Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships

By Pamela J. Kalbfleisch; Michael J. Cody | Go to book overview

partners to work and less of a glass ceiling to limit women's career aspirations, dual-career couples should become more common, both in marriage and as part of a general increase in cohabiting couples. These trends imply two opposing effects: (a) as women increase their options outside the relationship, there is every reason to expect continued instability and unpredictability of lifetime marriage, and (b) as men and women live more similar lives with more similar economic and sexual rules and values, relationship satisfaction will be enhanced.

Nevertheless, power hierarchies are still unlikely to disappear, even net of gender differences. Changing gendered behavior is a difficult challenge. Even though husbands seem more ready than ever to yield some of their decision-making power, and wives seem to want more equality, past ideology, expectations, and socialization resist radical change. Women and men must relearn or unlearn habits while dealing with the ambivalent or confused reactions of society. They often revert to traditionally gendered solutions to problems even when the ground rules and circumstances have changed. Because the expectations of traditional gender roles and identities are fulfilled and reinforced symbolically through the powerful rituals of sex, changing preferences around sexual frequency, initiation, and repertoire may be especially difficult. Likewise, although a man's work still brings home the bigger paycheck and the provider role still exists, it will be hard for men and women to mitigate the power and functions of money in relationships. This state of affairs discourages either husband or wife from giving the wife's employment as much respect as it needs to change the internal organization of the relationship and household. These conflicts over work have serious consequences: Married couples who disagree about the value and place of the wife's employment during the early years of their relationship are more likely to divorce ( Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983).

Men also continue to believe that they have a right to their traditional relationship privileges, if not for traditional reasons then as compensation for their greater economic contributions. Even cohabiting men who are more egalitarian often want equal financial partners who will still provide the other relationship benefits that men have come to expect from women, that is, that they be nurturing and sexually available. Thus the transition toward equality is a mixed picture. There is certainly more of a search for equity and equality than ever before, and increasing economic and sexual parity between men and women will make that ever more likely. But social forces such as sluggish opportunities for economic mobility and modest cultural acceptance of egalitarian heterosexual relationships makes change slow, perhaps no longer at a glacial pace -- but less quickly than might be predicted given the rapid entry of women into the work force. Equality remains elusive for heterosexual couples.


REFERENCES

Aida Y., & Falbo T. ( 1991). "Relationships between marital satisfaction, resources, and power strategies". Sex Roles, 24, 43-56.

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