Changing Gender Roles – Have Relationships Become Too Confusing?

I was recently told a story about a couple who experienced a stressful period in their relationship due to shifting roles between the wife and her husband; what might be called changing gender roles.

Married for 18 years, the husband had always filled the traditional male role as breadwinner, while the wife took care of the home and occasionally worked a part-time job to “help out.” This worked well for them, as it had for previous generations, and both were comfortable in their roles – until…

With their only child now in college, the wife had taken a full-time job and was earning more than she ever had before. While the husband remained the primary earner in the family, he had begun to lose interest in his career and decided to return to college to seek his degree. Because the wife was earning more, he was able to earn less, yet they were able to maintain their lifestyle.

However, the more involved he became in school, the less he worked and earned and, eventually, the wife was bringing home more than her husband. This was the first time since they began dating that she had earned more than him and she was naturally feeling good about herself. For her, all was right with the world – until…

Who Controls the Money Controls the Relationship

Throughout the marriage the husband had developed the habit of meeting friends for a couple of beers at his favorite bar once or twice a week, usually on the nights when his wife worked late. Since he did not overdo it, and did not drive drunk, the wife had no problem with this. In fact, she encouraged him to hang out with his friends and the two of them would go out once a week as well.

Suddenly however, she began to have a problem with her husband spending “her” money at the bar, as he had for so many years. In other words, now that she was the primary earner in the family, what he had always considered “our” money had become “her” money.

Needless to say, he found this to be completely unreasonable and quite a few arguments ensued.

After all, he had never begrudged her spending “his” money when he was he the primary earner for the family, so why should she begin to question his behavior when things changed? He thought she was being extremely unfair and refused to accept her point of view.

This particular situation took place some 20 years ago yet, as an example of changing gender roles (which is frequently in the news today), it illustrates how even the smallest change from traditionally accepted roles can have a powerful and lasting effect on a relationship. You see, this couple did not survive the change in roles, and wound up separating within a few months, with divorce to follow.

Have you experienced changing gender roles that your relationship could not overcome? Have you been able to adapt to these changes in your life? Are you happy to see the traditional roles played by men and women shifting, and do you think these changes offer a long-term benefit to society?

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