An Examination of the Narratives of Men in Power-Sharing Marital Relationships: A Feminist Perspective
Ades, Alisa Joy
Fassinger, Ruth E
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One of the distinguishing characteristics of the late 20th and early 21st century is the dramatic change in the work and family roles of mothers in the United States. Despite evidence indicating that managing the multiple roles of work and family is healthy for both men and women, and that couples in equitable marriages report higher levels of relationship satisfaction and stability, marital partnerships often fall prey to traditional roles. In the vast majority of heterosexual marriages, men continue to hold the power. For true equality to exist, men and women need to share roles and, ultimately, power. The present study examined the lives of men in power-sharing marriages. The purpose of this study was to develop a framework for understanding what motivates men to pursue a non-traditional path and engage in power sharing marital relationships, where partners hold mutual status, actively negotiate roles, share decision-making and provide mutual attention to family and household tasks. This research was a qualitative study of 13 men in this type of power-sharing marital relationship. These men self-identified as power-sharing and eligibility was confirmed by the primary researcher. Data were gathered through semi-structured in-person interviews. The emerging theoretical framework suggests that the participants followed a complex path that led them to a power-sharing marital relationship. The path was composed of contextual spheres of influence (the sociopolitical context, the family of origin, the community and the academic environment) which worked together to foster the development of societal (justice, gender equality, equity) and interpersonal (mutual respect, reciprocity, family-first, complex connection with partner) values. In turn, the theory proposes that these values inspired the men to embrace a power-sharing orientation. The path did not end for these men with the initiation of the power-sharing marriage because the men in this study constantly confront challenges and rely on facilitators in order to maintain their power-sharing status.