A topic of conversation that keeps coming up with some of my colleagues is gender roles and how they are changing. In society in general, gender roles are definitely changing in many areas.
The military was once off limits for women, now they recently enacted the ability for women to engage in combat at every level, including become Navy Seals and Army Special Forces. In a recent New York Times article, there is a reference to women branching out into traditionally male dominated jobs.
For example, in 2014, 48% of Pharmacists were women, 36% of Attorneys were women and 37% of Surgeons were women, significant jumps for each since 1980. Conversely, men have not been moving as fast into traditionally female-dominated jobs.
For example, men held 18% of social worker jobs in 2014, actually down from 38% in 1980. The bottom line is, society is changing, and in relation to women having equal opportunities, I feel it’s for the better.
My question then becomes: How are society’s changing gender roles reflective in marriage? Should we re-define gender roles in marriage?
Answering that question requires a 30,000 foot overview of what people expect out of marriage. The expectation might be to fall in love and marry someone who is:
- strong where you are weak
- is truly your life partner
- the person you want to worship and pro-create with
- as well as bringing skills and talents to share that you don’t have
In that case, the answer is for the two people to define their roles—not society. It’s about having the real conversation to see if you are a fit for each other.
We know what our expectations are for our better half. If society is changing those expectations, do we conform or “settle” because we do not feel our expectation can be met? Don’t settle for less than what is best for you in any circumstance.
For example, if you desire a family and you expect your husband to be the provider, feeling that you have become an independent woman and bringing that into the marriage leaves no room for him to provide.
If you desire a wife to raise your children before they are school age, but she’s a jet-setting salesperson, right now, she’s not a fit. There’s nothing wrong with what she does, but you shouldn’t settle for less than your expectation.
Paul Brunson characterizes good relationships as “interdependent.” Interdependence is a mutual reliance on each other—not independence. If my wife is independent, she can make her own money, buy her own house, pay her own bills, and do whatever is necessary to take care of herself. What does she need me for? If she can do everything I can do, one of us is unnecessary.
Re-defining gender roles also comes with a lot of sacrifice. For example, women are simply more nurturing than men, plain and simple. Men will tell you their mother had a way to talk with and comfort them their father was not capable of.
Dads are great, I’m not taking anything away from them, but we’re not nurturing in the same sense as a mother. Let’s assume you decide the father will stay at home with the kids.
He can do it, no problem, but the children will never get the same nurturing during this time that a mother can give.
Consider this: As women become more like men, what is the natural cause and effect? Men will eventually become more like women. Think about this for a moment. Ladies, do you really want a more nurturing, sensitive, delicate, emotional, soft dude to be your husband?
For the record, I’m not telling women “don’t go become the best you can be.” Quite the contrary. I want you have life more abundantly than you can imagine.
My hope is you will be aware that marriage is about how we can grow together and what we both bring to the table. If you bring everything you need and desire to the table and all a man can provide is sex, you have minimalized his value and undermined the point of marriage.
Before you get married, ask yourself the real questions in what you need and desire in a spouse. What are your expectations?
When you do this exercise, the gender roles in marriage work themselves out, because you will find your expectation will be more important to you than what society as a group says it should be.
BMWK, should we re-define gender roles in marriage?