come to the right place. This blog will help you see how gender roles can influence your marriage.

At the beginning, during the “dating phase,” it is easy to overlook the signs of a brewing gender war. You are in love and in the midst of the exiting “honeymoon stage.” During this stage of your romance, you find everything about your partner adorable, sweet and charming (i.e. ordering for you at dinner, expecting you stay at home instead of working outside of the home, focusing on what is happening in his/her life, asking you to wear a certain style of clothing so that others will not flirt with you, etc.).

As time progresses, your feelings may change. In other words, things that you once thought were funny and cute (i.e. expecting you to have dinner ready each night and the house clean each day, demanding that you take care of the children by yourself, picking out what you are going to wear each day, etc.) becomes quite annoying. Gender roles are often not completely defined until you get married, but early warning signs can “pop up” during the “dating phase.”

Although this is rarely discussed until after the marriage, it should probably be discussed prior to it. It is important to take in consideration how your spouse was raised and how you were raised. Do you grow up in a home that was more traditional in nature? Did you mother and father have specific gender roles? If so, how did those roles affect your parents’ marriage? Did your parents seem happy with this arrangement? How did you and your siblings feel about the gender roles in your childhood home? Do you still believe in those gender roles? What are your expectations when it comes to gender roles? These are especially important questions for each engaged or newly married couple to discuss.

As mentioned previously, if possible the best time to discuss these topics is before you get married. It is important to note that some individuals (male and female) grew up in a certain type of family that performed certain roles. These individuals may expect to follow those same rules in their own marriages. For example, your spouse may have grown up in a home, in which women always cooked and took care of the home, while you may have grown up in a home, in which both of your parents cooked and took care of the home. Your marriage may experience conflict when you both continue the gender roles and lifestyle that you are accustomed to.

Non-Traditional Gender Roles
In some cases, regardless of how you and your spouse were raised, you may decide to adopt non-traditional gender roles, in which you share responsibilities. In other words, you and your spouse may take turns cooking, cleaning and caring for the children. You may also decide to raise your children to shun “traditional gender roles,” in favor of more equal participation from everyone. For instance, you and your spouse may decide that you want to teach your children that men who ballet dance, like to cook and clean and want to stay at home with the children are not “sissies” or “weak” and women who mow the lawn or fix cars are not “manly” or “butch.”

In this case, you and your spouse have redefined what gender roles mean to you and your family. You may even teach your child that it is perfectly fine if he wants to cook, wear pink and play with dolls or if she wants to play with trucks, climb trees and get dirty. Non-traditional gender roles foster creativity and independence, but they can also affect self-esteem, depending on the individual. In other words, there may be times when more “traditional” individuals question your marriage and/or your child’s behaviors because it differs from their own.

Moreover, children who do not follow “traditional gender rules” can be bullied by their peers for being “different.” Conversely, practicing non-traditional gender roles can strengthen self-esteem in children who have a strong and supportive family system. These children are sometimes looked upon as leaders – not followers, which can boost their self-esteem. If you decide to practice non-traditional gender roles make sure you adequately prepare yourself and your child for the reactions of others. Marriages that do not adhere to “traditional gender roles” tend to have a more solid and happier marriage then those who strictly follow roles based on their gender,” but then again it depends on how you were both raised and what makes you happy, individually and as couple.
For instance, you may find comfort and security in a marriage with “traditional gender roles” and that is perfectly fine as well. For instance, if you are woman, you may like the idea of staying at home with your children and taking care of the household. In fact, you may prefer that your husband work, while you remain a stay-at-home mom. And if you are a man, you may prefer to take the trash out, work outside of the home, mow the lawn, fix household problems, while your wife cooks dinner and takes care of the children. The ultimate key is being on the same page when it comes to gender roles in your marriage.

Conflicts & Compromise
It is extremely important that you both be willing to compromise with one another, especially if you both have a different view when it comes to gender roles. Conflicts occur when you both think you are right and your way is the only way. If you and your spouse simply cannot resolve your gender role issues, it is important that you seek professional help as soon as possible. A psychologist, therapist or counselor will be able to teach you more effective problem-solving, communication and conflict-resolution skills so that you can resolve your issues and get your marriage back on track.
Frequent and unresolved conflicts can damage your marriage and leave you both feeling helpless, frustrated and angry. Do not let your marriage get to the point where the damage is irreversible. Is it really worth a broken home, just to be “right”? Meeting your spouse half-way will not only do wonders for your marriage, it will also rekindle the flame that you once held for each other.

Staff Writer:
Dr. R. Y. Langham

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