Let's Remove Toxic Gender Norms From Your Marriage

by Meg Kehoe

When you get married, you and your partner will most likely develop a shared understanding of who does what, and who takes responsibility for certain things. Sometimes, it comes naturally, and other times, it's a schedule that has to be plotted out rather specifically. In order for your marriage to be a true partnership, however, you'll want to explore ways to remove toxic gender norms from your marriage. Otherwise, you may find yourself slipping into toxic gender norms that are causing you and your SO more grief than goodness.

Whether it's household chores or emotional work, sharing the division of responsibility with your partner is an important step to take toward equality in your relationship. And while the idea itself seems like it'd be a breeze, things don't always happen that easily. If you've found yourself weighed down with the toxic gender norms that society tends to lay onto married heterosexual couples, it is time to take a step back and reevaluate the pieces of your relationship that are making you feel the most toxic. Working together with your partner, you can fight against toxic gender norms, and create a marriage that's all about equality, for the both of you.


Learn To Engage In Parallel Play

In order for your marriage to truly succeed, both you and your spouse will need to treat one another like partners without feeling the need to do every single thing together. According to an article for Psychology Today by psychologist Lynn E. O'Connor, one of the best ways to do this is by engaging in parallel play. The idea stems back to behavior you were taught as a child, when you learned how to engage in play next to another child who was engaged in their own play. "Parallel play provides companionship while self-development is underway," O'Connor wrote. It's important that couples learn how to do things in proximity to one another, without needing to be doing the same thing.


Divide Housework Equally

Dividing the housework is a no-brainer when it comes to taking steps towards equality in the household, right? Well, it's usually easier said than done. Purging your household of the societal standard of the woman being the homemaker doesn't mean that you need to completely flip gender norms on their head, and refuse to partake in any house work. Because like anything, equality doesn't mean dropping out of the race completely, it means striving for a balance with your partner. Factoring in things like time, talent, opportunity, and knowledge, divide up tasks with your partner and create a rotation so that both of you feel like you're dividing tasks equally and fairly, so that things like dishes don't wind up make you feel like you're taking the brunt of the domesticity.


Take Turns With Everything

A life and a home don't only run on housework. There are plenty of daily tasks that don't fall under the umbrella of chores, and they should be divided just as equally as things like dishes and taking out the garbage. It's easy to think that certain duties are easier than others, but by swapping duties every now and then, you and your spouse both get a chance to feel like the workload in your relationship is divided equally.


Treat Your Partner As A True Equal

“Research shows that equality, measured as the ability to influence your partner and get them to respond to something that matters to you, is related to lower levels of depression and anxiety, and greater well-being and relationship satisfaction,” Dr. Carmen Knudson-Martin, director of the Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy program at Lewis & Clark College told Daily Worth. If there's ever been a time to really give equality a boost to the top of your relationship priority list, it should be now.


Be Vulnerable With Each Other

Just like society has expected women to be caretakers of chores for so long, Doctor Nerd Love noted that the idea that men can be vulnerable only serves to exacerbate the norm of toxic masculinity. In order to combat toxic masculinity, creating an environment where your spouse feels comfortable sharing their emotions with you is key. Not only letting yourself be vulnerable, but letting your spouse be vulnerable too.


Make Decisions Together

According to Knudson-Martin, making decisions with your spouse is an incredibly important step in defying toxic gender norms. "Don't shy away from conflict," Knudson-Martin said. “The person with less power is always going to be more attuned to the person with greater power. If you automatically take a one-down position, there is little incentive for others to pay attention to your wants.” Whether it's a large purchase, or an upcoming event you've been invited to, check in with your partner and put the decision on the table as a joint-decision, and you'll both feel a part of an more equal relationship.


Take Care Of Each Other

Another way you might be slipping into toxic gender norms is if you find yourself doing the bulk of the nurturing in your relationship. Or, if you find that your partner is doing the bulk of the nurturing in your relationship. When caretaking lies heavily on one person in a relationship, things can get negative in a hurry. When your spouse does something for you, point it out. “People fall into traditional gender patterns without realizing it. Men are socialized to be independent, and we value independence in our culture," Knudson-Martin said. "Focusing on someone else’s needs can make them feel like they’re giving up their autonomy.” Even in progressive relationships, it's common for women to take on the role of the caretaker. Knudson-Martin recommended taking time each week to share what you appreciated, what frustrated you, and what made you feel in love during that week, and noted that the practice will help you and your spouse treat each other more thoughtfully.