My Perfect Husband, and the Death Trap of Comparing Marriages
Last month, my husband and I celebrated three years of marriage, and thus far I can honestly say that I fall in love with him more every day. Marriage has been a beautiful adventure for the two of us, and the longer we are together, the longer I understand God's purpose in joining us.
One of the reasons I love my husband so dearly is his character. He has taught me much about strength, love, and sacrifice, laying himself down for me on an almost daily basis. In my eyes, he is exactly what a Christian man should be, a sentiment that conjures great respect in my own heart.
However, my esteem has a strange and unfortunate underbelly. I find in myself a tendency to compare the behavior of other men against the goodness of my husband. To me, my husband is the gold standard, so there is a temptation to judge other husbands against the perceived greatness of my own.
This bias is one of the unfortunate flipsides of being in a happy marriage. A good marriage and a good spouse not only provide insight into God's design for matrimony, but these blessings can also color our judgment. They can instill us with prejudice as we read scriptural teachings about marriage and draw conclusions from those teachings.
To understand the danger of this bias, consider a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard, NYU, and the University of Utah. The study, titled "Marriage Structure and Resistance to the Gender Revolution," examined how married men with stay-at-home wives view women in the workplace. The study of 718 married men yielded the following fascinating results. The researchers write,
We found that employed husbands in traditional marriages, compared to those in modern marriages, tend to (a) view the presence of women in the workplace unfavorably, (b) perceive that organizations with higher numbers of female employees are operating less smoothly, © find organizations with female leaders as relatively unattractive, and (d) deny, more frequently, qualified female employees opportunities for promotion.
The use of terms like "traditional marriage" and "modern marriage" betrays an inherent bias. Nevertheless, the findings are fascinating. An article in The Atlantic helpfully summarized the study's significance this way:
The studies showed that personal views and the domestic architecture of male leaders' private lives helped shape women's professional opportunities. This held true in both surveys and lab experiments, including one that tested whether candidates with identical backgrounds, but different names—Drew versus Diane—should receive a spot in a sought-after, company-sponsored MBA program. According to the research, men in traditional marriages gave Diane "significantly poor evaluations" compared to Drew. It seems that husbands with wives working at home imprinted that ideal onto women in the office.