Is Equality Ruining Your Marriage?

Is equality ruining your marriage? The original version of this article was published last week at Fox News and a similar version was published yesterday at The Federalist.

Attitudes may have changed since the days when husbands brought home the bacon and wives stayed home with the kids. But according to new research, deviating from conventional gender roles makes both sexes miserable.

Researchers Karen Kramer and Sunjin Pak at the University of Illinois examined data on nearly 1,500 men and 1,800 women between the ages of 52 and 60 and found that the more women’s paychecks increased, the more women reported symptoms of depression. But the opposite effect was found in men: their psychological well-being was highest when they were the primary wage-earners.

“The results supported the overarching hypothesis: well-being was lower for mothers and fathers who violated gendered expectations about the division of paid labor, and higher for parents who conformed to these expectations,” said Kramer.

This was true even for couples who had a more egalitarian view of gender roles. Modern views notwithstanding, men’s health took a hit when their earnings shrank.

The cultural answer to such findings is often the same: societal expectations regarding gender roles have been too slow to evolve. If it were considered acceptable for men to take care of the kids while women brought home the paycheck, there would be no issue. Thus, no depression.

But study after study after study after study after study proves otherwise.

“Feminist ideals, not domestic duties, seem to be what make wives morose,” concedes Meghan O’Rourke at Slate. “Progressive married women—who should be enjoying some or all of the fruits that [Betty] Freidan lobbied for—are less happy, it would appear, than women who live as if Friedan never existed.”

So why is that? Why do women feel depressed as breadwinners while men in the same role feel empowered?

The answer isn’t rocket science. Women, as a rule, are born nurturers—their sense of well-being is inextricably linked to their relationships, in particular to their relationship with their children. Men, as a rule, are born competitors—they’re literally wired to provide and protect for their families. Ergo, each sex tends to be happiest when they’re doing what they’re made to do.

That’s not to say no married couple can successfully navigate a role reversal. It is only to say that it’s rare.
Even today, in families where both parents are employed, “70% consist of fathers who earn more than mothers.”

Women, as a rule, are born nurturers—their sense of well-being is inextricably linked to their relationships, in particular to their relationship with their children. Men, as a rule, are born competitors—they’re literally wired to provide and protect for their families. Ergo, each sex tends to be happiest when they’re doing what they’re made to do.

This approach to marriage swims with the tide, rather than against it, which is why couples who embrace some form of a traditional family structure tend to be happier. They even have better sex!

Bottom line: Societal attitudes may have changed, but human nature has not. Perhaps it’s time we surrendered.

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne Venker is an author, speaker and cultural critic known as “The Feminist Fixer.” She has authored several books to help women win with men in life and in love. Her most recent, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, was published in February 2017.

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