Marriage and Other Aspects of Male Female Interaction

Around the world, married couples tend to be consistent with regard to their day-to-day interactions. That is, a husband and wife tend either to engage in a variety of activities together or to conduct their daily activities independently. This is why marriages are characterized as either on the whole intimate or on the whole aloof.

Patterns of day-to-day marital interaction are also related to certain other features of male-female interaction. Marriages tend to be intimate in societies in which there is a greater range of things over which women have power. This may be the result of the fact that, as women gain more status, there is less male-female segregation in a culture. This means that males and females have more opportunities to get to know each other on a personal basis. And it means that day-to-day contact between spouses becomes a possibility. In cultures where the sexes are segregated, husband-wife intimacy is, by definition, not an option for a couple (Broude, 1990).

Day-to-day marital interaction is also related to ideas regarding whether or not sex is dangerous. Where a society endorses the belief that sex is a dangerous activity, marriages tend to be aloof. Where societies do not subscribe to the belief that sex is dangerous, marriages tend to be intimate. Intimate marriages are also associated with uninhibited talk about sex, whereas in societies where marriages are aloof talk about sex is regarded as inappropriate, shameful, and the like.

Interestingly, patterns of marital interaction are not related to certain other features of male-female interaction. Thus there is no predictable connection between husband-wife day-to-day interaction, mode of choosing marriage partners, honeymoon customs, beliefs about the desirability of frequent sexual activity in marriage, frequency of premarital or extramarital sex for males or females, incidence of or concern about impotence, attitudes toward or frequency of homosexuality, male sexual aggression, rape, or frequency of divorce. There is one exception to this overall pattern. Husband-wife eating arrangements are predictably associated with honeymoon customs and divorce, so that where spouses eat together honeymoon customs are absent and divorce is relatively rare, while where spouses eat apart honeymoon customs are present and divorce is more common. However, the overall lack of a connection between marital interaction and other features of male-female relationships leads to the perhaps surprising conclusion that day-to-day interaction between spouses is unrelated to courtship customs, sexual attitudes, concerns, behavior, or the likelihood that a marriage will be terminated by a spouse. In short, day-to-day contact between spouses seems to operate independently of other aspects of male-female interaction (Broude, 1983).

The relative independence of patterns of day-to-day interaction and other features of opposite-sex relationships suggests that the degree of daily contact between spouses is determined by factors different from those that influence other aspects of male-female interaction. This is not surprising, as customs for choosing marriage partners, norms regarding sex, actual sexual activity, daily contact between spouses, and patterns of divorce all have different functions in the life of an individual and the operation of a culture. Therefore, we should expect them to vary independently, as indeed they do.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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