Are feminist marriages more satisfying?

This article in the Times suggests that the answer is yes.

A lasting marriage does not always signal a happy marriage. Plenty of miserable couples have stayed together for children, religion or other practical reasons.

But for many couples, it’s just not enough to stay together. They want a relationship that is meaningful and satisfying. In short, they want a sustainable marriage.

“The things that make a marriage last have more to do with communication skills, mental health, social support, stress — those are the things that allow it to last or not,” says Arthur Aron, a psychology professor who directs the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. “But those things don’t necessarily make it meaningful or enjoyable or sustaining to the individual.”

The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?

Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.

Take note, in-defense-of-marriage-ers: Traditional marriage was both not great for women and also not the most happy-making. Everyone else: Feminism says you’re welcome.

Author: has written 5251 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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11 Responses

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin January 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm |

    For me, personally, and I can only speak for me here–I am going to resist using relationship cliches. Yes, relationships ARE a lot of work, but when you’ve found the right person, working things out is a matter of course. If two people love each other and are a good fit, in my experience, both parties will want to strengthen the bond they have.

    We have as long as we have. I am a big believer in the whole “’till death do we part” idea, particularly because it’s very romantic, but I do know that nothing’s set in stone, either. We try not to think too much in the future and try to enjoy what we have, day by day.

  2. Miss S
    Miss S January 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |

    What makes a marriage traditional?

    I’ve seen happy marriages that seemed “traditional” and unhappy marriages that didn’t, and everything in between. I think it’s important to decide who you are and what kind of person you want/need. It’s also important to know what you dont want.

    I want to get married one day, and I hope I meet a man like my grandfather or step-father. My step-father is hardworking, caring, loving, respectful, and generous with not only my mom, but my sisters and I as well. Contrast that with my past step-father, who was childish, not hardworking, not loving, not respectful, and dishonest. Seeing the difference between the two makes it easy for me to see what kind of marriage/partner I need.

  3. Miss S
    Miss S January 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    To second Kevin, relationships are alot of work, but I also feel like that statement can be read the wrong way. I’ll admit that I’ve used it to justify unhealthy relationships. “Work” doesn’t mean what I used to think it meant.

  4. lpl
    lpl January 3, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

    …of course, you could attribute the aspects of good marriages described in the article to a number of other belief systems as well.

  5. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz January 3, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

    Wait, people who develop their own interests and take time for self-care are more satisfied in their relationships? Huh. I never saw that coming.

  6. james
    james January 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm |

    I just find this article totally depressing. The idea seems to be treat other people as a tool for your own self expression and personal growth; and if they are not longer a means to that end you should dump them and move on. It just seems like you’re only good until you have career problems, or mental health issues, or fall ill, at which point you’ll be abandoned. It seems like a vile way to treat people.

    I can see how it would be attractive when you’re young to look for someone who makes your life more interesting, or helps you grow in your career. But I think traditional view makes a lot of sense – the world is a spectacularly cruel place and you can easily be laid low by misfortune, so you should look for someone who will provide you with some support and stability when you are at your weakest. Not someone who’s looking for fun and out for themselves.

  7. Serena
    Serena January 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm |

    Big shock – a relationship where the partners act like equals and negotiate who plays what role in the relationship = everyone is happier.

  8. Shannon Drury
    Shannon Drury January 4, 2011 at 8:54 am |

    I’m a hetero feminist woman married to a hetero feminist man. On paper, we look like a “traditional” pair, as he earns our family’s living while I tend to our two kiddos.

    But thanks to feminism, we understand that home-based caregiving, while unpaid, is a job like any other. My at-home parent status does not give my husband license to sit on the couch after work while I scrub myself silly. The household grunt work is still everyone’s responsibility, just as it would be if I worked outside the home. Feminism upends “traditional” expectations, to everyone’s benefit: my kids have a close and loving relationship with their dad, who puts in quality time AND quantity time with them; my time building a freelance writing career is not seen as a detriment to our family; our foundation of mutual trust and respect get us through the times in our relationship that are shitty.

    FEMINISM is our secret! Pass it on!

  9. Eric
    Eric January 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    Feminism has provided some benefits to me as a man that I will make part of my marriage.

    First I will not wear a wedding ring. I refuse to be labeled as someone’s property. I refuse to wear any kind of jewelry, tattoo or other outward symbol that I belong to another person, nor do I expect her to. She can, of course, wear whatever she wants but I’m not buying any engagement or wedding rings.

    Second, she can keep her name (and thereby identity) and any children will get their own names rather than be forced to accept hers or mine.

    Fourth, I will keep my existing investment properties and other investments in my name only (so can she) and we will maintain separate bank accounts but contribute equally for any shared expenses.

    Fifth, if children come along, she will continue to work and we will each take off the same amount of time from work. I feel that the concept of equality, rejection of ownership, independence are all positives for a relationship.

  10. Miss S
    Miss S January 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm |

    This is why I wanted to know what is considered ‘traditional.’
    My grandmother was a stay at home mom, and she had a wonderful relationship with my grandfather. She changed her name, wore a ring, and stayed at home- all things considered traditional. It works for some people, and I think that’s why it’s important to decide what works for you.

    I want a ring, a husband who provides so that I can take time off for children, and I will happily change my last name since my current last name links me to someone I don’t have a relationship with. I suppose that’s traditional :)

  11. April
    April January 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm |

    Miss S: It works for some people, and I think that’s why it’s important to decide what works for you.

    I would like to rephrase your statement a bit. Rather than “it works for some people,” how about “some people aren’t negatively affected by acting in a traditionally sexist manner.”

    The reality is, regardless of who it does or does not bother, certain aspects of “traditional” marriage are inherently misogynist. While it doesn’t do anyone any good to act like we should forbid traditional things like a woman taking on her husband’s identity by trading her original name for his, it doesn’t stop being sexist just because the person doing it isn’t bothered.

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