We all know that men and women behave differently. Part of being husband and wife is getting to know the differences in the way you and your spouse express your needs and concerns, learning what is important to each other, and doing your best to master one another’s communication style. Many of the common stereotypes, however, don’t really hold up when investigated thoroughly. Surely we have our differences, but when it comes down to it, we really just have different ways of expressing the same basic emotions, desires, and needs.
A recent study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin set out to determine some differences in the ways that men and women express affection in a marriage. What they found totally defies the stereotype that men are less affectionate, and sheds some interesting light on the dynamic of couples’ relationships.
Covering more than 150 couples over the course of 13 years of marriage, the study found that men are, in fact, just as openly affectionate as their female counterparts. The husbands simply express their affection differently than their wives.
As couples were interviewed over years of marriage, the study found that the men who described the most love for their wives were openly affectionate on a regular basis. The expression of this affection included, without surprise, a higher likelihood of initiating sexual activity. These men were also more likely to include their wives in their daily activities, from chores around the house to leisurely pastimes.
Women, on the other hand, express their love by accommodating their spouses in a slightly different way. The wives in the study were more apt to engage in verbal expressions of love, and were largely more in tune with, and tolerant of their husbands’ needs and behaviors. These women were found to be more likely to allow their husbands to initiate sex more often, as well as more likely to accommodate assertive behavior. This means that the women who described themselves as most in love with their husbands were taking a more submissive role in the relationship.
This data comes as something of a surprise in the post-feminist world, but the study does not indicate that these women are completely submissive, only that the women who describe the most love for their husbands are willing to bend a little, and let their husbands assert themselves a little more.
The overall conclusion of the study is one of gender neutrality – a common consensus that the differences we perceive between men and women are nearly as vast as we make them out to be. The husbands and wives who described the most loving relationships were both willing to make compromises, to accommodate the social and emotional needs of one another, and to do so in the ways that worked best for their respective genders.
Men and women really aren’t all that different, it’s just the subtle things that make us perceive ourselves that way. We all want to love and be loved, we just have different ways of showing it!
Are you and your partner different? What do you think? Please comment!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com