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Is The Traditional Male-dominated Marriage Better Than More Egalitarian One

Updated on July 28, 2014

Modern marriage Model

Historically, traditional male-dominated marriage implied three things about a man:

v He should be the father of his wife’s children.

v He should be the provider for his wife and children.

v He should protect his family. Accordingly, the male who refused to provide for or protect his family was not only a bad husband; he was somehow less a weakling. In male-dominated marriage, men do those things that are culturally accepted as basic elements of adult muscularity. Women love to be in the presence of a manly man. Such a man makes women feel more feminine, more self-confident, and more relaxed. The man doesn’t need necessarily to have body-building muscles.

A woman wants to feel that she is in safe hands, physically, materially, and emotionally secure. Women want men who can stand up and take charge of the situation.

In the male-dominated marriage, no matter what a marriage may mean to a particular man and his wife, the fact that a man is a husband carries great significance to others. Marriage is also a relationship defined by cultural assumptions. By their marriages, husbands and wives accept an obligation to be faithful, to give and receive help in times of sickness, and to remain true to such vows. However, it is more difficult for a married than for an unmarried person to break such promises because they are part of the laws, religions, and definitions of morality in their society. Collectively, society enforces these ideals both formally and informally.

In some cultures, marriage is a rite of passage into manhood. Once married, a man is a different social and legal person and is held to different standards and accorded different treatment by others.

But in modern times, husbands and wives are becoming more equal because both partners increasingly depend on one another’s incomes. The contemporary married couple typically includes two earners. The modern woman wants to feel special. She wants to be appreciated and respected. She wants her husband to make her feel wanted and loved. She wants a man that make her laugh, scream with joy, and run, jump and play like a little girl. She wants a husband that makes her feel alive; like the luckiest girl in the world.

However, each family is unique when it comes to dividing the chores and duties in the home. Depending upon your family structure and if you both are working outside the home, the husband might need to do things around the home that weren’t generally done by yesteryear husbands (dish washing, folding clothes, grocery shopping, helping children with homework, sharing and cooking). Wives feel loved when their husbands help out.

Steven L. Nock in his book Marriages in Men’s Lives wrote, “The many beneficial effects of marriage are well-known. Married people are generally healthier; they live longer, earn more, have better mental health and sex lives, and are happier than their unmarried counterparts…Further, married individuals have lower rates of suicide, fatal accidents, acute and chronic illnesses, alcoholism, and depression than other people.”

The cohabiting couple is united by bonds of love and affection, but very little else. Such individuals have more freedom than their married counterparts. No formal laws and few informal norms dictate the terms of the cohabiting relationship. There are no conventional assumptions about how people who are living together should behave.

An observation of the world around us and contact with members of the opposite sex reveal that males and females have different priorities, think different thoughts, and have different desires in life. The differences between men and women are one reason why marriage is challenging. Unfortunately many couples have refused to acknowledge these differences in their quest for liberation from traditional roles. Don’t be misled to believe that your husband’s ways are your ways, his thoughts are your thoughts, and his emotions are your emotions.

The traditional male-dominated marriage model is more predominate in Africa, while in America and Europe the more egalitarian marriage model is prominent, where women have equal right in marriage. Steven L. Nock wrote, “Marriage has traditionally defined husbands as the head of the family. Married women have assumed their husbands’ social and legal identities, as well as their surnames. At the same time, it is fair to say that Americans and Europeans generally favor equality between sexes. But wives and husbands still occupy different positions in marriage.”

Tradition male-dominated marriage could be defined as:

  • Marriage is a free personal choice, based on love.
  • Maturity is a requirement for marriage.
  • Marriage is a heterosexual relationship.
  • The husband is the head, and principal earner, in a marriage. The traditional model of marriage assumes that a husband should support his wife and children. Few alternatives exist for married men. Even though a majority of wives are gainfully employed and contribute economically to their families, virtually all working-age husbands are employed.
  • Sexual infidelity and monogamy are expectations.
  • Marriage typically involves children.

The traditional assumption that men would be the primary breadwinners and wives would be the primary homemakers and child-nurturers has been replaced by an assumption that men and women should share such tasks. In fact, husbands typically do have earnings much greater their wives and the responsibility for homemaking and child care does fall disproportionately on wives today as it has for decades.

This situation notwithstanding, household’s tasks are quite strongly related to gender. Husbands participate mostly in yard/home maintenance and child care also. But husbands do less than one quarter of cooking, housecleaning, dish washing, and laundry chores.

Even in egalitarian marriage model the arrival of a child typically changes the management of household tasks. Sociologists Ralp and Maureen LaRossa found that the arrival of a new baby often results in mothers becoming the primary care givers and fathers becoming the primary wage earners, regardless of how things were done before the child was born. Most researchers attribute this common pattern to rational allocation of labor by couples. If and when the question arose as to who should cut back on labor-force participation to accommodate the needs of children, the woman curtailed their labor-participation more so than did their husbands.”

And, because the husband customarily has the greater earnings potential, his position in the family is enhanced. The demand of his job has priority over most other family concerns. He is able to translate his responsibilities at work into demands on the family. Because such demands are understandable and may appear legitimate, they are accorded greater legitimacy than domestic chores.

Sharon J. Leigh and Janet A. Clark in their book Creating Strong and Satisfying Marriage said, “Consider the positive aspect of your marriage. What are you doing that works well and brings you and your spouse joy and happiness? If you have a satisfying marriage, chances are that your relationship has high levels of positivity, empathy, commitment, acceptance, love and respect. These are some of the characteristics that researchers have found to be common in successful marriages.”

Egalitarian marriage will have the following commitments:

  • The commitment to your spouse is to listen to his/her concerns each day for the purpose of having the kind of marriage you both want.
  • You should realize that your love will change. Therefore you should work to maintain a high level of romance, courtship, and love in your relationship.
  • It is important that you pledge to confront problems when they arise and not retreat like a turtle hiding in its shell or seek for divorce or separation.
  • You must commit yourself to your spouse in times of joy and in times of problems. You should tackle and share our problems together, after all marriage is supposed to be “For better or for worse.”
  • You should never be too busy to attend to your spouse’s needs.
  • You have to respect any beliefs and capabilities that are different from your and will not attempt to make your spouse into a copy of you.
  • You will be open and honest with no secrets.

There is no doubt that the traditional male-dominated marriage is going into extinction and being replaced by the egalitarian one who respects women’s fundamental human rights. It is obvious it is better than the traditional male-dominated marriage, where in some areas women are treated as mere commodities. However, two things that are not the same might be difficult to classify as equal in some aspects, but they can be effectively complementary –each playing different but important roles that make their home earthly “Garden of Eden.”


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    • Chuksm profile image

      Anthony Modungwo 3 years ago from Benin

      Thanks dashingscorpio for your comment. Your contribution is buttressed by the reactions of women in US to this hub. Happy reading

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 3 years ago

      Voted up and interesting!

      There really is no "right" or "wrong" when it comes to marital arrangements. There is only "agree" and "disagree". You have to share the same values.

      Both people in the marriage have to want a (traditional) arrangement in order for it to succeed. I suspect a lot of women today prefer having a husband who is more of an "equal partner" and not be "in charge" of the family.

      In the U.S. with each passing decade there are fewer women and men for that matter who want to go back in time.

      Having said that there will always be a vocal group of people who do want a traditional marriage but for some reason they seem to have difficulty hooking up with one another. It's not unheard of for some men in the U.S. to pursue women from other countries/cultures who do not view being submissive or dependent on a husband as being weak or unhealthy.