The American Journal of Family Therapy, 29:109–124, 2001 Copyright ©2001 Brunner-Routledge 0192-6187 /01 $12.00 + .


The Post-Feminist Era: Still Striving for Equality in Relationships
New York University, School of Education, Washington Square, New York, USA

As for the past 30 years, Western society continues to grapple with a major sex-role revolution. Changes from the availability of contraception and persistent feminist protests disrupted the respective duties of men and women in what was called the “traditional family.” Since the industrial revolution, traditional meant the patriarchal family with men holding the prominent role of breadwinner in the family. Women stayed home to raise and nurture the children. This arrangement has been questioned, especially as vast numbers of women enter the workforce and improve their education. The position taken here is that although women have made strides in developing their autonomy, they frequently do not feel that they have an equal partnership in their intimate relationships. Men also feel a growing dissatisfaction with their positions in relation to women. The paper discusses the reasons why, despite changes in both society and attitudes of men and women towards their roles, there still exists inequality between the sexes in their lives together. Discussed, as well, is how this inequality negatively affects intimate relationships. Finally, the paper will suggest ways that men and women and society can remedy the situation and encourage greater fulfillment in love.

As for the past 30 years, Western society continues to grapple with changes in sex-role obligations (Slipp, 1996). While, social reformers challenged the patriarchal standard earlier (most notably the Suffragettes), it was not until the most recent feminist movement (jump-started in the 1960s by Betty Friedan’s landPublished by the New York University Psychoeducational Center, School Psychology Programs, Department of Applied Psychology, New York University. Address correspondence to Kimberly Rodman Aronson, 15 West 75th Street, Apt. PhB, New York, NY 10023. 109

50% of first marriages end in divorce (65% of second marriages) and close to three-quarters of these divorces are initiated by women (Napier. and married men. financial and emotional contributions. It is the premise of this paper that although women have made strides in developing their autonomy. 1997. Schwartz. Levant. M. They have higher rates of depression than single women. 1995.110 K. Finally. 1996). with the potential of becoming economically independent. No longer are “traditional family” roles of men and women taken for granted. and society can remedy the situation and enhance fulfillment in love will be suggested. Furthermore. 1990. 1994. ways that men. suggests that women are unhappy with the state of their intimate relationships. many women strive for a partnership with men more equal than they had before (Schwartz. 1995) Even though men are both pushed and willing to redefine their gender roles. 1996). Some reasons why will be discussed. they frequently do not feel that they share an equal partnership with men. Pepper Schwartz (1994) says that the empowered woman does not automatically accept a subordinate role to men. 1997) in this feminist era. 1997). the business world and societal mores have not adapted to a more egalitarian vision of balancing work and home life (Carter. as well as childrearing and homemaking (Carter. women. The Feminine Mystique) and availability of effective contraception that a profound impact was made on relationships between men and women. Women also want men to contribute emotionally. 1994). Statistical evidence (Napier. 1996. For example. Some have gained newfound feelings of autonomy and selfconfidence. 1994). They have entered the workplace in vast numbers. 1994). An egalitarian relationship is defined as both partners sharing power. there still exists inequality between the sexes in their closest times. In this capitalistic society. S. decision-making. Next. which interferes with long held patriarchal views. Levant. single men. 1990). Rodman Aronson and E. Applewhite. Access to employment and salary provides today’s woman with choices she did not have in the past. Many women have emancipated themselves from various constrictive cultural stereotypes. Both at work and in romantic relationships. they want men to share household and childrearing tasks (Schwartz. . married women constitute the most depressed segment of the population (Heyn. Because most women work (65% of women hold jobs with children under the age of 6). will be discussed how this inequality negatively affects romantic relationships and keeps couples from engaging in true intimacy. Despite the above-mentioned changes in society and attitudes about roles. No doubt this is partially because a shift of power is called for. Buchholz mark. and many are tired of the ascribed role of “ emotional gatekeeper” in their relationships (Schwartz. Heyn. further undermining traditional gender roles. there appears to be a lag in an overall acknowledgment that roles are changing (Carter.

Conversely. Men. 1996). considerable conflict arises over who does the shopping. 1997). Many view all relationships as based on the hierarchical power dynamics of dominance and submission and thus see equality as subordinance (Brooks & Silverstein. 1997). Why would men not be reluctant to become equal partners with women since losing patriarchal norms threatens their dominance (Slipp. they may feel insecure if wives state such needs and desires. When husbands fail to see the equality desired as an aspect of true partnership. Brooks. Performing household and childcare functions that were. status. with the wife being dominant (Slipp. since their childhood. GENDER IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT Men’s desire to maintain a position of power probably has preoedipal. & Nutt. represents a loss of self. Many have an increased interest in exploring feelings and improving communication skills. 1999). Some state testoterone relates to the urge to be aggressively in charge and dominant (Fisher. realize the joy of parenting never experienced by their fathers (Philpot. and childcare. and power. and distant (Slipp.Striving for Equality 111 WHY MEN HAVE DIFFICULTY GIVING UP MALE PRIVILEGE Men’s reactions to the sex-role revolution vary. Recent surveys indicate that women still do most homemaking activities even when employed (The American Woman. 1999). housekeeping. 1995). with greater participation in childcare. privileged. large numbers still think the change in women’s roles is an affront and react with angry withdrawal or hostility. or to be emotionally close to others. Fisher. as well as biological and evolutionary determinants (Slipp. Primitive anxieties about engulfment or abandonment may also be revived (Slipp.. Some support the Women’s Movement and welcome the opportunity to reexamine the patriarchal system. control. 1996. A group remain relatively apathetic to the abstract. considered feminine and inferior. ideological goals of both the women’s and the men’s movements (Brooks. Lusterman. These requests are perceived instead as bids to negatively reverse the power structure. 1996). 1990–1991). 1996). Others feel confused and victimized by feminist rhetoric (Philpot et al. Men are still driven by thousands of years of evolution and “remember” primitive impulses to defend. dominate. An unconscious fear of power reversal may occur because men in intimate relationships may reactivate their childhood images as young boys under their mother’s domination. 1996). Psychologists and anthropologists suggest as well that men are genetically programmed to be aggressive and dominant to ensure the survival of the species. Oedipal. share power. and suppress weak- . These men can find it difficult to give up control. Certain men have been raised in homes where the role model for male identification was a father who was powerful. In partnerships where men hold those ideas. 1995).

Rodman Aronson and E. are extremely inflexible and deviations by boys generate more severe sanctions then do those of girls (Pleck. 1998). pretty. even though biological evidence indicates that they are tougher and heartier than boy infants (Williams. Then concepts of what constitutes masculinity are often rigid and stereotyped. culture still emphasizes that woman are valued for appearances. a large segment of male adolescents do not have male adults to serve as role models. 1983). Emphasis on relationships in women’s lives and external achievement . Boys are expected to separate and learn independence. 1981) Girls are taught through fairy tales and modern media that if they look and act good. parents continued to restrict girls with ruffles and buy outfits in subdued colors. In contrast. and often dangerous. Even today. S. and alcohol-use are commonly seen as activities signifying virility (Gilmore. Men and women learn their respective roles through the process of socialization. The mother-daughter connection often provides an opportunity for the development of good relationship skills. rites of passage. like autonomy. a male figure—the prince— will rescue them from taking care of themselves. but they are not as beneficial in today’s world. They do this through vigorous. and frequently based on media presentation. sports. GENDER SOCIALIZATION Current psychological theories on gender-role socialization shed further light on why it is so difficult for couples to change status in intimate relationships (Philpot et al. Boy babies are most likely to be handled roughly and played with aggressively. sexual activity. Buchholz ness. After the era when both boy and girl babies were clothed in dresses. risk-taking. 1999). As dating behaviors increase.. sons were recently found to be particular benefactors of active fathering (Williams & Radin. which begins in infancy and continues throughout adulthood. 1997). M. sweet. it may create disadvantages for girls and women in arenas demanding independence and self-esteem. Although also socialized today to contemplate and pursue career interests. girls are recommended to pay attention to appearance to gain social popularity. adolescent boys struggle to achieve status and prove their manhood. 1987). 1990). Research by Gilligan (1982) and Chodorow (1978) illustrate that girls compared to boys are both kept closer to their mothers and more likely to be protected by parents. adults play with and dress girl and boy babies differently (Huston. These traits may have been useful in earlier hostile environments. Witness magazine articles and the ever-rising sales of Barbie dolls! Gender differences are strongly accentuated in adolescence. especially in close relationships (Rock & Duncan. and basically passive. Masculine role mandates. Today.112 K. Fighting. Paradoxically. In contrast. Girl babies are usually treated gently. especially pink.

1978). Individual perceptions create major misunderstandings and miscommunications as well as severe disappointment from the failure of each gender to meet the other’s expectations (Tannen. Miller. and different expectations for relationships. . however. different personality characteristics. different problem-solving techniques. 1975) as steps taken to achieve the greatest degree of individuation and autonomy from early attachment figures. often in conflict with one another. young men take with them the competitive view of life learned as children. Kaplan. the male model of independence and differentiation represented wellness and did not require psychological help or intervention. for many young men. Males are expected to put an extraordinary amount of time into selecting a career to establish their identity (Levinson.Striving for Equality 113 in men’s lives grows with adulthood. 1981). Most men are conditioned to the role of “good provider” (Bernard. men and women inhabit two separate cultures. Philpot et al. Within this concept of mental health. most in need of therapeutic assistance. & Surrey. As they enter the adult world. therefore. the effect of gender socialization is to develop men too concerned about “autonomy” and women overly reliant on “connection. pursue a career. Problems that clients bring to couple’s therapy are frequently rooted in disparate experiences of gender socialization. 1992). Gray. they continue to be judged primarily by looks and success in mating (Wolf. Stiver. career success rises above all else. different styles of communication. and raise a family simultaneously. 1990. different perspectives on sexuality.” Of course. in which their entirety becomes equated with the amount of money they make.” Psychological theories of development in this culture overemphasized the role of autonomy in human development. (1997) state the following: “Sex-role messages received throughout a lifetime result in the genders having different values. THE EFFECTS OF GENDER SOCIALIZATION Due to gender socialization. 1990). 1981). (Jordan. but rigid gender-role socialization does lead men and women to emphasize and favor separate aspects of experience. Recent “self-in-relation” models of development maintain. Thus. Women were perceived as overly dependent and emotional. AUTONOMY AND CONNECTION In large measure. Despite the fact that women are expected to obtain an education. many are strongly socialized to prioritize marriage and family first (Russianoff. Maturity was viewed in the mid20th century (Mahler. and. there is much overlap between the sexes. Although more women than before are encouraged to develop independence.

” We may well have reached the point in which pure masculinity or femininity are considered pathological (p. . Emphasizing the development of a strong sense of self is beneficial. needs. a woman’s inclination to put so much importance in connections can push others away or put the burden of relationship maintenance on their shoulders. however.. men (or women) can appear selfish. whereas the non-dominant one will be overly sensitive to the affect. and behavior of the dominant partner to the detriment of personal needs and growth.114 K. S. When men emphasize “autonomy” to such a degree that they are afraid to “connect. characteristics of individuals have also changed. Of course. 1978). the gender issues that came into therapy involved people who did not live up completely to their gender stereotype.” Difficulties occur when one gender is expected and trained to be dominant and one to be submissive (Hare-Musten. narcissistic. 1997). 1997). A problem arises when the need for autonomy and connection are exaggerated in a gendered stereotypical manner or seen as mutually exclusive in intimate relationships (Buchholz. Buchholz 1991) a view of development not in the context of autonomy. men and women equally need to feel both connected to others and able to function autonomously. Today. Pittman (1985) described “the role of femininity as teaching women to give power to men to act in their behalf. Alternately. and oblivious of other people’s needs (Philpot et al.” One result of the women’s movement is the rejection of the subservient role by many women who desire a committed relationship with men. Women sometimes become “selfless” in efforts to keep those they are involved with happy. 26). A woman’s tendency in heterosexual relationships to subsume personal needs to wishes of husband and family has not led to better mental health for women (McGrath. Frank Pittman (1985) noted the following changes: Not too long ago. (1997) note the following: “The dominant one will tend to be egocentric and controlling. Because equality would be impossible with a stereotypical man who expects his wife to defer to him. current relational theories acknowledge that a need for connection represents strength in the quest for psychological health.” while men who live up to the traditional masculine ideals and are afraid to move beyond them might be called “workaholic” or “obsessive compulsive” or even “psychopathic. Rodman Aronson and E. but unless balanced by an acknowledgment of one’s requisite for closeness. women who are totally and inflexibly feminine are called “passive dependent” or “hysterical. Philpot et al. While a woman’s need for connection was traditionally viewed as a childlike dependency and overemotionality.” both partners suffer from a lack of intimacy. M. 1992) or anyone’s (see Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman).

traditional socialization messages exert a cost on mental health. Hare-Mustin (1983) writes the following: “The demands of traditional sex roles lead to more emotional problems for women then men. Since they cannot detect their emotions. Prevalent problems associated with an unyielding adherence to male sex-role stereotypes include skill deficits in adult men’s ability to identify. how can they sense and respond to other people’s feelings? Thus. Sheinberg. 1995). Traditionally. “Some of that violence gets directed at other men. but most of it gets directed at women. 1995) that they may be unsure even if they are reacting emotionally. express. unfeeling. to whom men unconsciously look to minister to their needs and who they are quick to punish when things don’t go their way” (Levant. or pain. passivity. may completely separate . Certain aspects of women’s sex roles may influence the development of mental illness. 1995). behaving to satisfy a male partner over oneself. and who suppress or deny tender emotions. The one emotion males typically are allowed to express is anger. men from earliest childhood learn to be independent. learned helplessness. They assume that it is their partner’s job to cater to them. and other directedness. and gender socialization plays a major role in the incidence and perpetuation of domestic violence.” Women raised to please men and to accommodate the wishes of others may become too empathic—“too good” and too willing to lose a sense of their own needs and entitlements. Violence against women is seen by some (Goldner. and goal-oriented. without reciprocation. “Many of the emotions they’re not allowed to express get transformed into anger— which too easily turns into rage and too often spills out as violence” (Levant. Penn. and they can feel obligated to preserve a bond even of it exacts a terrible personal cost. emotionally unexpressive. 1990) as a result of the power imbalance between men and women in a patriarchal society. exaggerated femininity. Having learned in childhood that to be masculine means to separate (from mother/women). many men also find intimacy threatening. The result is that by adulthood many men are so emotionally numb (Levant. women measure their self-worth through the success or failure of their relationships. warmth. and describe their feelings. Levant adds. such as holding in negative feelings.Striving for Equality 115 MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH GENDER SOCIALIZATION As might be expected. and nonrelational. in which they expect caretaking while they keep their need for dependency unconscious. some men fall into a position of “defensive autonomy” (Levant. sadness. 1995). Men who deeply fear intimacy. They may defend themselves against emotional closeness by building defenses that seem narcissistic. More so than their male counterparts. particularly those of caring. & Walker.

p. They are used as a defense against experiencing dependency. Buchholz (1997) states that sometimes violence in a relationship occurs because the abuser is unable to self-regulate: “The abuser really wants self-control. a man’s individuation is limited if he suppresses the need for connection.116 K. fear.. 1990). 265). and aspirations or attempts by women for independence are aberrations. or exaggerated patriarchal norms prevailed. Many victims also come from families with an excessively patriarchal structure (Goldner. M.” (Buchholz. Buchholz sex from intimacy and view women primarily as sex objects. A woman cannot become individuated if she suppresses the need for autonomous striving. male violence towards women can germinate from patriarchal ideals. the couple often accepts that men be permitted to dominate. Both women and men need connection to others. This theory is compatible with others that depict violence as a defensive measure used to deflect feelings that seem unmanly. 1990). many problems that bring couples to counseling are products of rigid socialization.. DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GENDER-ROLE SOCIALIZATION As stated. 1997. S. Penn. domination is believed to be the way to restore an inner control. searching not for a relationship but for an undemanding supporter and even confidant. they undermine the woman’s self-esteem and make her more manageable. The reality is that men and women have the capacity to adopt all human values and attributes. & Walker. When paired. abuse. Both verbal and physical abuse are often based on a man’s need to control and subordinate.. For example. Sheinberg. and pain are unacceptable emotions that do not fit traditional gender premises about masculinity (Goldner et al. Simultaneously. whether those values have been socially defined as masculine or feminine. In the case of abusing another. Some men who batter women come from dysfunctional families in which violence. They both need to feel that they have a measure of control over their lives . A man who is not emotionally skilled or “emotionally intelligent” (Levant. sadness. Abusers are actually caught in feelings of helplessness. and likewise. CHALLENGING TRADITIONAL GENDER STEREOTYPES Neither men nor women can work at self-development if they live their lives in accordance with rigid gender-role socialization. Rodman Aronson and E. 1995) will have problems creating and sustaining deep relationships with everyone in their lives. Dependency.

“Women cut back at work. The more women learn to translate their personal needs into political action. While some couples are able to maintain their equality in a traditional breadwinner-homemaker arrangement and some women feel a gain of freedom in stopping work. and divorce.” Partly because of economics and partly because of the women’s movement. Because society is not bending to support couples’ changing needs. alienation. 1996). If society valued the day-to-day workings of family life. and money means work and time away from home and mate. rules the roost. If men increase their . the more public policy will reflect family values that support children and their parents (Carter. but has pressured men to keep doing only one.Striving for Equality 117 and a sense of independent functioning. if they can manage them both. Carter (1996) believes that many couples backslide into traditional sex roles as soon as their children are born. the majority of women are now in the workplace. HOW MEN AND WOMEN CAN CHANGE TO PROMOTE EQUALITY Everyone suffers to the extent that their lives are limited by rigid gender roles. Our frenetic society overvalues money. it is difficult to maintain the idea of equality in a relationship if the man supports the woman. families are paying a high price in overwork. or play superwomen because they are automatically the ones in charge of children.” Social policies and businesses do not offer paid leave with the birth of a child or a medical emergency. Meanwhile. Couples must make a conscious effort to reject the money-equals-power equation or earnings will be inseparable from power. Childcare is expensive and often of uneven quality. Because our society values earnings over homemaking. both sexes must be able to call upon attributes that have been stereotypically associated with the other gender (Philpot et al. quit. 1996). There are limited afterschool programs and no coverage on school holidays. For a fulfilling life. but they also have a desire to safely express their vulnerabilities and fears. Carter (1996) believes that “our society has allowed women to do two jobs. Men and women want to feel competent and empowered. many relationships in our capitalistic society are governed by the adage “whoever makes the money. 1997).. men toil even more to be a good provider” (Carter. it would be easier to get men involved and to obtain legislation that supports family needs. HOW SOCIETY CONTRIBUTES TO MAINTAINING INEQUALITY BETWEEN THE SEXES A look at the larger system shows how our society and workplaces do not allow marriages to be equal.

without negative effects on their gender identity. Rodman Aronson and E. Anthropology shows paternal care as a preprogrammed variable. and friendlier place. 1995). and families in which both adults work are the rule. inevitably intimacy develops. Barnett and Marshall found that a man most satisfied in his role as a father was more likely to be in good physical health. the more available he will be to his wife and children. When men allow themselves and are allowed to share the emotional burdens of a relationship. but were also interested in work activities. The “emotionally intelligent” man is aware of the way that both sexes are impaired by traditional gender role training and strives not to impose these rules on his children.118 K. both fathers and mothers remained involved in child rearing. Sociologists Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein (1983) found that lesbian couples were less likely to use money to dominate and often “make a conscious effort to keep their relationships free of any form of domination. all children in the study enjoyed nurturing babies. “partners who feel they have equal control over how money is spent have more tranquil relationships” (1983). Since the traditional nuclear family is now a minority in the U. He believes that men can no longer afford to leave the bulk of nurturing the relationship to women. Buchholz willingness to share power with their partners. more cooperative. relationships could benefit from including in masculinity such traits as nurturing. In a longitudinal study by Kyle Pruett at Yale Child Study Center (Pruett.S. This especially moves male gender roles into a less rigid. Then they will become “emotionally intelligent men” (Levant. 1989). Marshall. 1995). This is adaptive to modern life as it is evolving. parents need to share household and childrearing responsiblities. M. a more equal relationship is possible. and emotional sharing. In another study (1991) Barnett. This study found that girls and boys raised this way appeared to have a complete personality development.. Being opened to emotions paves the way to receiving the kind of emotional support that comes from friendship. He will encourage equally his daughter’s self-sufficiency and his son’s nurturing capabilities (Levant. In a 1991 study. caretaking. Levant (1995) believes that men want intimacy and connection as much as women do.” (Blumstein & Schwartz. S. They too need to develop emotional skills required to foster closeness and add to their share in relationships. CHANGES MEN NEED TO MAKE Besides being willing to share power over childcare as well as money with partners. 1983). especially if it derives from something as impersonal as money. but they have not learned how to foster those qualities as well. Levant also writes that as a man frees himself from the traditional belief that he must sacrifice himself to his job (which often leads to workaholism). The same sociologists found that among all couples. At 10 years of age. and both had an opportunity for self-fulfillment in their careers. and Pleck found that satisfaction with both .

229). between solid connections to significant others and self-focused achievement. If women accepted a sharing of control. 1993). the situation would be open to change. Levant reports other studies which find that “a man’s physical and mental well-being is significantly affected by the quality of his family relationships. Men benefit from multiple role involvement by increasing their emotional involvement and bonding with their children. enhancing their economic independence. The BUPP study also found that “successful fathering and marital satisfaction were most related to maintaining a balance between affiliation and autonomy—that is. Barnett et al. Women are expected. and that tradition means two parents and thus two people responsible for raising children. and lower levels of psychological distress. These findings stand in stark contrast to a more traditional view that pits autonomy as opposite to affiliation” (Betcher & Pollack. When men were able to value and identify with what women do in their nurturing roles. They take the responsibility to emotionally maintain the relationship and even help men perpetuate the myth of masculine autonomy by not acknowledging the degree to which their mate is emotionally dependent. however. Although they struggle to connect with husbands and support marriage without losing themselves in the process.Striving for Equality 119 the role of father and husband were predictors of male psychological wellbeing. having better overall health. unfor- . some norms have shifted: Now men are more often expected to participate in childrearing (Stacey. The Boston University Pregnancy and Parenthood Project (Grossman. which is significantly affected in turn by his capacity for intimacy: his ability to experience and express his feelings and needs and to be sensitive and responsive to other people’s feelings and needs” (Levant. CHANGES WOMEN NEED TO MAKE Many women without realization still enter marriage accepting the traditional wife and mothering role. 1995. nevertheless. and having better physical and mental health. 1990) Multiple role involvement benefits both men and women (Barnett & Baruch. 1993). 1980) found that men often learned good parenting skills from their wives with whom they came to identify. 1992). 1987. some of the unconscious fears about being dependent on women or being like women were diminished (Betcher & Pollack.. Assuming men’s inability to deal with closeness means that a woman does not expect her husband to be as connected to the children as she is. more often then men. This learning increased men’s empathy for women’s nurturing capabilities and also helped to undo much of the “trauma” that caused men initially to create distance from women. Inequity remains. p. to accommodate and adapt to their husbands and families. Women benefit by increasing their self-esteem.

In the same poll by New York Magazine. editor Stephanie Von Hirschberg reported that “more than half of women in bad marriages mourn a lost sense of self. RAISING BOYS AND GIRLS Research clearly shows that differences between the sexes exist. are by far the happiest. 1985. When it comes to boys. not what is good in wives” (Heyn. There’s a reluctance to encourage caring and sensitivity. It means learning and daring to express feelings both loving and murderous” (Heyn. for many women marriage becomes oppressive.000 married readers in 1995.’” They are more likely to say. 1991). 1997). They end up sacrificing so much of their identity to become “an idealized version of the perfect wife” (Heyn. Tannen. defined as both spouses in work full-time with more or less equal sharing of domestic chores and childcare. Gilligan. This means not thinking this is selfish or “bitchy” behavior. 1997). and lacking in empathy. Partners need to learn how to negotiate so that they each get enough of what they need to hold on to their identities. whether they are due to socialization. When New Woman Magazine polled 4. “Many parents are still raising boys to be tough. it seems that many parents are less ready to make appropriate changes in their child-rearing philosophy. Parents . S. it was found that women in egalitarian marriages. Endless self-sacrifice does not lead to love. 1996). “They are far likelier to encourage them to take work seriously. to aspire to a profession that interests them. to be financially and psychologically independent. without blame and criticism. many parents have made dramatic changes in the way they raise girls. 1982. Rodman Aronson and E. to ask for more is what develops a relationship and a mature marriage of real mutuality. 1997) “Instead of giving in to their husband’s desires as a matter of course. This “loss of self” often leads to depression for women in marriage and forestalls any kind of honest relationship between two authentic individuals. M. Paradoxically. a large porportion of these women said ‘not being who I really am.120 K. dominant. Buchholz tunately.” Von Hirschberg also reported that “When asked to pick the worst thing about their marriages. they ‘play the role of the perfect wife’ than women in happy marriages. or expecting husbands to magically intuit their desires. wives need to articulate what they want. 1990). and not to view themselves solely as future wives and mothers” (Miedzian. or both (Fausto-Sterling. Women need to redefine goodness to mean “what is good for wives. There is also a great deal of overlap. biology. Men must be willing to open themselves up to share power and the women must insist on being heard and relinquishing some control of children (Carter. with a common ground for understanding and acceptance. In keeping with this. A happy relationship is a mutual connection. not a one-way benefaction.

marriages see a shift. Miedzian further asserts that there’s more tolerance of aggression in boys (whereas there should be less) because males are inherently more aggressive. In this view. That’s the source of a lot of parental decisions. like not letting boys play with dolls unless they’re violent action figures “ (Miedzian. but we tend to do the exact opposite” (Miedzian. Underlying it all is the fear of homosexuality. The partnerships that we choose serve a purpose to evolve our souls. The ultimate goal is to have children of both sexes experience the gamut of options for all positive qualities. In order to encourage empathy in their sons. therefore. strength. it is thought by some that if we continue to seek “external power” over other humans and the environment. While the past several centuries have been dominated by patriarchy and a desire to control the environment through technological advancement and scientific achievements. “I don’t think we want girls to become boys or boys to become girls. Zukav. 1984. and our challenge is to become more conscious of the meaning our relationships hold for us. the couple commit to mutual spiritual growth rather than to physical survival or security and comfort (Zukav. crucial that girls acquire similar characteristics—just as boys must cultivate such “feminine” virtues as kindness and sensitivity. It is. Spiritual psychology can be incorporated into marital therapy by helping a couple to look at the spiritual forces that brought them together. Miedzian suggests that parents start by confronting their own double standards. self-reliance. 1991). From a spiritual perspective we are “souls” as well as “personalities. Redfield.” and we are here on earth in order to evolve our souls (Rabbi Berg. 1989. The unequal partnerships that existed under patriarchy are moving towards a more spiritually attuned partnership between equals. we will place ourselves at risk of destroying each other and the earth (Zukav. 1993). 1989). couple’s therapy will assist each partner to become .Striving for Equality 121 are afraid those qualities will make boys soft. they should exclaim “what a nice daddy you’ll make!” The traits our culture encourages in boys—independence. They can encourage their sons to be nurturing in the same way they exclaim to their daughters when they’re playing with a doll. “what a nice mommy you are!” If parents see their son playing with a doll in a similarly nurturing way. and competitiveness—are those most linked to success in our society. 1991). 1989) Similarly. In a spiritual partnership. “We need to tame our boys and embolden our girls. 1989). IMPLICATIONS FOR MARITAL THERAPY Some writers predict that with the coming of the new millennium people all over the world may become more spiritually attuned (Zukav. 1991). We want both to become full human beings” (Miedzian.

Included in the goals of spiritual/marital therapy are to help couples become aware of why they were brought together. they desire men to acquire more of the emotional skills and nurturing qualities that help relationships flourish and many men are responding favorably. The therapist helps the couple realize that the inflexibility of gender roles can stifle emotional growth and undermine an equal partnership. According to spiritual believers. and how they can create a more conscious relationship. they must continue to insist on these outer changes as well. Balance in work and family life cannot flourish. 1996). Men and women today need to learn to satisfy their dual needs for connection and autonomy in order to achieve more balance and flexibility in their complicated lives and relationships. Educated to the outmoded gender messages they have been socialized with. CONCLUSION Gender inequality in relationships between men and women still exists in this society. what lessons they need to learn. 1984). .. Even though men are both pushed and willing to redefine their gender roles and women are provided with new and different opportunities. unless social policies and businesses provide support for families and children. Buchholz more conscious of themselves as individuals and the reasons they were brought together to become a couple. Rodman Aronson and E. cooperation and competition. there are no accidents in the world and one forms partnerships with particular people in order to learn lessons in this lifetime (Rabbi Berg. flexible. Western societies are moving in the direction of establishing more egalitarian relationships between the sexes. control and nurturance. the sexes will begin to increase the potential for a harmonious existence. As women become more independent and bring their unique skills and strengths into the market place. Gender-sensitive psychotherapies can also help men and women become more empathic toward one another and realize that they both can be negatively affected by rigid gender socialization. however. S. No doubt this is partially because a shift of power is called for which interferes with long-held visions. Nevertheless. because women in large numbers are insisting upon it and men are beginning to enjoy expanded roles within families. By becoming more open to the masculine and the feminine within themselves and each other. 1997). Just as individuals push for the inner change. each may come to adopt qualities such as affiliation and autonomy. For gender-sensitivity therapy to be effective. and empathic attitude toward one another. M.122 K. clients must be encouraged to adopt a nonblaming. and reason and emotion (Philpot et al. there appears to be lag in overall acknowledgment that roles are changing (Carter.

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