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Title: Psychological Differences between Women and Men in Marriage
Author(s): VANSTEENWEGEN, Alfons
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 6    Issue: 1   Date: Spring 2000   
Pages: 38-47
DOI: 10.2143/INT.6.1.2004601

Abstract :
A gender difference is a reliable difference between the average female and the average male that has been scientifically observed when large unselected groups of males and females have been studied. It is important to realise however that even when differences exist, the groups overlap. A “gender stereotype” is a belief about the characteristics of a person based on his or her gender. More recent research suggests that masculinity and femininity should be seen as two independent dimensions, and not as the opposites of one dimension. The most consistent finding in research is that marital satisfaction is associated with high levels of emotional expressivity or femininity in both husbands and wives.
Research based gender differences of aspects important for the marital relationship itself: (1) Gender differences in communication: Females rated conversations as having greater value and were more accurate than men in detecting their partners feelings. Unhappy husbands were poor communicators, while unhappy wives wanted more communication from their husbands. Wives were more expressive. Women speak a language of connection and intimacy, while men speak and hear a language of status and independence. In many couples the male uses a more objective form of communication: the accent is upon information and the solution of the problem. The female partner will express herself in a more subjective way. She communicates feelings more easily. (2) Gender differences in self disclosure and understanding: Wives disclose more than the husbands. The wives understanding of the husbands was more accurate than the husbands understanding of the wives. (3) Gender difference in conflict behaviour: It is often the case that in a marriage use different approaches to a conflict situation: the woman makes emotional demands and complaints, the man withdraws or behaves passively. The husband removes himself emotionally or physically, refuses to answer or to look at her or storms out of the room. Men become more upset physiologically than women and they remain distressed for a longer time. (4) Gender differences in sexuality: Men think more frequently of sex, masturbate more and reach more frequently orgasm than women.
The gender differences are only one aspect of the fact that partners are different in everything. Daily small differences are present in every aspect of the living together relationship. The gender differences play a role in the difference between the partners in the living-together-programme, the rules about how to live together with someone. Every partner arrives in the relationship with an original (distinct) programme.
How can these differences be bridged? Three levels of bridging are presented: (1) real (experience related) talking, (2) reaching truly common shared feelings and (3) negotiating about differences with behavioural consequences. This supposes that the partners first take the difference between them seriously.

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