Ready to put a ring on it? Survey says thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still the manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s job. Both men and women overwhelmingly believe that the man should propose to the woman (in a heterosexual relationship), according to a study conducted at the University of California in Santa Cruz.
Researchers surveyed 277 male and female undergrads about their preferences surrounding traditional marriage roles. While two-thirds of respondents said theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d Ã¢â‚¬Å“definitelyÃ¢â‚¬Â want the man to propose, not a single man or woman said theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d Ã¢â‚¬Å“definitelyÃ¢â‚¬Â want the woman to do so. The students were a little more flexible where marital name changes were concerned: 60 percent of men said theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d want to keep their surname, and 60 percent of women said theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d want to change theirs.
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a reason that students at an otherwise progressive-leaning university still adhere to such traditional gender roles: itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all in the narrative. Ã¢â‚¬Å“What people like with a marriage proposal in particular is a story,Ã¢â‚¬Â says first study author Rachael Robnett, a UCSC psychology graduate student. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A story that people can understand can lend legitimacy to the fact that this couple is now engaged.Ã¢â‚¬Â The more a proposal narrative follows a familiar, established script, the more it seems to validate the union in outsidersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ eyes. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s something weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve all seen a thousand times: the man takes a knee, opens the ring box, and gives a tender speech; the woman starts sobbing and enthusiastically nodding her head. For many, messing with this arrangement signals a lack of conviction. In fact, research has shown that if the woman proposes, Ã¢â‚¬Å“people donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take that marriage proposal as seriously, and they question the engagement,Ã¢â‚¬Â Robnett says.
But Robnett cautions against assuming that honoring tradition is a setback for feminism, or a sign that the power dynamic in your relationship isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t 50/50. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think that doing a traditional proposal connotes a lack of equality,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Every couple needs to make the decision that is right for them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
A better way to gauge whether your bond has an even balance of power is in studying the day-to-day dynamic. And sometimes, maintaining that balance of power requires work. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an additional skill set that you need to learn,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Susan Heitler, PhD, Denver psychologist and founder of poweroftwomarriage.com.
Want to know if you and your guy are equals in your relationship? Look for these signs.
When youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re talking, each person gets equal air time Long monologues are better left to Shakespeare. In an equal relationship, nobody should dominate the conversation. To even things out, make sure you give each other a chance to chime in. Interrupting is okay, says HeitlerÃ¢â‚¬”it can even signal increased engagementÃ¢â‚¬”but make sure to circle back to any ideas that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get fully expressed.
Your dialogue has a volume control button If you notice the volume of your voice gradually rising, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a sign that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re trying to dominate your partner. Volume should not be a factor in whose opinions get heard. If heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the one getting shouty in the middle of a discussion, let him know that you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t continue to engage until volume levels return to normal.
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re mutually supportive of each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s career goals No one should be forfeiting his or her dreams for the sake of a partner. If you suddenly land your dream job and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all the way across the country, he should be open to discussing ways for you to follow your dreams and maintain your relationship. However, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not going to work unless he also has a vision of how this could be positive for him,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Heitler. If your dream job is in a town or city with zero opportunities for your mate, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unfair to expect him to tag alongÃ¢â‚¬”and vice versa.
Orgasms are a two-way street As in other areas of your relationship, bedroom activities should involve give and take. As a general rule, Ã¢â‚¬Å“If he brings her to orgasm first, that tends to be a hallmark of an equal relationship,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Heitler, for the simple reason that his orgasm tends to bring the action to a close. Far too often, women donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel like they can speak up about their needs, but Heitler says itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crucial. Positive feedback is key: increase your keep-going moans and groans to show him when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s getting hot, and back off when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s getting cold. If he still canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take a hint, tell him what you really love in bed (emphasize the positive to avoid him feeling criticized). Say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I noticed that I enjoy sex the most when you ... Ã¢â‚¬Â then fill in the blank.
Paying (or not paying) isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a power move The subject of who pays can be tricky. If he insists on treating you now and then, he may just be following a cultural script, much like the marriage norms referenced in the UC-Santa Cruz study. But Heitler says itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more clear-cut when the roles are reversed. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A man who lets the woman always payÃ¢â‚¬”thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a red flag,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says. Since this uneven arrangement has no basis in tradition, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a sign that he may be simply taking advantage of you. When heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s comfortable with your paying occasionally, or when you both pay as much as you comfortably can, then that signals a positive lack of tension.
You consult each other before making large purchases If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re sharing expenses or bank accounts, this one is crucial. Before you throw down for a new iPad or a fabulous winter coat, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important to give him a chance to weigh in. To avoid confusion, decide on a number as your mutual price cutoffÃ¢â‚¬”below it, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s each personÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s individual call. Above it, and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re both duty-bound to let the other person have a say.
You play musical chairs with household chores Whether heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the designated chef and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the head priestess of laundry or vice versa, no one should be picking up the majority of the slack at home. Divvy up chores based on what each of you enjoys (or at least doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hate), but be willing to switch things up if circumstances call for it, Heitler says. The chef should be able to run a load of laundry if and when you have to work late. Likewise, you shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be above whipping up a meal when he needs a hand. WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important is that your contributions feel about even and that no one feels unfairly overburdened.
No one has a monopoly on decision-making The relationship is bound to feel lopsided if one personÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s preferences continually dominate. If you mention that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re dying to visit a tropical locale over the holidays and he says heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d rather stay home and catch up on work and that ends the discussion, you have a problem. Try suggesting a compromise instead: Ã¢â‚¬Å“How about if we go someplace warm where you can still get some work done?Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“In a healthy relationship, what both people say counts,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Heitler. This holds true even if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree. Look out for times when you feel ignored, dismissed, or negated right after expressing a preference. If you make an observation that he automatically negates, Ã¢â‚¬Å“keep bringing your piece back,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Heitler. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll realize that you want to have an actual discussion.
photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock More from WH:
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