Masculine and Feminine Roles for a Successful Marriage

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A gender role, also known as a sex role, is a social role encompassing a range of behaviors and attitudes that are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for a person based on that person’s sex. The specifics regarding these gendered expectations may vary substantially among cultures, while other characteristics may be common throughout a range of cultures. Gender role ideology falls into three types: traditional, transitional, and egalitarian. What’s your perspective on the ideal division of labor and the proper distinction between male and female tasks and roles in marriage? When you fell in love, the thought of how to divide up the burden of household tasks probably wasn’t on your radar. Now that you’re married, chores are the one thing you can’t escape. It’s important to find a mutually satisfactory way to manage this aspect of your life together.

Compiled and annotated by D.A. Oluwole, PhD

Gender  roles  and  expectations  play  a  significant  role in  couple  interaction,  family  decision-making,  and perspectives  on  marital  satisfaction.    Gender  roles are  typically  determined  by  society  (Williams  and McBain  2006). Over  the  past  several  decades,  these expectations  have  changed  dramatically  in  the United States  for  both  men  and  women  due  to  shifting cultural  norms.

In the U.S., traditional gender roles and behaviors have typified men as autonomous, powerful, controlling, assertive, aggressive and self-determined…U.S. women, on the other hand, have traditionally been considered the caregiver and homemaker. Background In  the  U.S.,  traditional  gender  roles  and  behaviors have  typified  men  as  autonomous,  powerful, controlling,  assertive,  aggressive  and  self-determined.  Within the family, the traditional male role has been one  of  authority  and  financial  responsibility.  U.S. women,  on  the  other hand,  have  traditionally  been considered  the  caregiver  and  homemaker.  In  the mid-1950’s,  it  was  a common  belief  that  the  husband, acting  as  head  of  the  household,  should  have  more power  than  his wife  to  make  key  decisions.  Recent research  shows  a  dramatic  departure  from  this view  that  could  be explained,  in  part,  by  the  influx of  women into  the  workforce.    

In  fact,  the  U.S. Department  of  Labor reports  that  almost  60%  of women were in  the  workforce  in  2004.  According  to  a  survey  conducted  in 2007  by Amato,  Booth,  Johnson  and  Rogers,  by  the  end of the 1990’s, the majority of husbands believed that  spouses  should  share  breadwinning,  that  a wife’s  employment  does  not  interfere  with  her  role as  a mother  and  that  husbands  should  take  on  a greater  share  of  the  housework  when  their  wives  are employed.  In turn, studies show that the majority of wives  expect  husbands  to  perform  a  greater  share  of the  household  chores  and  child  care  than  in  recent decades.     

It’s common to think in terms of “male” and “female” chores. But should a wife automatically be in charge of shower curtains, while her husband specializes in replacing shower heads? From this flows a multitude of implications and inescapable “givens” that are built-in to the nature of sexuality itself.

These “givens” are usually seen in those areas of family life that are most directly connected with issues of childbirth, child-care, and child-rearing. When it comes to simple chores, however, couples tend to take their cues from their parents’ example. This can cause problems if unspoken assumptions and misunderstandings are allowed to explode in anger and arguments over the sharing of household responsibilities.

Between 2005 and 2010, one in ten married couples in Indonesia got divorced, according to data from the Supreme Court. In 70% of the cases, the wife initiated the divorce. The trend has only increased since then, rising by 80% between 2010 and 2015.

Why are women twice as likely as men to seek a divorce? One assumption is that the idea of gender equality as promoted through feminism drives this divorce rate. But it’s an assumption that’s not supported by the evidence.

Data from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which administers marriages and divorces, identify at least three main reasons cited by those filing for divorce: marital disharmony, responsibility, and money problems. All three reasons relate to the flexibility of the respective roles of the wife and husband in a marriage.

Women’s multiple roles

The involvement of women in the economic workforce and public life has not been reciprocated by a shift among men into domestic work and reproductive life. As a result, women assume multiple responsibilities as daughters, wives, mothers, workers and members of society.

As a daughter, a woman is traditionally responsible for taking care of her parents. As a wife, she is expected to serve her husband, preparing food, clothing and other personal needs. As a mother, she has to take care of the children and their needs, including education.

As a worker, she has to be professional, disciplined and a good employee. And as a member of society, she is expected to participate in community activities and volunteer work, both within her community and through social organisations.

By contrast, men have traditionally had just one role, as the family’s breadwinner, and little obligation to be socially active within their community.

Men can carry out caretaking duties too.

Some cultures and families still maintain those gender roles today. It is understandable, therefore, that these multiple burdens of responsibility on women impose hardship on them and leave them vulnerable.

Flexible roles

Overcoming this inflexibility in women’s and men’s roles within marriage is therefore important.

Let’s first posit that, by the very definition of role flexibility, both men and women have equal responsibility for domestic and caretaker tasks within the family, on the basis of fair agreement and commitment. Doing the dishes, laundry, ironing, cooking, feeding the baby and so on are not solely the wife’s job, but also the responsibility of the husband. Equal doesn’t mean similar. So different families might apportion tasks in different ways to each member of the family.

The second idea is that both men and women have equal responsibilities to earn money and to participate actively within the community. An example of role flexibility here is when the couple decide to have a child and the woman becomes pregnant. In many cases, the pregnancy will mean she will contribute less toward the family income.

In another scenario, when the woman obtains a better-paying job than the man, it should not matter that she earns more than her husband. The most important point is that the decision is in the best interests of the whole family and doesn’t disproportionately burden one family member. A husband no longer has to earn more money than his wife or vice versa.

Flexible roles brings marital happiness

Empirical evidence supports the argument for greater role flexibility within the marital space.

In early 2018 we conducted a survey supported by the Ford Foundation of 106 married respondents in Yogyakarta. Some 54% said they were “very happy” in their family. Of those, nearly two-thirds described the gender role flexibility within their marriage as “high”.

By comparison, of the 45% who said they were merely “happy”, nearly three-fifths said the gender role flexibility in their marriage was only “moderate”.

The more flexible the roles of men and women in the family, the happier they are.

A flexible arrangement can contribute to marital happiness.

The findings are interesting, especially for policymakers and religious leaders, as well as the wider community. The idea of flexibility in marital roles is in line with the characteristics of the millennial generation: dynamic, non-fixed and non-rigid.

Implementing a flexible arrangement for men’s and women’s roles in the household can contribute to the happiness of the family members and help reduce the number of divorces. Nobody, after all, dreams of having a broken family.

10 Things Women Need In a Marriage

Do you know what the #1 need of a woman is? It is to know that she’s significant, and that you (I’m looking at you, husbands) treasure her.

You’re a wise man if you can speak into that every day because your spouse wants to know that she… is…valued. And you value your spouse ten different ways:

1. She needs to be number one. Your wife needs to feel that she is more important than your business or job, and especially more important than your mother, children, friends, sports, and hobbies.

2. She needs intimacy. When your wife is stressed out and overwhelmed from putting out fires all day while trying to meet that important deadline, she needs to know that you are willing to share an intimate moment of comfort without demanding explanations or giving lectures. In other words, don’t fix her. Lend an ear, and let her process.

3. She needs you to be vulnerable. Open or unobstructed communication is hugely important to the female gender, and that you can be emotionally available for her.

4. She needs to be praised. Make it a habit to often acknowledge and praise her for her work accomplishments so she can feel like she’s a valuable part of your life.

5. Let her be part of your team. Your wife needs to feel free to help you and contribute to the things that matter to you without fearing retaliation and anger.

6. She needs you to protect and defend her. Not just from physically harm, but from the criticism of others. She wants to know that you are for her, and has her back.

7. Make her feel like her opinion counts. She needs to know that her opinion is so valuable about your work or business that you will discuss decisions with her, and act only after carefully evaluating her advice.

8. Share your life with her. She needs to connect with you in a special way, so create margin so she can share her life with you in every area — home, family, work, and outside interests. Don’t shut her out.

9. Be a man of character and integrity. She needs you to be the kind of man her son can follow and her daughter would want to marry.

10. Hold her often. She needs physical affection, to be tenderly held, just to be near you, apart from times of sexual intimacy. 

10 Things Men Need In a Marriage

While this can be a slippery proposition for some women (“He doesn’t deserve my respect, he’s a narcissistic slob!”), most men want to be held in high esteem and be seen by their women as their heroes–even when they makes mistakes.

Men want and need their mates to believe in them, especially when they take a beating from putting in 70 hours of work to get that startup launched. And women hold the key because so much approval and affirmation comes from their wives.

While they are dedicated and hard-working husbands and fathers, they may have different emotional and sexual expectations, and at the end of the day–those men desire to be respected for who they are, not for what have you done for me lately?

Here are 10 ways that men need to be respected in a marriage:

1. Stop the insults in an attempt to motivate him to change. Women may think their harsh criticisms will fix their husbands and make them better. Nope! What you are doing is actually causing rejections that will lead to anger, which will then lead to bitter resentment toward you.

2. Create the safe space for open and emotionally honest dialogue to happen. If a woman can risk still respecting her man in spite of his Neanderthal habits, he will eventually demonstrate with his heart that he can and is willing to change. Respect is the gateway for such conversations to happen, and a wise wife will offer it frequently to build up her husband, and set the stage for such intimate encounters.

3. Express respect in his love language. It can be spoken through “words of affirmation”– one of Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. Nothing is as important for such a man to hear his woman assure him that he is awesome, competent, and heroic. So make your home a place of safety in his life, where those critical voices he hears in his business life are drowned out by the soothing voice of your affirmations.

4. Respect him by offering yourself for physical affection (yes, sex). When wives willingly and passionately make love to their men (I said passionately, not passively), and initiate the act occasionally, this speaks loudly that you respect his need for physical affection, served up his way.

5. Respect him by letting him be a man. If a woman allows her Joe to be Joe without mothering him, and lets him “be” who he was designed to be without the need to fix him, Joe will drop the remote stuck on ESPN, come out of his cave more often, hand you his heart, and engage you emotionally….without losing his masculinity.

6. Respect him by giving him space. Lets say you and your man get into a heated spat. Sometimes the tendency is for a woman to push for instant conflict resolution. Is that true? What’s going on in your mature man’s mind is totally the opposite. He’s going, “I need some space now!” Give him the space he needs to go to his cave and process his thoughts. He might be new to this, so even allow for him to complain and express himself in a way he needs to be heard until he eventually comes around.

7. Support and encourage him because he’s under pressure most of the time, but won’t tell you. A man fighting to provide for his family needs constant affirmation, and that she believes in him and looks up to him. Wives must see themselves in the privileged role of offering their men what no other person can — full acceptance of their masculine truth. A woman who reaches this level of respect for her man will have a man who’ll love her forever.

8. Appreciate all parts of your man, not just the parts that connect to you emotionally. If you appreciate his muscles, athleticism, creative flair, how he takes care of the bills, mows your beautiful lawn with accurate precision, or fixes things around the house without you asking, tell him how much you appreciate it all, and often. What may happen next is he’ll start to open up the relational parts that have been lacking.

9. Be attractive for him. I’m not talking about how a woman looks in a two-piece, three kids later, although taking care of oneself physically is important to husbands. The attraction I speak of that a mature man desires goes beyond the physical and into the emotional. When he connects with her at her best, sparks fly. That means a woman’s love of self, her passion for life, and how she carries herself will transcend his love for you. As you embody your attractiveness, he will reflect that same passion. A woman who wants a mature man will invest in living life to its fullest.

10. Respect him by growing as a whole person. What can be more attractive to man than a happy and joyful disposition in a woman? It’s contagious, and it empowers men. To get to that happy place also means the road along the way took some work of healing and growth for you– like releasing shame, depression, anger, sadness, and fear along the way. But you’ve arrived, and you are now deserving of a mature, emotionally-healthy man so that both of you may have life, and have it abundantly.

Guidelines to resolve Your Issues in a fair and balanced way

As we see it, there is no “right” solution to the problem of dividing up the household chores. But there are a number of guidelines to keep in mind as you work to resolve this issue in a fair and balanced way.


First and most importantly, sit down and talk about this part of your marriage relationship. Even the act of discussing and divvying up the workload can lessen stress and conflict. Don’t take anything for granted. Lay all your assumptions, expectations, and personal preferences out on the table. Approach the situation as equal partners and work out an arrangement that’s acceptable to both of you. You’ll be glad you did.

Think positively

Remind yourselves that this is not an impossible problem. Once you’ve made up your minds to share the load, you’ll probably find the rest of the process unfolding in a smooth and natural way.

Consider the rewards

Many hands make light work. Tackling chores together eases the burden. This is especially true when both husband and wife work outside the home. A workable system will leave you with more time for togetherness and more leisure for individual activities.

Concentrate on giftedness, not gender

Rather than emphasizing “male” and “female” chores, talk about which jobs you enjoy or don’t mind doing. Is there anything for which you have a certain knack? Anything you’d really prefer not to do? Let these natural tendencies guide your choices.

Allow for exceptions to the rule

Helping each other out with chores during times of stress, busyness, or illness is always appreciated by a spouse. It also tends to be reciprocated.

Stay flexible

No matter how fair and equal things seem at the start, you may have to make adjustments along the way. One spouse who was at home may begin a full-time job at some point. Another may experience a serious illness or injury.

Don’t go strictly by the numbers

Fair and equal doesn’t necessarily mean “one for you, one for me.” Remember that some chores are more difficult and time-consuming than others.

Write it down

Making a list of what needs to be done is essential. It’s too easy to forget who’s supposed to do what. Be sure to include a chart that clearly communicates the division of labor in terms of “yours, mine, and ours.”

As you go through this process, try to view it as an opportunity for cooperation rather than conflict. A key to meeting the challenge of marriage is striving to understand each other and seeking to meet each other’s needs. This is a great area to put these principles into practice.

If you need help drawing up and implementing a workable plan, don’t hesitate to give our Counseling department a call. Our staff counselors will be happy to listen to your concerns and offer their perspective over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified counselors in your area who specialize in marriage and family therapy.


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