Men and women have a lot in common, but the differences between us are extremely important in our marriages.
We must stop pointing the finger at husbands as if they’re somehow cavemen. Even women with feminist attitudes prefer a conventional arrangement to an egalitarian one! That’s because study after study has shown that for most couples, something goes awry when women earn more than their husbands.
“So in 2013, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business published a paper that looked at 4,000 married couples in America,” Mona Chalabi noted on NPR. “It found that once a woman started to earn more than her husband, divorce rates increased. Surprisingly, though, this data showed that whether the wife earns a little bit more or a lot more doesn’t actually make much of a difference. So the researchers concluded from that that what really matters is the mere fact of a woman earning more.”
Even if the couple doesn’t get divorced, the sex can, and often does, wane. “The very qualities that lead to greater emotional satisfaction in peer marriages, as one sociologist calls them, may be having an unexpectedly negative impact on these couples’ sex lives,” notes Lori Gottleib in “Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?”
The point isn’t really about money — income is just one potential manifestation of the differences between men and women. I’m sure you can think of a few more without trying too hard. For example, we’ve written about how the division of labor with your household chores impacts your sex life:
Couples in which women did all of the traditional female chores had sex 1.6 times more each month than couples in which men did all of those jobs. The more cooking and cleaning a husband did, the less sex the couple had; women’s cooking and cleaning was linked with more sex. Couples in which men did more traditional male chores also had more sex; it did not seem to matter if women did more or less of those chores.
Gottleib reports the same effect, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the wife reports wanting a more egalitarian marriage or not.
That might may sound blasphemous in today’s day and age, what with our insistence on so-called equality. But the fact remains that sexual attraction tends to be strongest when men and women are distinct from, not similar to, one another.
“The more traditional the division of labor,” adds Gottleib, “meaning the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction.”
It’s also worth noting that there are physical sex differences and behavioral sex differences — they’re correlated, but not always identical. Physical sex differences include:
- Male: Men tend to be larger than women and have penises.
- Female: Women can bear children and have vaginas.
Behavioral sex differences tend to correlate with physical sex differences, but all people display behaviors of both types to some degree or another. These traits vary somewhat by culture, but are also grounded in biological mechanisms.
- Masculine: Strong, courageous, independent, high sex-drive.
- Feminine: Gentle, empathetic, social, nurturing.
The point isn’t that you can only find happiness in your marriage if you adhere to some “traditional” pattern of life. We’re just pointing out that men and women are different, and your marriage and sex life will be stronger when you play into these differences rather than ignoring them. Each individual man and woman is unique, and sometimes social pressure and expectations lead us to ignore our differences in the name of “equality”.