Editor’s Note – This is a guest post on the nature of gender roles in a relationship from Shaheera at The Vantage Journey. As someone who has studied sexuality, I see a lot of truth in these discussions about masculinity and femininity. However, I’m guessing there are some diverging opinions, so be sure to share in the comments!
Since the beginning of time, relationships have been seen to consist of two properties, Feminine and Masculine.
What Are Gender Roles In A Relationship?
It’s hard to pinpoint just exactly what each role entails but generally, when we look at history and the effects of hormones (Estrogen linked to Feminine and Testosterone linked to Masculine), it’s quite easy to detect.
Masculine roles are usually strong, aggressive and more logical or analytical. Feminine roles, on the other hand, are generally more sensitive, nurturing and intuitive.
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Both gender roles in a relationship need to be present for a healthy relationship to flourish in order to balance things out. Now, note the terms ‘healthy relationship’ and ‘gender roles’.
Sure, there are relationships that can survive with only one gender role present. However, they might not last long and could be interspersed with a lot of emotionally charged events. Though some might think of this as a good thing, in the long run, it might prove to be too mentally and emotionally exhausting.
Healthy relationships do not suck the life out of you. They help you grow and be better, not burn you out every time you’re with your partner.
Why can’t we both carry the same gender role? Why can’t we both be aggressive or sensitive?
Just think about it. If an argument broke out between a couple and both of them were to be aggressive, would you think things would settle down fast? It takes one person to be calm and passive (at least until things calm down) in order for the situation to unfurl itself and become less tense. Only then can they take the time to solve their problems maturely.
Sometimes Men are from Venus and Women are from Mars
‘Gender roles’ are also not restricted to the gender itself.
We don’t strictly define women as being feminine or men as being masculine. We have seen many wonderful men playing feminine roles in a relationship, whether they’re straight or gay. Which leads us to another point, two people in a same-sex relationship could still be fulfilling both gender roles without necessarily realizing it. After all, you don’t need to be a man to be dominant or aggressive, right?
Therefore, we’re not going to emphasize the genders themselves. What we want to focus on are the roles and how much we need both sides of the coin in order to make a relationship work.
It doesn’t matter which gender plays which role, because people and relationships are diverse, as long as both roles are present in a relationship at the same time.
Opposites Attract: How Different Roles In Relationships Interact With Each Other
1. During Arguments
When there are two people living in close quarters and sharing everything with each other, there’s bound to be some misunderstandings and quips along the way. There are absolutely NO couples out there who have never once fought or argued with each other. Therefore, it’s safe to say that arguments are a part of relationships, whether we like them or not.
Like the example we mentioned above, having both gender roles present allows arguments to resolve easily. Another example is that when the feminine trait of being sensitive drives an argument, the other person can’t be sensitive, too. Imagine if both parties can’t stop crying and feeling hurt about what the other person has to say. The argument would be endless! The other person has to be more stable so that he/she can calm the sensitive person down.
Once the situation has been resolved, the couple would have to reevaluate what caused the dispute in the first place. When both gender roles are present, problems can be tackled from many different directions due to the variety of traits present in the couple. There’s logic and intuition, sensitivity and tact. This way, there will more than one option to solve the problem.
Understanding your partner and how each gender role works will help you prevent arguments from happening in the future. You already know which traits you possess that can balance out your partner’s, so use it to your advantage.
2. It Helps To Spice Things Up
Besides dealing with arguments, a relationship strives on the passion and love between both individuals. Having two different gender roles present will allow things to be unpredictable occasionally.
If both people behave the same way, sparks will slowly start to fizzle out because they know what the other person has to say or will do before it even happens. It’s kind of like dating yourself, which of course will bore you eventually, or else we’d all still be single now. Opposite traits will definitely spice things up and ignite that passion.
3. Teamwork Building
Opposite gender roles will also make the couple a great team. Each person will bring a different perspective to the table and the combination of these outlooks will make them formidable. Couple this with their ability to resolve, solve and prevent arguments, and they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.
Besides that, in times of need, opposite gender roles will be there to balance each other out. If one of them has their logic stump them in dire conditions, the other might rely on their intuition to help find a solution.
Gender Roles and Fluidity
As explained above, these roles are not restricted to the gender itself, as not all men fulfill masculine roles and not all women fulfill feminine roles. Besides that, these roles are also not restricted by time or responsibilities. Just because you’re deemed as the ‘masculine’ one, it doesn’t mean you have to be masculine or that you have to do masculine tasks all the time.
Gender roles are meant to be fluid in a relationship. They should be able to evolve throughout the relationship and they may switch between both parties at any given time. The key here is tolerance and a mutual desire to sustain and work for the relationship.
Making Fluidity Work
1. Being Observant
In order to make full use of the fluidity of gender roles, we have to be very observant with the changes in our partner. It’s important to note when they might change their behavior, what behavior they are exhibiting and how long this phase usually lasts.
2. Knowledge and Research
Besides that, we also have to do our own research on the kind of traits that complement our partner’s change in behavior. Now, we shouldn’t find the exact negative opposite of our partner’s characteristic, such as using insensitivity to counter sensitivity. What we need to do is figure out positive traits to help balance out our partner’s change.
So perhaps instead of being insensitive, we could use our logic and lai- back attitude. It takes a little digging around and experimenting to find out what really works with our partner so it’s best to put in more effort for it.
3. Quick to Act
Once we’ve deciphered what traits need to be present to balance things out, we have to be quick to act, especially if we know that this change in behavior is going to cause rifts in the relationship. We have to instantly switch our roles if we want to make the relationship work, at least for the time being.
If switching gender roles is going to be a long term thing and one party is not comfortable with it, then the couple has to discuss what they can do and where they can take turns to hold different roles. It will be very tiring to hold a gender role you’re not used to having for long periods of time. Therefore, it’s best to work out what makes both of you comfortable and perhaps decide when you’re able to switch roles.
For Lovers Only
The tips and opinions provided above are solely meant for romantic relationships. Gender roles are not as important in platonic friendships because we can have many different friends that provide both gender roles that we seek at different times. Lovers, however, can’t be changed (unless you’re in an open relationship), thus the fluidity is important. Gender roles are also not as apparent in parent-child relationships.
Let’s try a little experiment and make a list of what qualities we and our partners possess. From there, segregate them into masculine and feminine roles.
Chances are both people might have both gender roles present, although one might be more prevalent than the other. Then, try to figure out how we can complement each other with traits from opposite gender roles when a situation arises. Practice it when you can and have fun!
Shaheera is one half of the team behind The Vantage Journey. She’s the blog’s co-writer and Tariq’s personal cheerleader.
They’re striving to create a better version of themselves and wish to share their journey with their readers through their blog, The Vantage Journey. They’re not experts but they have enough challenges thrown at them to allow for psychological experiments and self help exercises. They hope that their experience can help other people cope and improve their lives, too.
They plan on taking their passion to the next level in the future, with books and a coaching program in the pipeline, which will include various disciplines from relationships to health. Find out more about them here:
“Masculine roles are usually strong, aggressive and more logical or analytical. Feminine roles, on the other hand, are generally more sensitive, nurturing and intuitive.”
People would use these words to describe both my husband and I.
I believe that a truly mature evolved person displays all of those characteristics and achieves balance in their own personality.
The feminine/masculine attribution of personality hurts both men and women in this society. Boys and girls are teased for not being typical. And neither is expected to fulfill their full potential.
I am disappointed in this column continuing to perpetuate the stereotypes rather than asking each person to work on expanding the possibility of their own personality.
Are you sure you read the whole article, Susan? The author says “We don’t strictly define women as being feminine or men as being masculine,” and “We have seen many wonderful men playing feminine roles in a relationship.” The author is not attributing anything to anyone. The article doesn’t even tell men to be masculine or women to be feminine.
I’m not saying I agree with the article, only that this article decidedly DOES NOT perpetuate stereotypes in any way. It’s useful to read to the end before commenting.
Yes. I read to the end. She talks about balance, etc. and says the feminine traits could be in the male partner and masculine traits in the female partner or in a same sex partnership.
But I still think the author is attributing traits to gender roles when it is not needed to make her point. There is no need to call the traits masculine or feminine.
I’m a little confused when the author talks about the gender roles being “fluid” and I’m not sure how I would “switch” aspects of my core personality when I am having an argument. In fact, I don’t even think that being logical, analytical or intuitive should even be considered “gender” roles at all. They seem to be more like personality traits than anything else, which have nothing to do with hormones or gender. I consider myself to be extremely feminine, but I am definitely more logical and analytical than my husband. In my opinion, for a relationship to work, both people’s strengths need to be able to complement the other’s weaknesses, but I think chalking these differences up to gender is oversimplifying things to the point of being inaccurate.
I totally agree with the authors of this article.
I do not see the generalisations as either simple of inaccurate. I think we would agree that generally men are physically stronger than women, however there are some women that are much more powerful and strong them a lot of men. Does that make the generalisation wrong, simplistic or inaccurate? I think not. They are really the exceptions and not the rule.
When I was growing up my parents seem to have switched roles. My mum was the disciplinarian extraordinaire while my dad was the go-to soft person when we want to get away with something. Maybe this was because my father was away from home for most of the time.
Another point the authors could have made is that roles can be activated and deactivated based on circumstances. E.g. Men are generally seen as aggressors and protectors, however if her child is threatened you will see a very aggressive and protective side of a mother that can match, maybe even out match, the aggression of most men. The circumstance activated a part of them that is not their normal nature.
Hilton’s comment shows how confusing it is to use the words “masculine” and “feminine” to describe traits and behaviors.
Hilton disagrees with Carolyn, previous commenter, that the generalizations are neither “simple” or “inaccurate” and considering the context of Carolyn’s response (identifying logical, analytical, intuitive as gender roles) Hilton then makes a case that “strength” is a “masculine gender role” because “we would agree that generally men are physically stronger than women”. It is within that context that Hilton says he or she agrees with the author. However, the author is NOT making a claim that masculine and feminine gender roles (their word) are mutually exclusive of men and women, respectively.
Hilton continues by saying that while men are “aggressors” and “protectors”, mothers “can match, maybe even out match, the aggression of most men.” But immediately qualifies that statement by claiming that to protect her child in a fierce manner is not part of a mother’s “normal nature.” Huh?
Not only does that comment show how confusing using masculine and feminine to describe traits or behaviors, but the title of the article also reveals the problem with using this terminology: “(Wo)Man Up! Feminine and Masculine Roles in a Relationship”. The implication: if a woman protects or is logical or analytical she is “manning up” which is a good thing, right? If a man is intuitive, sensitive, or nurturing with his children or patients, therefore, “womanning up” is that a good thing and culturally acceptable? Probably not.
Put that way, I do agree that words can be confusing
Comprehensive enough. Team work is important, privacy is crucial too.
Interesting! Tell me more.
International couples do and understand the opposite gender roles indeed.
That is why most of them do not divorce each other.