By Margarita Nahapetyan
A man's unemployment can have a profound effect on whether his marriage will survive or not, according to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology.
While attitudes about working females have considerably evolved in the past decades, social pressure on their male counterparts to be the main money makers is still very strong, says Liana Sayer, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, who authored the research. According to her findings, unemployment, more than unhappiness in the relationship, contributes to marriage breakup - at least for men. Our society still does not accept men who do not work and stay at home caring for their children, Sayer said.
The research found that those women who felt very dissatisfied and unhappy in their marriage and who were employed were more likely to initiate divorce proceedings than those who were unemployed. However, whether or not a woman had a job made no difference on the chance that her husband would leave the family. Unemployed men, on the other hand, faced an increased risk of: a) their wife leaving the relationship and, b) themselves opting out of marriage despite potential financial instability - even if they were more or less satisfied with their marital life.
To come up with such conclusions, the experts followed more than 3,600 married couples between 1986 and 2003 using the information from the National Survey of Families and Households which was funded by the National Institutes of Health. In the survey the relationship between marriage and employment had been assessed by means of a variety of questions regarding people's feelings and attitudes towards their marriage, as well as their employment histories and their earnings.
The results were quite interesting and surprising. Researchers found as much about the social pressures on American marriage as the particular reasons why couples broke up. While a wife's employment status had no impact on whether she leaves the relationship, the outlook for jobless men looked less optimistic. In essence, Americans still believe that it is a husband's role and duty to provide a family with bread money, and the inability to do so breaks up marriages and relationships.
Psychologists say that it is quite a possibility that unemployed men may experience low self-esteem from doing what is still often perceived as women's household work. They also may feel very uncomfortable thinking that they are not fulfilling the expectations placed on them by the society to provide financial security and support for their families. Such low self-esteem may trigger depression, resentment or some other problems that may increase dissatisfaction in a relationship.
So what can married couples learn from these findings? The authors say that one thing known from the research on what makes marriages happy is when couples appreciate each other and are fully involved in family life. In cases where there is an unfair gender division of labor, such as when a wife is breadwinning and, in addition, is involved in childcare and housework and a husband does not do much of anything, he might want to become more involved with the chores and with childcare. Other things married partners can do are somewhat limited due to outside factors that might keep husbands from being as involved in the housework as they might like.