Over the last half-century or so, gender roles in relationships have evolved. With the rise of the independent woman, gender roles have not only shifted, but they have never been more complicated to figure out. Now, women have far more options. Women are no longer expected to depend solely on a man and be perfect little housewives. While this progress has been a great thing (to say the least), it has definitely caused some confusion regarding what is expected from a man and what is expected from a woman within the confounds of dating and relationships.
Feminism is a great thing. Women have never had more rights than they do today, and that is fantastic. However, now that women are so much more active in the workforce, new expectations have arisen between the sexes. For example…
Now women feel an increased pressure to be able to “do it all”. They feel as if they have to work, keep the house clean, be emotionally competent, and raise a family all while maintaining that killer model body. Since equality has become such a prominent part of our world and culture, men are feeling an increased pressure to be emotionally competent and attentive; now that women have more options, she is more likely to be able to leave whenever she wants.
Unclear Expectations- Men
With the rise of the independent woman comes some confusing expectations for how a man should behave. A lot of women still expect and/or appreciate the little things that are traditional (although some consider them to be rooted in sexism), like holding the door open, paying for dates, pulling out chairs, being the one to initiate romance of any kind, etc. This can be confusing when you are dating a woman who comes across as independent and strong. I mean, independent people can pull their own chairs out, right?
In the long run, the little things are still good to do unless she has voiced an objection to being treated that way. Not because she is a woman, but because it is respectful and shows romantic interest. In general, women are still physically weaker than men and still feel a natural desire to feel protected in a relationship. The key is to find a way to convey this without coming across as misogynistic.
Unclear Expectations- Women
Women deal with similar confusion when it comes to gender roles because they want to be respected, but they also want to feel protected and cared for in a relationship. Plus, with the rise of birth control options and career choices for women, a lot of men feel like women today aren’t maternal enough. Not all women want to have children anymore and a lot of men still expect a woman to automatically see babies in their future. The key is to find balance and to discuss whether or not you want children early. Too many people wait until they're attached to each other, only to discover that they want completely different things out of life. It’s always better to have the family planning conversations early, and it never hurts to have the “who’s working once we have children?” conversation either.
How to Handle it
The key to dealing with the confusion of changing gender roles is to always keep an open mind, never assume anything, and discuss long term goals in new relationships early. Men, you can no longer expect a woman to do all of the cooking and cleaning and you can never assume that all women want to have babies. And ladies, you can no longer expect perfect chivalry in a world where you are so much closer to equal with men. Expectations within a relationship have never been so crucial to discuss early on, since you never know who is more progressive and who is more traditional. Remember, communication, self-disclosure, and balance are key.
In the days of equality, the real stress becomes--who has to do the asking out? Initiating romance can make anyone hesitant, and the only real advice to be given is to get a feel for the situation. If you feel like he/she is giving hints that they want you to ask them out, go for it. If you’re unsure, you might as well go for it anyway. Again, it is key to make your intentions clear. More than that, it is important to rationally discuss these intentions and be able to admit if they weren’t well thought out or reasonable.
The secret to any successful relationship is open communication and accommodation. Most importantly, it’s about compromise and respect. The expectations that gender roles bring can be confusing and frustrating, but with a little open communication and respect, they can easily be worked through between two people.
Have more suggestions or thoughts on how to deal with changing gender roles? If so, be sure to comment below.