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The Death of Gender Roles In Society And The Collapse Of The American Marriage

Updated on January 30, 2013

As you are probably aware, the divorce rate in America is ridiculously high, and I’m willing to bet that the majority of couples who do stay married have reasons other than true love as to why they stay married (kids, finances, sadistic need to torture oneself, etc).

There are many theories as to why this is happening, from the very concept of marriage taking on a more novelty role (“It’s hip to get married, we can always divorce later!”) to the idea that people are getting married at a younger and more impressionable age. Whatever your theory might be, here’s mine….and most women are not going to like it….

You're so pretty when you're hostile.
You're so pretty when you're hostile.

The reason I believe that marriage is a failing institution in today’s society is that gender roles are no longer clearly defined and, therefore, no one is playing their part anymore. Now, before all the feminists start tearing me a new one, I do believe that women’s rights are important and that women should be treated with utmost respect. I am suggesting that when cooking, cleaning, working, child care, and financial decision-making duties are shared instead of divided by gender, everything starts falling apart.

Way back in the 40s and 50s, gender roles were clearly defined: The men worked and the women stayed home and cooked, cleaned, and took care of the children. That’s the key to a happy marriage; having a clear system where both of you know what you’re supposed to do. Man and wife are supposed to be a team. This avoids conflict and if respect is given to each other, and each other's role in the relationship, the system works beautifully.

But we destroyed that team at some point and both men and women are to blame, and the worst part is that the children end up with most of the fallout.

Who Brings Home The Bacon?

Back when divorce rates probably weren’t even measured, the man went to work and brought the paychecks home, while the doting wife took that money to buy groceries, clothes for the kids, etc. It was all “Ozzie and Harriet” and it was good…sort of, but more on that later.
When WWII came, the women had to go to the factories to work while the men fought and this created a spark that fueled women's desires to work all the time. In the 60s, the Women’s Rights Movement was in full swing and women were granted the basic civil rights that everyone deserves - it was long overdue - but over time the idea grew past what was healthy and now, most women don’t want to be full-time wives or mothers, they want their own careers. This is a problem only because now you have both the husband and the wife working full time and vying for the title of "Provider," which creates the killer of marriages the nation over; Unnecessary Conflict.
(*cue foreboding music)

Unnecessary Conflict:  Pictured here in his "Unholy WTF Kitten" form.
Unnecessary Conflict: Pictured here in his "Unholy WTF Kitten" form.

Where's The Beef? (Or any other dinner item for that matter!)

Now that both husband and wife have careers to think about more than anything else, the role of cook is now up in the air. This is resolved many times in the form of take-out or dining out, but nothing beats a home-cooked meal! Mealtime at the dinner table is the classic American family-time setting. This entire meal dilemma adds up to a larger problems such as: less family interactions, poor nutrition and eating habits, and so on. In a lot of cases, however, many people get home from work with enough time to cook and it usually still is the wife that does it, but after a long day at work, do you really think the wife is enjoying this? It feels more like a task to her than an enjoyable duty, and resentment can easily grow from this situation, just adding to the possibility of divorce. The other problem is time schedules. With two people working, what are the odds that you both work the same schedules? With today’s job market it’s anyone’s guess. Retail job schedules alone are so unstable that one can easily expect to work very early one day and really late the next; and so on and so on. So how do you factor dinner time into that? Usually with a note that tells you leftovers are in the fridge. Now imagine that happening over and over for years. Again, it’s just one more thing to add to the fire that is your pending divorce.

We Live in a Pigsty!!

As two working professionals, I hope you can afford a housekeeper, because that house is going to get messy since there is no clear "House Cleaner" role. It’s another role that you divided up, and who is going to volunteer to clean the bathroom after a long day at the construction site? In decades past, when things like this were simple, it wasn’t even a debate. This common argument never even happened back then. Imagine not having to bicker and fight about who cleans what and when.

Kids?! Who Has Time For Kids??

Have you seen the movie, “Idiocracy?”

Well, the opening sequence shows how an intelligent upper-middle class couple are far too busy to have children. Meanwhile, a drunken white trash hillbilly couple had their first child at a very young age and haven’t stopped reproducing since, constantly making dumb children who grow up to make even dumber children. This is happening right now all over the world, not just in America, and it will have long term consequences. Here, take a look....


The “We-don’t-have-time-for-children-right-now” argument is also very common. Many working couples who do have children can’t provide the full-time attention and care that the child needs. They get thrown into daycares or left with Grandma and Grandpa so often that they are bound to develop some kind of abandonment issues. Also, who is taking the time to teach them values and morals and important life lessons? It used to be mom, with some key help from dad, but now they’re both too busy and it seems like kids are learning bad habits and developing mental disorders at a much higher rate than ever before. Is that because of television? Who knows? But have made Mr. TV more of a surrogate parent to our kids than a simple form of entertainment. Mrs. Laptop is also a more powerful influence these days.

Unrelated note: "The Wacky Adventures of Mr. TV and Mrs. Laptop" would make an awesome movie.

Final Thoughts

Look, I admit that most of the "old fashioned" marriages weren't perfect. Many women were treated horrendously by their husbands and many more were simply taken for granted. But that should not have resulted in what we attempt to call marriage today; an experiment, a mistake we can fix later, a tax break.

We have broken up the band. We have destroyed the team.

To use the team metaphor some more, picture a basketball team; each player is assigned a position and they move together like a well-oiled machine. The ball is passed down the court from player to player, and the center brings it in for a slam dunk! It's an effective system and it's exciting to watch. Now imagine all the players just winged it on the court. No one is assigned positions at all, the only goal is to get the ball into the basketball. The whistle blows and the game is on.....oh, it's a train wreck out there! Everyone's just scrambling for the ball and knocking into each other right and left! It's chaos on the court!!
Marriage is no different. You two are the players and you need to work together to score those points and win the game. The prize is a happy marriage and a long life together.

Don't you think that's a worthy goal?

Comments, Thoughts, Opinions and Shenanigans

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    • jravity1 profile image

      jravity1 4 years ago from bellevue, MI

      We need to start a website... not even joking. You have more talent than a zombie ninja wizard with red hair... not purple hair (that's a higher level.)

    • Andy McGuire profile image
      Author

      Andy McGuire 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      That's exactly how I feel it should be and you and your husband are living proof of the theory. Congrats on a successful marriage.

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Nice hub, Andy. I agree with you from both professional and personal points of view. I've counseled many couples where conflict over gender roles was a major source of conflict. Another side to this truth is that unlike back then, it's not a choice but a necessity for both spouses to work in order to support a family. So they are forced into trying to balance out those roles which is extremely difficult. I personally ascribe to the traditional role of wife: I cook, hubby cleans up and washes the dishes. It has worked swell for us for many years and we enjoy it. And if I'm tired, he'll cook, and wash the dishes :-)

    • Andy McGuire profile image
      Author

      Andy McGuire 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I can't argue with that, though women can be just as guilty of adultery. Especially in modern times.

    • profile image

      Beth37 4 years ago

      And sometimes, if you listen hard enough, you can hear the zipping and unzipping of mens trousers as they destroy their families with one fell zzzip.

      I came from a traditional family and I was part of a traditional family. If only a certain someone had kept his pants zipped... oh well! Anyway, good article. I don't know how to vote up or down or share, but I will pass it on in the forum! :)

    • Andy McGuire profile image
      Author

      Andy McGuire 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this and I'm also glad I could help in some small way. Best of luck to you!

    • LauraD093 profile image

      Laura Tykarski 4 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      I loved this hub thanks. I am immediately e-mailing it to my husband. Aside from the (children dilemma-we haven't any) your points did strike home some. (yes I am a feminist but a fair-feminist always gets more done through compromise.) There are no easy answers in today's economy usually both parties have to work to afford all the toys we seem to have. When I haven't worked my husband often got resentful but he did love having the laundry done the house cleaned the steaming dinner on the table every night as well. When I didn't work I tried to assume the more traditional roles as I felt it was only fair. The fact does remain that money does help with self-esteem and I like to be paid for hard labor which is what maintaining a decent household is (especially if you have children) After twelve years we have tried to work together on chores and tasks when we are both working --rotating cooking/cleaning duties etc...it still at times did and does cause problems. I'm looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

    • Andy McGuire profile image
      Author

      Andy McGuire 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thank you, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and reading other people's thoughts, personal and professional, and no one really ever seemed to summarize it in the way I presented it here. A situation I rectified nicely, I hope.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

      Nicely done! Good thoughts! Voted up and awesome! :)

    • profile image

      mamamantis 4 years ago

      Right on the money! So great that somebody finally gets it!