The significance of gender inequalities: the reason behind couples losing their love for each other.
Nora Ephron, a respected figure, once noted that women have a natural and fundamental instinct to get married, which is often followed by another instinct to be single again. Many relationship experts make bold statements like this, but a recent study suggests that women may experience love and its absence more intensely than men.
A new study published in the top journal of Psychological Science by Saurabh Bhargava, a behavioural economist from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, reveals some interesting results. The study found that women reported feeling love nearly twice as often as men. Additionally, it suggests that women tend to experience a sharper decline in these feelings over time compared to their male counterparts in long-term relationships.
While men experienced a decrease of 9.2% in their romantic feelings towards their spouses, women saw a significantly larger drop of 55.2%. This trend is also visible in the realm of passion, as women’s desire for their partners decreased by 55.3% after marriage, while men experienced a smaller decline in ardor.
According to Camilla Nicholls, a therapist who specializes in couples, her personal observations do not align with the results of the study: “The noticeable difference in gender representation indicated by the research is not something that I have personally observed in my counseling sessions.”
However, using statistical analysis to understand the complex idea of love may seem unsettling. These numbers could potentially prompt us to reconsider common themes and overused sayings about marriage.
Mainstream society often highlights the stereotype of an older man seeking validation from a younger woman as a major factor in divorce. While this may certainly be true in some cases, it is possible that the lesser discussed issue of women gradually becoming dissatisfied with their male partners is a more prevalent cause of marriage dissolution.
Joanna Harrison, previously a divorce attorney, made the career switch to become a couples therapist in order to prevent relationships from falling apart. She is also the writer of Five Arguments All Couples (Need to) Have, with the enduring subtitle: and the importance of household chores.
According to her, women are the ones who frequently file for divorce. However, it is difficult to determine the exact significance of this statistic, except for the fact that it demonstrates a significant lack of passivity.
Despite the existence of various exceptions, there are still some general patterns that she has observed.
According to her, women tend to express frustration about communication and division of household tasks more frequently. On the other hand, men are more concerned about the sexual aspect of the relationship and desire less frustration from their partner.
Interestingly, the subtitle of her book suggests that even though it may seem that men and women have different desires, there is a connection between these seemingly disparate wants. Harrison references a study published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour titled “Gender Inequities in Household Labour Predict Lower Sexual Desire in Women Partnered with Men” to support this idea. The study, conducted by Harris, Gormezano, and Anders, asserts that gender imbalances play a significant role in women’s low sexual desire in heterosexual relationships. Though the study is written in complex academic language, one main takeaway is that if men want more sexual activity, they should consider being more involved in household tasks.
While traditional gender roles have become more flexible, it can be argued that most men are not as involved in domestic tasks as they may think. The Bhargava study suggests that men tend to prioritize relaxation and napping after work, which could potentially be met with disapproval from many women.
Because humans have a subjective viewpoint, instead of an objective one, it is not as important that advancements in technology have greatly decreased the amount of time spent on household chores. What truly matters is how this saved time is divided between a couple. Few things are as damaging to one’s emotions as building up resentment towards a partner for consistently avoiding small tasks.
Additionally, there is often an underlying feeling of frustration, as many women are acutely aware of not wanting to conform to the traditional role of a homemaker, which they may have observed their mothers fulfilling. According to Harrison, “We all have our parents’ examples ingrained within us.”
Besides household chores, the true test of unequal marriage lies in child-rearing. It’s not just the labor and responsibilities that come with nurturing and raising children, and how frequently it goes unnoticed or undervalued, but also how children can alter the dynamic between parents.
Bhargava discovered that men, as opposed to women, tend to have less feelings of love towards their significant other when they are with their children. Harrison states that, based on her observations, women are less likely to express concerns about their spouse becoming more distant and focused on their children after becoming parents compared to men.
An additional contributing factor is caring for aging parents, a responsibility that women often end up taking on. However, Harrison offers some helpful advice on navigating a decline in romantic relationships.
When affectionate emotions are diminishing in either or both individuals, it is crucial to communicate and comprehend the reasons behind it instead of allowing bitterness to accumulate. This is what truly deteriorates lasting relationships.
According to her, effective communication requires both individuals in a relationship to openly express their emotions without causing defensiveness in the other person. This also involves being able to listen to difficult experiences, which can be especially difficult during a marriage crisis. In these situations, seeking the help of a couples therapist could be beneficial.
It can be challenging to discuss micro-grievances and long-standing grudges, as they are often the overlooked and unglamorous aspects of marriage that are not widely recognized or celebrated in public. Unlike intense affairs or explosive arguments, the gradual erosion of love is not typically depicted in fiction. Movies tend to focus on passionate beginnings and dramatic breakups, rather than the slow accumulation of numerous small resentments.
Although we witness Kay Corleone’s increasing bitterness in The Godfather, it is due to her husband’s actions of killing people, rather than him neglecting household chores.
An exception to this is the Before trilogy by Richard Linklater, which covers twenty years in the journey of Celine (played by Julie Delpy) and Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke), from their first encounter as strangers on a train in Europe to a confrontation as middle-aged parents on a trip to Greece. A poignant moment in the third film, Before Midnight, occurs when, after a fight, Celine declares: “You know what’s happening here? It’s simple: I don’t believe I love you anymore.”
The authenticity and subtle devastation in this statement come from a history of compromise and shattered dreams, which is a common experience in most marriages, rather than from one unforgivable event.
However, there is some positive news regarding marriage. A sense of equal love is often achieved. While women may initially have a more romantic outlook on the potential of a relationship, living with their male partners tends to lower their expectations in a highly effective way.
According to Bhargava’s research, frequently this leads to a decrease in romantic feelings, but it may also lead to a balance in romantic attraction between men and women, as men may not have been as infatuated initially.
Ultimately, love could be seen as synonymous with acceptance.