Recently, I shared some news on how men are now apt to receive an economic boost from marriage, as more men are marrying women who have either higher education or income levels. Most of you probably agree that whether husbands or wives have higher educational levels or higher incomes, other factors are more important to marital happiness. Still, experts are commenting on this gender shift, particularly in light of the stress of the recession and the large number of people still out of work.
“Shifts in gender norms come with pain and conflict. But they can also be a win-win recipe for marriage,” says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.
Coontz says there are certainly struggles, particularly with working-class men attaining rewarding, stable jobs. Some men compensate for the lack of respect they are getting in the workplace by becoming “hypermasculine” or aggressive. We hear about these abusive men in the news, unfortunately.
However, many husbands are making positive strides by making greater contributions to their homes, both in childcare and housework. College-educated men led the way with become more actively involved at home during the 80s and 90s. Since then, husbands with less education have caught up and are now contributing just as much as more educated men.
In fact, so many husbands and fathers are now active participants in the home that they are reporting the same work-family conflicts as women have for decades. Coontz says this suggests they are internalizing the importance of their role to nurture, not just to earn. “Most women now say that having a husband who is capable of intimacy and who shares housework and childcare is more important than having a partner who earns more money,” she adds.
It boils down to what you value and what makes each of you feel loved and appreciated, don’t you think? So what do men and women value?
Coontz cites the best predictors of a man’s marital satisfaction are how much sex he gets and how little criticism he gets. (How many men would like to disagree?) She adds that numerous studies report women react very positively to men who participate in childcare and housework—feeling greater intimacy and more sexual attraction.
“There’s nothing sexier than a man doing dishes,” I’ve heard more than one friend say. Do you agree?
Children clearly benefit from more active fathers, and according to experts, guys who help out at home get more action at home. Is this a win-win situation?
In your marriage, does the wife handle more housework and childcare? How important is it to share this load, and does it depend on how much each person is working outside the home?