A gender image of one’s self is first presented to a child by his/her parents. It is through the behaviors learned, the characteristics that are reinforced and the inappropriate gender traits that are punished that we, as humans, are able to grasp our larger role in society. These early concepts of gender identity, behavior and roles also influence how we communicate interpersonally. Two people of opposite gender joined in marriage have two very different styles of communication to the extent that this problem is sometimes insurmountable. Lack of clear communication between partners in a traditional marriage is often cited as the cause for divorce.
Not so long ago, traditional gender roles, combined with an aversion for the stigma of divorce, were a huge factor in the length of a couple’s relationship. Men and women stuck it out for the long run, even when experiencing problems, and a breakdown in communication. Long before technology took over society and created more avenues for communicating with each, men were used to showing support by “doing things” for the family and women showed their affection through talking (Torrpa, 2002).
Women expect their marital relationship to be based on mutual dependence and cooperation while men expect it to be based on independence and competition (Torppa, 2002). Clearly, these two different sets of expectations will have an effect on how the two partners communicate and ultimately, on the strength of the union.
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The current generation of young adults is waiting longer their parents to make an acceptable marriage match as opposed to the trend of earlier years when marriage the year after high school was expected. The tradition of marriage is still intact, but the demographics are changing. The fact that couples are waiting to tie the knot should also affect their ability to communicate with each other about important issues due to older partners presumably having a better idea of what they want in life and a better grasp on how to communicate it.
According to Ohashi (1993) marriage is a system established on the assumption of a division of labor based on gender-role stereotypes (from Katsurada, Sugihara, 2002). Women traditionally tend to want to “make everyone happy” while men make decisions based largely on their own personal needs (Torrpa, 2002) – one aspect of marriage that is unchanged for the most part yet responsible for many breaks in communication between the partners.
Differences in typical gender roles also affect communication between husband and wife. Typically, women are characterized as being the more talkative of the sexes as well as being comfort providers and more secure in showing their emotions. Women are also better at “reading between the lines” regarding interpersonal issues (Torrpa, 2002). Men, on the other hand, are known for their distinct lack of communication and inability to provide emotional support. Their ability to “read between the lines” regarding status is more pronounced than in women.
With traditional roles in marriage declining and technology taking over, communication is at once both more effective and less available (Morris, 2001) – we have more ways of communicating (e.g. text messaging, Email, etc.) but we have less time to do so with multiple careers. Both male and female partners tend to see the other as being more controlling of the relationship (Torppa, 2002) and without the ability to communicate effectively, this assumption can be quite damaging to the marriage.
This paper will explore the varying roles of a man and woman in a traditional marriage relationship, how these roles influence their ability to effectively communicate, and the level of satisfaction each partner feels based on their idea of whether or not they are communicating effectively with each other regarding large issues. According to Torrpa (2002): “understanding differences is the key to working them out”.
Katsurada, Emiko & Sugihara, Yoko (September, 2002). Gender-role identity, attitudes toward marriage and gender-segregated school backgrounds. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. Retrieved September 5, 2007, from the Find Articles Web site: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2294/is_2002_Sept/ai_96736800/pg_2.
Martinez, J.M., Chandra, A., Abma, J.C., Jones, J. & Mosher, W.D. (2006). Fertility, conception and fatherhood: Data on men and women from Cycle 6 (2002) of the National Survey of Family Growth. National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved September 5, 2007 from the CDC Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_026.pdf
Morris, Grantley (2001). Improving Communication in Marriage. Retrieved September 5, 2007 from the Web site: http://net-burst.net/love/talk.htm.
Torppa, C. B. (2002). Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships. The Ohio State University Extension Program. Retrieved online September 5, 2007 from the OSU Web site: http://ohioline.osu.edu/flm02/FS04.html.
Van den Troost, Ann (August, 2005). Marriage in Motion. Sociology Today, Volume 10. Leuven University Press.
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