The Changing Dynamics of Modern-Day Relationships

May 4, 2024 |Gideon Hanekom

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The Changing Dynamics of Modern-Day Relationships

According to data from the Pew Research Center, the economic contributions of spouses in marriages are becoming more balanced.

Gone are the days when one partner was solely responsible for financial stability while the other took care of domestic responsibilities.

Today, couples are navigating a new reality where both partners are actively involved in paid work and domestic duties.

Moreover, this shift in roles and responsibilities within marriages reflects the ongoing evolution of societal norms which seems to only continue.

However, interesting data from studies about gender roles in more egalitarian countries also seem to tell another story.

Some refer to it as the Gender Equality Paradox, which we briefly look at below.

three woman holding hands white walking

Nevertheless, as more women enter the workforce and gender roles become less rigid, couples are definitely faced with the challenge of negotiating work-life balance and finding harmony in their relationships more than in the past.

The traditional division of labour, where men were the primary breadwinners and women were responsible for the household, is being replaced by a more egalitarian approach which has opportunities and challenges we must navigate in our relationships.

That is especially true for couples from perhaps a different era who are used to a certain way of doing things but are now being challenged as a natural consequence of the world around them forcing them into an evolved or different way of doing things.

The Gender Equality Paradox

However, although the world and with that, typical roles in relationships are changing, numerous studies also show that in more egalitarian societies, such as those in Scandinavian countries, gender roles exhibit an interesting paradox [1].

Despite high levels of gender equality, men and women often gravitate towards traditional roles when given more freedom to choose. This phenomenon is known as the gender equality paradox.

Research, which has been replicated in different cultures, suggests that in these societies, as equality increases and traditional roles are less enforced by economic necessity or cultural expectations, people might choose roles that align with traditional gender stereotypes.

That raises questions about the impact of feminist ideologies and the extent to which personal preferences and personality dispositions play a role in shaping the dynamics of modern-day relationships.

However, regardless, many couples today still have to face the changing reality that things are busier than ever, we’re stretched thin most of the time, and things are not as clear-cut as they used to be.

Men need to come to step up at home, whereas women are often required to be troopers at home and high performers professionally.

It’s a tough ask of anyone.

The Impact on Couples Today

It is essential to consider the various factors involved in the changing dynamics of modern-day relationships.

Despite the progress made towards gender equality (which is great, by the way), it is also important to always acknowledge that individuals have unique personality dispositions and preferences that influence their choices.

One sometimes gets the sense that in modern-day debates, ideology rather than common sense or reality rules.

Just because a woman chooses to be a stay-at-home mum does not mean she’s incapable of anything else or is “reduced” to that role, or that her, say, husband is a chauvinistic pig.

No, people are far more nuanced and unique than that.

For instance, the Big Five personality traits, also known as the OCEAN model, provide valuable insights into individual differences.

These traits include Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Jordan Peterson, in particular, is a topic expert on this and how it influences gender roles both personally and professionally.

In essence, the research suggests that certain personality traits may influence the roles individuals gravitate towards in relationships, and that is not due to sociocultural influences but rather biopsychological (i.e., hardwired).

For example, individuals high in Conscientiousness may prefer traditional roles due to their tendency to value structure and order. They may find comfort in fulfilling traditional gender expectations, such as being the primary provider or caretaker.

On the other hand, individuals high in Openness may be more inclined to challenge traditional gender roles and embrace a more egalitarian approach.

Now, it is important to note that these tendencies are not deterministic. They are simply factors that may influence individuals’ preferences and choices. Furthermore, societal expectations and cultural norms also play a significant role in shaping the decisions couples make.

With that in mind, we can say that while the gender equality paradox highlights the complexity of human behaviour and choices, it does not negate the progress made towards achieving gender equality. For it’s truly important and beneficial to us all.

Instead, it emphasizes the need for a nuanced understanding of the factors that contribute to the dynamics of modern-day relationships because we are unique.

So as couples navigate the changing landscape of gender roles and responsibilities, open and honest communication becomes crucial.

Fundamentally, partners must discuss their expectations, desires, and aspirations openly.

Only by recognizing and respecting each other’s individuality, can couples find a balance that works for them.

Additionally, it is important to challenge societal norms and expectations that may perpetuate traditional gender roles.

Again, only by actively questioning and dismantling these norms can couples create a more equitable and fulfilling relationship.

When one blindly pursues trends or substanceless (but zealous) ideologies, especially within a loving relationship, one can end up building a house on sand that’s inauthentic at best but toxic and destructive at worst, not to mention impossible to sustain.

Ultimately, the changing dynamics of modern-day relationships are a reflection of the ongoing evolution of societal norms. That’s just so.

And while the gender equality paradox may present some interesting insights, it is always essential to approach the topic with a balanced perspective.

By acknowledging the influence of personal preferences, personality dispositions, and societal expectations, couples can navigate the complexities of modern relationships with empathy, understanding, and mutual respect.


[1] The paradox, referred to as the gender-equality paradox, suggests that various gender differences in personality and occupational choice are larger in more gender-equal countries. This phenomenon is seemingly paradoxical because one would expect the differences to be reduced as countries become more gender egalitarian.

Various explanations for the paradox have been proposed, including more stereotypes and gendered expectations in more gender-equal countries, and deeply rooted and intrinsic gender differences that are less restrained and materialize more easily in gender-equal countries.

The most prominent use of the term is in relation to the disputed claim that increased gender differences in participation in STEM careers arise in countries that have more gender equality.

However, separate Harvard researchers were unable to recreate the data reported in the study, and a correction was issued to the original paper.

A follow-up paper in Psychological Science found conceptual and empirical problems with the gender-equality paradox in the STEM hypothesis.

Another 2020 study did find evidence of the paradox in the pursuit of mathematical studies; however, they found that ‘the stereotype associating math to men is stronger in more egalitarian and developed countries’ and could ‘entirely explain the gender-equality paradox’.

The theory and results above reinforce the idea that gender segregation across fields of study or occupations will not decrease by itself as societies become more developed and egalitarian.

Appropriate policies are needed to induce such a change or at least to limit the extent to which gender segregation generates inequality in the labour market.

Similar conclusions are likely to be reached regarding gender differences in personality traits, values, or behaviours such as willingness to compete or risk aversion. These differences, which can also contribute to economic inequalities between women and men, are likely to remain even when countries become more developed.

This is not because they are innate, but because they are the product of new forms of social differentiation between women and men that have replaced the male primacy ideology.

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About the author

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of, a popular relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website helps couples to create happier, healthier, and more intimate relationships. Gideon is a trained professional counsellor and holds post-graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. His articles have also been featured on respected platforms such as and The Good Men Project.

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