Accepting Traditional Gender Roles Does Not Mean Relationship Inequality

Black relationship
Black relationship is a beautiful thing

AFRICANGLOBE – Ready to put a ring on it? Survey says that’s still the man’s job. Both men and women overwhelmingly believe that the man should propose to the woman, according to a study conducted at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

Researchers surveyed 277 male and female undergrads about their preferences surrounding traditional marriage roles. While two-thirds of respondents said they’d “definitely” want the man to propose, not a single man or woman said they’d “definitely” want the woman to do so. The students were a little more flexible where marital name changes were concerned: 60 percent of men said they’d want to keep their surname, and 60 percent of women said they’d want to change theirs.

There’s a reason that students at an otherwise progressive-leaning university still adhere to such traditional gender roles: it’s all in the narrative. “What people like with a marriage proposal in particular is a story,” says first study author Rachael Robnett, a UCSC psychology graduate student. “A story that people can understand can lend legitimacy to the fact that this couple is now engaged.” The more a proposal narrative follows a familiar, established script, the more it seems to validate the union in outsiders’ eyes. It’s something we’ve all seen a thousand times: the man takes a knee, opens the ring box, and gives a tender speech; the woman starts sobbing and enthusiastically nodding her head. For many, messing with this arrangement signals a lack of conviction. In fact, research has shown that if the woman proposes, “people don’t take that marriage proposal as seriously, and they question the engagement,” Robnett says.

But Robnett cautions against assuming that honoring tradition is a setback for feminism, or a sign that the power dynamic in your relationship isn’t 50/50. “I don’t think that doing a traditional proposal connotes a lack of equality,” she says. “Every couple needs to make the decision that is right for them.”

A better way to gauge whether your bond has an even balance of power is in studying the day-to-day dynamic. And sometimes, maintaining that balance of power requires work. “It’s an additional skill set that you need to learn,” says Susan Heitler, PhD, Denver psychologist and founder of

When you’re talking, each person gets equal air time

Long monologues are better left to Shakespeare. In an equal relationship, nobody should dominate the conversation. To even things out, make sure you give each other a chance to chime in. Interrupting is okay, says Heitler—it can even signal increased engagement—but make sure to circle back to any ideas that didn’t get fully expressed.

Your dialogue has a volume control button

If you notice the volume of your voice gradually rising, it’s a sign that you’re trying to dominate your partner. Volume should not be a factor in whose opinions get heard. If he or she is the one getting shouty in the middle of a discussion, let him or her know that you won’t continue to engage until volume levels return to normal.

You’re mutually supportive of each other’s career goals

No one should be forfeiting his or her dreams for the sake of a partner. If you suddenly land your dream job and it’s all the way across the country, he or she should be open to discussing ways for you to follow your dreams and maintain your relationship. However, “It’s not going to work unless he or she also has a vision of how this could be positive for him,” says Heitler. If your dream job is in a town or city with zero opportunities for your mate, it’s unfair to expect him or her to tag along—and vice versa.

The big Os are a two-way street

As in other areas of your relationship, bedroom activities should involve give and take. As a general rule, “If he brings her to orga*m first, that tends to be a hallmark of an equal relationship,” says Heitler, for the simple reason that his orga*m tends to bring the action to a close. Far too often, women don’t feel like they can speak up about their needs, but Heitler says it’s crucial. Positive feedback is key: increase your keep-going moans and groans to show him when he’s getting hot, and back off when he’s getting cold. If he still can’t take a hint, tell him what you really love in bed (emphasize the positive to avoid him feeling criticized). Say, “I noticed that I enjoy sex the most when you … ” then fill in the blank.

Paying (or not paying) isn’t a power move

The subject of who pays can be tricky. If he insists on treating you now and then, he may just be following a cultural script, much like the marriage norms referenced in the UC-Santa Cruz study. But Heitler says it’s more clear-cut when the roles are reversed. “A man who lets the woman always pay—that’s a red flag,” she says. Since this uneven arrangement has no basis in tradition, it’s a sign that he may be simply taking advantage of you. When he’s comfortable with your paying occasionally, or when you both pay as much as you comfortably can, then that signals a positive lack of tension.

You consult each other before making large purchases

If you’re sharing expenses or bank accounts, this one is crucial. Before you throw down for a new iPad or a fabulous winter coat, it’s important to give him a chance to weigh in. To avoid confusion, decide on a number as your mutual price cutoff—below it, and it’s each person’s individual call. Above it, and you’re both duty-bound to let the other person have a say.

You play musical chairs with household choree

Whether he’s the designated chef and you’re the head priestess of laundry or vice versa, no one should be picking up the majority of the slack at home. Divvy up chores based on what each of you enjoys (or at least doesn’t hate), but be willing to switch things up if circumstances call for it, Heitler says. The chef should be able to run a load of laundry if and when you have to work late. Likewise, you shouldn’t be above whipping up a meal when he needs a hand. What’s important is that your contributions feel about even and that no one feels unfairly overburdened.

No one has a monopoly on decision-making in a relationship

The relationship is bound to feel lopsided if one person’s preferences continually dominate. If you mention that you’re dying to visit a tropical locale over the holidays and he says he’d rather stay home and catch up on work and that ends the discussion, you have a problem. Try suggesting a compromise instead: “How about if we go someplace warm where you can still get some work done?” “In a healthy relationship, what both people say counts,” says Heitler. This holds true even if you don’t agree. Look out for times when you feel ignored, dismissed, or negated right after expressing a preference. If you make an observation that he automatically negates, “keep bringing your piece back,” says Heitler. He’ll realize that you want to have an actual discussion.


By; Amary Wiggin