Historically, marriage has been organized around gender.  Organizing the marital relationship around the gender of an individual changes the negotiation process because the individual wants and desires are seen as requirements of the marital roles.  That is, I get what I want because it is related to the inherent quality of being male (husband and father) or female(wife and mother).  Better still, such wants become “needs” that must be fulfilled or I will not be able to fulfill my marital role as husband or wife.

When wants (whatever their source) become needs-that-must-be-fulfilled, negotiation becomes an exchange of needs, more of a quid-pro-quo or tit-for-tat arrangement.  I do the housework in exchange for you earning a living.  You take care of the children, and I help out.  We don’t negotiate household and childcare arrangements.  I do what my gender role dictates in exchange for you doing what your gender role dictates.

Millennials will have to base their marital relationship on the willingness and ability of each partner to negotiate individual wants and desires that flow from individual and joint life plans.   This position is essentially gender neutral, that is, this approach does not assume that men and women are so fundamentally different that they cannot negotiate with each other about the important issues and roles in their lives.

Gender attributes may shape wants and desires, but the fact that a desire might be gender-related can neither preclude nor precede the negotiation of wants (not needs) in the context of the marital relationship.   Individual wants or desires are negotiated based on democratic principles of collaborative negotiation, independently of the gendered nature of such wants and desires.   In order to negotiate individual wants and desires, we must be metaphorically blind to the possible gender-related source of such desires.






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