How Stereotypes Can Cripple Your Marriage

Gender Stereotypes and how they can cripple your marriageIf you haven’t figured it out yet, men and women are different.

My whole life I heard the male/female stereotypes.  Men are from mars, women are from venus.  Men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti.  Some differences are useful for a good laugh.  Like ones about driving.  Or multitasking.  Or some of these… - When women ask you for your opinion, they don't want to hear your opinion, they want to hear their opinion in a deeper voice. - Women spend more time thinking about what men are thinking than men actually spend time thinking. - I don't care where we eat as long as its not at any of the 12 places you just named. - Men: If ever you wanted to know what a woman's mind feels like, imagine a Chrome browser with 2,847 tabs open. All.The.Time.

For most of my life, I’d been getting a good laugh out of gender stereotypes.

Then I got married.

For us, the stereotypes about physical touch, multitasking, problem solving, or offering advice often seemed reversed in our relationship. And at first that was pretty confusing, and even a little frustrating. But the more we talked about it, I realized not all male/female stereotypes are true in every marriage.

This summer we were having dinner with my best friends from college and their husbands.  I brought up what we’ve been thinking about gender-specific relationship advice, and they said some assumptions were opposite for them too!  I’m guessing we’re not the only ones.

My Main Problem

I’ve recognized a few ways I stray from the norm:

  • I compartmentalize my thoughts and have difficulty moving from topic to topic.
  • Multitasking is really hard for me.
  • I can sit and think about nothing!
  • I can go to the bathroom without a herd of women.  Promise.

After being with Ben for over four years, I can finally recognize that I don’t follow the “female” traits to a tee.  Here’s an example of a stereotype I overlooked in our marriage.   It’s traditional that men want to solve a problem and women just want to be heard.  But when I shared my problems, I wanted his help with them.  I wanted a few ideas to fix the problem, I wanted him to make a list with me and tell me what to do.

But when my husband shares a problem, I have trouble listening because I’m a fixer.  So when Ben needs to process things, I want to fix everything.  I know men are stereotypically guilty of this, and I even knew how they were supposed to train themselves to listen.  But because he was a guy and I was a girl, I thought my husband had hit the jackpot–a woman who solved problems like a man!  However, when I offered solution after solution, he felt like I wasn’t actually listening to him or that I just wanted him to move on from the problem.

I’ve been diligently following relationship advice for wives and women while tuning out the male advice because it just didn’t apply.  My blindness crippled me from being what my husband actually needed because I tuned out because any advice targeted for males.  I wasn’t paying attention to the very relationship warnings I desperately needed.  My main problem was ignorance!

Listen to All of the Advice

Overall, the categories are still helpful for us, even if we don’t always follow the “classic” male or female response.  Once I recognized some of the ways I act like a “male”, I’ve had to start following some advice typically directed at husbands.  Just remember to look at the advice for everyone, not just the advice for your gender.  Each couple you listen to and book you read will be different from your marriage.  Continue to communicate and seek advice for relationships in general.  Don’t think that just because of your gender you will never be guilty of a certain problem.

It has been very freeing for both Ben and me to realize that we don’t have to be a certain way. I’m not a “bad” woman because I want to solve problems, and he’s not a “bad” man because sometimes he just needs to talk and be heard. Allow yourself some freedom to be yourself without being crippled by stereotypes.

Don’t Put Your Spouse in a Box

The differences between men and women are cute.  But don’t blindly laugh along without looking at your own marriage.  You are both unique.  Likely you’re very different from each other resulting in a complementing relationship.   And it’s also likely that you stray from some of the stereotypes.

Your husband doesn’t have to be simple-minded, and your wife doesn’t have to respond to everything emotionally.  Both of you will process things differently, and that may also change with your season of life.  At times, you may both have the typical male response to a situation, or maybe you’ll respond in the classic categories.  But don’t force your spouse to be a cookie-cutter male or female.

Do you and your spouse follow all of the classic male/female stereotypes?

photo credit: craftapalooza via photopin cc.  Linked at Messy MarriageWomen Living Well and To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.


  1. What an awesome post! Loved hearing from your heart and specifics in your own marriage. I am also different from the stereotypical woman in the area of sex. I went through so much shame the early years of our marriage because I enjoyed sex and thought I was not a normal girl since the stereotypes is that we are crock pots and I am no a crock pot! Ha. Love this blog.
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  2. This is a great observation, Jo. There is merit to a lot of the gender specific instruction out there (Men are from Mars, Women from Venus type stuff) affirming why men and women don’t think/act the same. You are so right that these categories are helpful but not if we use them as confining boxes. They are much more helpful as a mental model to help us think and talk more clearly about what is actual reality in our own lives.

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