Gender, Marriage, and Satisfaction: Lessons from Commuter Spouses

Authors: Danielle Lindemann*, Lehigh University
Topics: Gender
Keywords: commuter spouses, marriage, relationships, gender
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8217, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Historically, one of the advantages of (heterosexual) marriage for men has been their access to expressive emotive support. Moreover, scholars have highlighted a recently-emerged deficit, in both time and quality, of leisure time among wives and mothers. Commuter spouses—who live apart due to the demands of their dual professional careers—are a key research site for understanding these phenomena, as they move through periods of apartness and togetherness. Thus, we might expect them to be uniquely attuned into the ways in which the cohabitation aspect of marriage impacts their daily experiences, whether positively or negatively. Based on in-depth interviews with 97 people who currently or in the past had lived apart from their spouses, I found that women commuters had access to some of the benefits of heterosexual marriage (such as financial pooling) while also having access to additional free time and personal space. Male respondents lost immediate access to women’s emotion-work and also generally did not have the same types of friendship structures as their wives. Overall, the ways that male and female commuters talked about living apart were markedly different, and these differences shed light on what contemporary (heterosexual) relationships—particularly, cohabitating ones—have to offer men and women more generally. These findings have broader importance for research on gender, families, geography, and work.

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