Are women superior spouses?

They often think they have to take control of everything relating to home, author says

Published: Monday, Sept. 28 2009 12:16 a.m. MDT

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For the record, Carin Rubenstein does not consider herself a \"man hater.\"She just believes women are superior to their spouses at pretty much everything relating to home and family.Consider: Not only do modern women work outside the home more than they used to, but they tend to cook more, clean more and manage more family responsibilities than the men to whom they're married, said Rubenstein, the author of a newly released book called \"The Superior Wife Syndrome.\"Blame biology and social expectations. For one, women are naturally better at multi-tasking, which is required when doing most domestic tasks, according to Rubenstein. Second, society tends to expect women to do certain tasks, instead of men, she said.And women buy into that expectation.\"We're programmed to think we're the ones who are better at domestic stuff; it is what makes us feminine,\" Rubenstein said in a recent interview. \"We, meaning superior wives, tend to think we have to take control of everything at home.\"But that can be a \"sticky\" trap.While some couples are OK with how chores and other tasks are distributed, Rubenstein believes a majority of women are unhappy and resentful about their current arrangement. She wants these women, whom she considers \"superior wives,\" to step back and let their men do more.It may be the key to a happier marriage.\"If you are constantly doing stuff for your husband because you think you can do it better, he is never going to do it,\" Rubenstein said.Later, she added, \"There is no such thing as a superwoman, and we've got to stop expecting that of ourselves and the way to do that is to get men to step up to the plate. They have been coasting for a long time.\"But other researchers dispute Rubenstein's claim that women need to do less at home to make their marriages better. In fact, most women are OK with the idea of housework not being split 50-50, said Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.Most women just want to feel like the distribution of chores is \"equitable,\" or fair, in their marriages. They also want a husband who is emotionally involved, said Wilcox.\"If a husband is emotionally engaged with his wife, if he is affectionate, understanding and empathetic, if he expresses gratitude — that is more important than if they don't do the cooking and cleaning,\" he said.Another perspective comes from Julie Brines with the University of Washington's Center for Research on Families. She said that while women still do more with housework and child care than men, the balance is shifting from what it was 20 to 30 years ago.Men are more involved than ever before.\"You see far more young dads with kids, taking them to parks and outings and even volunteering at local schools,\" Brines said. \"I think men get a lot of affirmation, both through their spouses and probably some intrinsic verification through this.\"While she doesn't completely disagree with Rubenstein, Brines does believe some of the claims in the author's book are exaggerated. She also questions the accuracy of the author's method of researching \"Superior Wife Syndrome.\"In coming up with her book, Rubenstein did an online survey of more than 1,500 couples, asking them questions regarding the distribution of tasks at home. She determined that more than two-thirds of women are superior wives in their marriage — meaning they supposedly do more at home than their spouses.Brines does agree there are benefits when couples share household tasks, but says it does not largely impact marital happiness.\"Many other things are just as important, if not more so, for a couple's satisfaction,\" she said.A few things that affect happiness include fidelity, cooperation, shared values, trust, flexibility and emotional engagement between husband and wife, said Erin Holmes, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University's School of Family Life.Perception is also critical to marital satisfaction, she said.\"It is interesting when you look at the research on housework and marital satisfaction that women who are doing the majority of housework in their homes can still perceive the division to be fair, and women whose husbands do more household work than the average man can still perceive the division of labor to be unfair,\" Holmes wrote. \"Our perceptions seem to be more critical to our marital satisfaction than the actual way we divide our responsibilities.\"Still, Rubenstein believes \"superior wife syndrome\" may be one big reason why women are unhappy in their marriages. In her own life, she said she has needed to let go of certain tasks to preserve her happiness.\"I found I was just so resentful that I was doing everything,\" Rubenstein said. \"I was constantly irritable and angry and grumpy. When you let go of that, you're also letting go of your own anger and frustration.\"For more information about Rubenstein, log on to: www.thesuperiorwifesyndrome.com.


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com

Are you a superior wife?To come up with her theory of the “superior wife syndrome,” author

Carin Rubenstein did online surveys with over 1,500 couples around the

world to determine the distribution of tasks and responsibilities in

their marriage. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed were found to be in

what she considers “superior wife” marriages, where the wife manages

most everything involving home and family life. The only exceptions

were couples in traditional arrangements, including members of the LDS

faith and born again Christians, according to Rubenstein.

Here are a few questions she asked couples to determine whether they were in superior marriages:

In your marriage, which partner is the one who:

1. Can do more than one thing at a time?

2. Organizes and plans most family events and schedules?

3. Makes most of the family decisions?

4. Is the most efficient person in the marriage?

5. Shows the most support and affection to family and friends?

6. Is likely to sacrifice his/her own needs for others in the family?

Rubenstein’s survey showed 63 percent of wives believed they were

best at five or more of those tasks. Only 24 percent of husbands

thought their wives were best at the same number of tasks.

SOURCE: Carin Rubenstein, “The Superior Wife Syndrome”

10 ways to stop being a superior wife

1. Ask your husband to help.

2. Use logic to reason with your husband, not emotion.

3. Resign your duties and make your spouse take over.

4. Apply peer pressure or guilt.

5. Get mad, but only as a last resort.

6. Be less than you can be, or don’t do it all.

7. Silence your inner critic and don’t think negatively about your spouse.

8. Develop manly skills like mowing the lawn.

9. Reward the good.

10. Get counseling.

SOURCE: Carin Rubenstein, “The Superior Wife Syndrome”

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