A new study from Sweden has revealed that conventional expectations of gender roles in marriage continue to dominate people’s deepest subconscious desires.
The research paper studied how career milestones for women affect marriages in the country of 11 million, despite it being known for its progressive attitudes and laws on women’s rights.
Researchers found that certain kinds of promotions almost doubled the rate of divorce for women, though not for men.
Women in the study who were appointed to positions such as mayor or parliamentarian were more likely to get divorced than male equivalents. Similar dismal results were found in the corporate world, where women promoted to chief executive were twice as likely to divorce within five years of their promotion as men.
In its aim to show how promotions to top jobs dramatically increase women’s probability of divorce, but do not affect men’s marriages, the paper, titled “All the Single Ladies: Job Promotions and the Durability of Marriage”, also found that several female candidates for top jobs tend to live in dual-earner households and are married to older husbands who take a small share of parental leave.
It likewise found that divorce among women in top jobs occurs more often in couples with a larger age gap and a less equal division of leave, and in households in which her promotion shifts the division of earnings further away from the norm of male dominance.
Some of the remarks from the men involved in the study provided illuminating views on these issues. One male participant claimed that once his wife became successful and promoted in her job, she “didn’t care about him or the household anymore.”
The lead researchers told The Atlantic that couples should try to take responsibility for the division of labor within their private relationships. “There needs to be more awareness that the way we form couples is not ideal for when the wife progresses in her career.”
Uppsala University political scientist Olle Folke and Stockholm University economist Johanna Rickne authored the study, which mentions the despairing trend of best actress Oscar winners portending to a divorce, while winning the best actor award does not.
Ultimately, the research suggests that what tends to be most destabilising for the general population is the overturning of traditional expectations of gender roles.
We need better stories. We need a wider, more diverse range of templates for how to live for those in the next generation to have something to hold onto. Though dismally, this week’s Oscar nomination announcements show this won’t happen anytime soon.