There are plenty of celebrated relationship obstacles. We’re pretty aware of most of them, right? Money, religion, communication, race, class, national origin … all the greatest hits. Virtually every dating and relationship expert has offered up their best advice on navigating those choppy waters — and why not? So much discussion, debate, and research has been had about those particular flashpoints, so it’s difficult to understand why they remain problem areas at all.
On the other hand, most adults, by the time they’ve gained a certain amount of experience, can hardly claim ignorance. They’ve learned how to remedy the most poisonous of pills in their relationship. But there’s an unrecognized, underplayed threat to couples and potential couples far and wide. That threat is the growing divide between traditionalists and progressives.
I’m referring to those people who adhere to traditional gender roles for men and women in relationships. The man is the head of the household, the provider. The woman is the homemaker. She’s center stage, taking responsibility for managing domestic duties and raising children. The progressives live out a different truth. For them, that bright red line between men and women’s gender expectations has been dimmed through necessity and societal evolution.
So before I get too much farther here, let me say that I’m not about to advocate one point of view over another. I’m merely hoping to shine light and spark legitimate discussion about what I believe is a major new lightning rod for couples. What’s the big deal you ask?
There are more women in the national workforce than at any point in our nation’s history. Stories abound about the number of women who are graduating college. For the first time ever there are more women receiving college degrees than men. The latest recession has hit men far harder than women, and perhaps most significant is the transition from an economy driven by manufacturing to an economy driven by intellectual acumen and creativity. Men’s greatest advantage has been their physicality. That so-called advantage is worthless when the emphasis in the workplace is placed on brain power.
From a practical standpoint, there’s absolute logic in men and women sharing the chances to pick up the check on the first date, since there’s a strong chance that the woman is making as much if not more than the man. The rise in “house husbands” is no fluke and you can expect that over the next few years that the phenomenon will be less an anomaly and more the norm.
This poses a serious problem for traditionalists. On our Straight Male Friend Group page on Facebook, this topic frequently pops up. Many of the women desire those traditional roles. They want — no — they expect that the guy will be picking her up, and taking her out, and paying for those first few dates. One thread in particular caught my attention as the ladies were discussing how often a man needs to be taking a woman out.
“How long would you go out with a guy if he wasn’t taking you out at least once a week and spending at least a hundred dollars on you?” This was a real discussion! And it turned into a polarized debate between the women who would never go out with a guy who wasn’t “being a man” and the women who saw no real problem with splitting the bill — even in the first few dates.
Here’s the thing, the traditionalists aren’t wrong. At least I don’t believe they are. They are in danger of being marginalized, though. There will be a tipping point when, because of a complete shift in cultural norms, they will be left clinging to those tried and true societal strictures … alone.
For many, being alone is an option preferable to relenting to a new normal. But even the most hardened traditionalist must admit women’s evolving position in society dictates that relationship roles be more pliable. Guys had better get their egos prepped for women making as much and in many instances more money than them, and they’d better brush up on their cooking and cleaning skills, too. Women had better get used to guys expecting more equality in the dating world in terms of who’s expected to pick up the check!
Where do you stand? Am I off base? We’ve seen time and again how our culture makes dramatic shifts on the heels of social change. As women’s continued fight for full economic equality takes firmer root, won’t people be forced to re-think the way their relationships play out?
The funny thing is that one day the new progressives will be the old traditionalists. And maybe that’s not so bad.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Mar 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2011). How Relationship Roles Have Reversed. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/12/15/how-relationship-roles-have-reversed/