Maybe St Valentine’s Day is not the right time to bring up the subject, certainly it’s not the best topic to raise over that romantic dinner tonight, be it in a posh hotel or in your own kitchen.
But I’ve been intrigued by the suggestion that where one partner in a marriage dominates the other it makes for a better, happier union than where a couple strive for equality in the marriage.
I can just imagine the rumpus there might be after a few glasses of pink champagne tonight when the husband realises that his wife is the boss. Let’s face it what man would pick pink champagne/prosecco/cava for what should be the most romantic night of the year?
Look at the tables around you tonight if you’re dining out. Pink drinks will mean the woman’s the boss. If her husband looks as though he has a glass of neat whisky at the table then he’s the one gets his way.
The research for this notion comes from Prague of all places and has been published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters.
The report, Why do some women prefer submissive men? claims that women are ‘dominant in almost a quarter of relationships’.
It also suggests that ‘one partner dominant and the other submissive, improves cohesion, results in better co-operation between partners and improves the couples’ ability to face challenges. They also have more children’.
Couples where both partners were dominant had the `lowest reproductive success’ and where `two individuals rank at a similar degree, even minor conflicts may escalate due to competition’.
This all makes marriage seem, on the one hand, like a battleground, on the other a viper’s nest of inequality where a large percentage of wives inwardly fume because they don’t like the alternatives, such as separation or divorce?
Maybe I can speak best for my own generation born into an era before equality laws and where pregnancy before marriage was virtually unheard of. This generation had mothers who came through the war, even doing great things at that time including working in munitions factory as one of my aunts did. Yet who were expected to return to the kitchen sink when the war was over.
Working outside the home wasn’t an option unless you had a university education and wanted to be a doctor or a teacher. My mother who had been a nurse, believed implicitly in equality and drilled into her children that no one person was better than the other no matter their financial or educational status.
She dominated the marriage but I remember many battles of wills between my parents. I remember too lots of women like her, mothers with large families, who could have had careers but leaving the children in the care of someone else was not an option and would have opened them up to ridicule. I’m certain they hid their frustrations.
The notion of equality between couples gradually emerged in the sixties and it led to changing relationships. Marriage was not essential, having children outside that became normal.
Half a century later we have reached the stage where all sorts of relationships are judged acceptable. Yet marriage is coming back into fashion. That need to have a permanent relationship perhaps is primeval in us. We want to belong to someone because the world is an uncertain place and we can no longer be sure we can cope on our own. It shouldn’t be about control over the other.
So remember that though you may not be able to change the world there is strength in togetherness.