How This Election Cycle Is Affecting Marriages

Women everywhere are looking around them and saying “I’ve had enough. I’m done with this. I will no longer allow your patriarchy to subdue my voice and force me into second class citizenship.”

While these sentiments are sound and necessary, they can cause strife in otherwise easy-going marriages.

“Who made you lord king god of all driving?”

Randy and I agree politically. We are liberal, progressive democrats. There is no dissent between us when it comes to who we will vote for in this presidential election. We’d vote twice if we could, but apparently, that isn’t a thing.

Even though we agree who is best to lead our country, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been more than a normal share of eye rolling and spats that have revolved around this election.

I have said the word “patriarchy” more in the last six months than I have in my entire life. I have become aware of ways I acquiesce to male privilege. The fact male privilege exists is not the fault of my husband. He was born into this privilege and, while he questions his privilege, there are some areas in which he never thought to question.

For instance, who automatically drives? I will give you a hint. It’s not me.

This dawned on me a few weeks ago. Randy doesn’t ask me if he can drive. There isn’t a time when he looks at me and says “I feel like driving today, do you mind?”

If I want to drive, then I ask his permission to relinquish his rightful place in the driver’s seat. At least half the time, he will respond with “Nah, I’ll drive.”

Excuse me?

This situation prompted the “lord king god of all driving” question.

I am not the only one asking these questions. I have been part of numerous online conversations where women ask similar questions. Here are a how-this-election-cycle-is-affecting-marriages sampling of comments:

  • “How can he be dismissive of the “locker room” talk? I couldn’t even look at him for two days after he dismissed the so called “locker room” talk.”
  • “Why is my time not as important as his time?” “I work full time, too.” “Why am I doing the lion’s share of the housework and carpooling?”
  • “Is my value completely tied up in being a wife and a mother?”
  • “For all that is holy, how can I get him to stop mansplaining me?”
  • “I thought he valued me more.”

These conversations are taking place in households where the adults are in complete agreement over whom they are voting. I can’t even fathom being on opposite sides; not in this election. These questions are being asked in households where the adults agree that misogyny is wrong and feminism is a good idea.

The 2016 presidential election has forced us to face, every single day, the prevalence of male privilege.

This election has shined a harsh spotlight on male privilege.

We need to look at this as a silver lining. It might be difficult to look at the ugliness under the harsh light, but we need this spotlight.

We have watched in horror as a presidential candidate openly bragged about sexual assaulting women just because he can. We have watched in horror as his words are cast aside as “locker room talk”.

We watched as a rapist, who was caught in the actual act of raping, walked away from jail after serving an unjust sentence. A sentence that was an insult to the woman he raped.

We watch women being judged by the sound of their voice, the clothes they wear, and how often they contort their faces into a smile. Men aren’t judged this way. Not to the same degree, anyway. Not even close.

I think acknowledging and processing male privilege may be easier for my husband and I than it is for younger couples. Randy and I have only adult children now. We’re tired, but we’re not “taking care of kids all day and night” tired. The kid part of life, that part where your brain always buzzes with exhaustion, makes it harder to process social change.

I don’t think I’m alone in viewing life through a different pair of eyes since having the spotlight so firmly on women’s issues. This is not a bad thing. If we don’t examine the details of our own lives and decide about necessary change, then nothing can change.

We must remember, relationships don’t need to be a constant push and pull. We women and men filter our thoughts, conversations and observations through different experiences, but these differences don’t have to be a call to battle. If we assume a marriage is loving and sound, then we must continue to draw from that well. Women are hypersensitive from being bombarded with stories and images and feel frustration that has been building for decades. This hypersensitivity is not a weakness or something for us to combat. This sensitivity is a logical outgrowth from living our entire lives being viewed as “less” than men.

Then, our husbands repeat some soundbite dismissive of women’s needs or cut us off and get their mansplain all over us. It can be difficult to quell the urge to hit them with a shovel.

Is there mutual respect in the marriage? Do we love each other? Then, we need to find a calm and reasonable way to work through these moments without committing violence with our garden tools.

Conversely, men need to grasp that some of this understanding may be new and raw for us. They need to empathize while we’re working through our feelings regarding male privilege. Men need to understand that we might display anger, frustration, or mistrust as we are inundated with example after example of their privilege.

It would be helpful if men eased off the defensiveness they display when being told of male privilege. They must remember, this is not a criticism, but instead, a statement of fact. Men are privileged over women. There is no need to be defensive over a fact. Instead, they need to reflect and do what they can to understand a point of view they had previously not considered.

Both sides need to find all the patience they can scrounge.

Recognize your love for each other and remember that you are each other’s safe place. Remember that before going out to the garage to pick up a shovel.

Only good can come from equality. Change doesn’t happen without pain. We need these changes, but we also need each other.

If you are a woman and feel more frustrated than usual with your husband, you are not alone. Many of us are working through similar issues. If you are a man and feel unloved or attacked, please remember that some of us are going through changes that are difficult to process. Also, if you are male and you are not examining your privilege with resolve to change, then you might want to start watching for that shovel.

The new Dude for this week finds Dude going grocery shopping. I wanted to ask, are you still enjoying Dude? Can you see him well on your phones?


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  • I actually prefer to be driven by my partner and I am a man. It is nice to relax and read a book while someone else does the driving. I remember doing a unit in feminist studies many years ago while at university. I was the only guy in the class. It was titled “Womens Studies – an Introduction”. A lady came to me after one class and said it was a good thing to hear a man’s point of view in such a class. I don’t know. I really just did the course to make up the units required to get my degree. Coming from a very poor area and working as a cleaner from 4.00 till 7.00 each morning to fund my degree – I believed poverty was the real issue and that most of the students were indeed quite privileged indeed. I just checked my grades script and I got a High Distinction for that course.

    • There is no doubt that there are MANY issues and privilege isn’t just for men. I am certainly privileged in many ways. I agree that poverty is a major issue. I also come from very humble beginnings.

  • I have two liberal–and liberated–friends who are married to Trump supporters/Hillary haters, and I don’t know how they do it. One says her coping mechanism is to simply not discuss politics because her husband is so intractable and won’t listen to anything that contradicts his beliefs. I can’t imagine being in a relationship like that. I only hope that the light being shone on the issue of male privilege really does open some (male) eyes, and we can all get to a better, more compassionate place. Great post, Michelle.

    • Thank you so much. I don’t know how they do it, either. That would be so difficult. Randy really is awesome. I have been super prickly about so many things and he’s totally accepting and understanding. He also doesn’t assume every time that he is driving anymore. I mean, he still assumes some of the time, but he’s working on it. 🙂

  • While I will fully admit to going ballistic when Frank said, “I feel bad for Trump, he’s clearly the underdog,” I have had a very different reaction to the horrors that the blotch on humanity that is Trump has brought forth. I look around me every day and feel so fucking blessed that men like Frank and my brothers and my stepfather and my sons exist.

    I’ve looked at how many damned good men I know and thanked the Universe for them. My close girlfriends are all partnered with men I truly like and admire. Men who would NEVER speak or behave like Trump has. Men who make meals and change diapers and truly love their partners. Men who would have kicked that Stanford kid’s ass if there’d been in that alley.

    Does Frank clean the toilet often enough? “Hell, no!” Does he truly respect, while teasing and jabbing and sometimes out right baiting me? “Oh yeah.”

    I get it that the patriarchy exists and I, as a third generation Idahoan (a state so red it breaks my heart), am patently aware of male privilege. But, I’m also so blessed to be surrounded by good men. Real men, a few of whom will misguidedly vote for that idiot, who bunk Trump and all his mysogynistic bullshit every time they look their partners in the eyes with love.

    • I love this. I am also very happy that Randy is who he is. He is kind and respectful and always builds me up. My sons are good men and I’m proud of them. I am still seeing signs of wear, though, in my house and with other people. There is so much to process and so much to take in that it can be overwhelming.

      • I absolutely get it about signs of wear. Absolutely.
        Thanks for the quick reply I just came back to thank Randy for Dude. I’ve fallen in love with Dude and Roarshack and have encouraged our family beasties to be more creative like Dude.

        • Randy makes it a priority to prop me up when the anxiety and depression spikes. He’s goofy and sweet and completely genuine. I hate to say too many nice things because then he’ll just be intolerable…but he is pretty fucking awesome.

  • My husband is super-great (really) for helping around the house (and I appreciate that he does the driving, especially in our harsh winters.) BUT. He rules the TV set. We got a DVR and now he rules the DVR, too. It’s the little stuff like that. I tried to watch Dancing with the Stars and he somehow turned it into a political argument! (How did that happen?) We are also fortunate that we will be voting the same way come November. Hubs is a political junkie (see “rules the TV and DVR above”) and I would have left by now – maybe. Hmmm.

  • My grandson is 13 and lives in a small Alabama town. He is the only kid in his class who is for Hilary and it doesn’t bother him at all. Sometimes the science teacher (!) will spend the entire class arguing with him about Hilary vs. Trump. I am so proud of him.

  • I am a woman that shares a mostly wonderful ten year relationship with another woman.

    I would call myself if I have to name myself (which I don’t like doing because I can change my mind) a liberal centralist feminist.

    I find it fascinating that women can even consider Mr. Trump as a legitimate candidate in the election. I’m not all pro Hillary either, however, most certainly the lesser of the challenges that your country will face.

    I find it fascinating that women I know and care deeply for are or have voted for Trump. The fact that we have, “no fly zones” for discussing politics simply is sad.

    Stay strong Michelle. Other countries feel just as divided with our American friends and even within our own countries.

    • Yeah, sometimes it’s best to just not talk about it. And thank you. Just a few more days, then we have to deal with the aftermath and THEN maybe things will be more calm. As long as the president isn’t Cheetoh Sporkhands. (I can’t take credit for Cheetoh Sporkhands. I saw it on facebook)

  • My husband and I are aligned in our Progressive/Democratic choices. We’re both working in the entertainment industry (a liberal hotbed). And yet, I’ve noticed the cultural habits that are alive and well in our house. He is genuinely surprised when I call him on it! Sometimes though, it’s not entitlement that leaves me with the cleaning/washing/shopping duties, but the fact I knowingly married a slob. I saw his apartment before we tied the knot and knew full-well what I was in for. He wasn’t waiting for someone to clean up – he was happy in his own mess.

    I just blocked posts from long-time friends who favor Trump. I will not sway them and I don’t want to know what fearful kernel of their brains has convinced them of the rightness of their choices. I can’t imagine having to survive this protracted election cycle with a Trump supporter in the house!

    As for the “Dude Cycle,” where is this magical grocery store?!!!

    • This grocery store is in Fairfield, Ohio. A suburb north of Cincinnati. Jungle Jim’s is the greatest grocery store ever. We go every week. Only once with a stuffed dog, though.

  • It’s almost over. I, also, have been looking for silver linings in this storm of lies and insanity, and the fact that such an odious personality is at the top of the ticket is drawing a lot of the usually hidden social pathology out into the light of day where it can be seen, acknowledged, and hopefully, dealt with. It is an opportunity, for sure… A pain in the ass, but an opportunity.
    Privilege in our society runs toward the straight, white, Christian male. Also toward the affluent. By the numbers, there are around 27% of the electorate who will vote for this privilege even against their own interests. While I do believe those people deserve to be represented in government like everyone else, I have been doing my dead level best for many years to get their influence attenuated down to match their actual numbers.
    As a man who had a mother, I find male privilege to be kinda dumb. That’s not to diminish the importance of dealing with it at all, but still, really? Males are somehow better? Have you actually met any of them? I don’t know whether you like Louis CK, but he did a really entertaining bit on Conan the other day about Hillary and why we need a mom in the White House.

  • It is interesting the insights that come from actually examining the way things are and asking why. Too rarely do we question the status quo.
    I get a chuckle out of Dude’s adventures. I hope Randy continues to chronicle them.

  • This post really hit home with me. In my household we’ve really got the Mary Matalin/James Carville thing going on except that I’m James and my hubby is Mary. It’s been this way for 36 years. Obviously, we’ve made it work, but it’s not been easy at times. My husband is NOT a Trump supporter; however, he will vote for him because he always votes a straight Republican ticket. The driving thing you mentioned is very interesting because I just never thought about it before. It’s the same with our division of labor when it comes to housework. He does outside stuff and I do inside stuff and I never even thought to question that. There’s one thing I’ll say for Trump: he has forced me to take a long, hard look at myself. I’ve been highly critical of the nasty things he has to say to and about other people, especially women who are not young, thin, and attractive, but I’ve caught myself on many occasions talking about him using the same kind of hate speech he uses. I try hard not to do that because I’m better than him.

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot too. My current relationship is far less patriarchal than my previous one was, and sometimes this still surprises me. For instance, oh, he doesn’t want to drive all the time, he wants me to work as much as I want to, he values my opinions and ideas and ambition and admires my accomplishments…we are politically very close (I am just a bit more of a leftist than he is) so the only real argument this political season has been that he doesn’t see as much misogyny as I do, and he doesn’t know how it feels to be a woman–being constantly aware of how men are looking at you and how many are walking down the street and the lack of feelings of personal safety–but lucky for me he is a great dude. That being said, we also have different standards of cleanliness, which I knew before I moved in, so I often feel responsible for more work, but he really tries, and he especially tries to take care of things that I don’t “notice” like lawn and car stuff…which is a bit more traditional, but I think if the time and effort put in are similar (especially the time, honestly) then we are both happy.

  • I have a slightly unique situation, in that my husband was raised by hoarders who did no maintenence of any kind to cars, house, clothes…..after 20 years, he’s catching on, but it still all needs to be pointed out. I was raised by a crazed narcissist who had a gold medal in competitive housekeeping, so we both have some of what the other needs. Otherwise, he’s better at some stuff than I am, and vice versa. I’m pretty lucky , reading the comments. But then, we were both pretty feral, so we made it up as we went along!

  • Brilliant essay… Brava!

    Being in a lesbian relationship, I don’t have to deal with all those, and often subtle, instances of male privilege, for which I am thankful because there is more than enough out in the world that I… that all women… deal with.

    Tina’s and my marriage is equal in almost every regard. This despite the fact that she is older, works full-time while I live the life of a writer, working only part time, and earns much more than me. She is not the ‘breadwinner’ with me the ever humble and submissive ‘housewife’… roles that far too many married men insist on and far too many women see as there ‘duty’.

    It is my sincere hope that just as this election has brought, large and looming, to the forefront the ‘ideal’ of male privilege and the wrongness of it, that the conversations brought about with this election cycle and the ‘800-pound gorilla in the room women have either chosen to ignore or have grown comfortable and complacent with will bring about real and lasting change so that one day society will truly be equal… in every regard and every circumstance. Because until that day comes we… all of us… are only paying lip service to the ideal of equality.

    Oh, remember back there where I said ‘almost’?

    Tina doesn’t let me drive. Says my driving makes her crazy and that I have a ‘leadfoot’. And while it is true that I do have one speeding ticket (just call me Danica Patrick)… not with the Prius, good lord, no!… I’m not the one who wrecked the car. Well, maybe not wrecked but that front end looked about as crumpled as a hastily thrown away ‘love note’ by a fourth grader.

    But there is an upside to Tina driving.

    I get to enjoy my Starbucks in peace and uninterrupted.


  • Oh, did I mention that Tina is, or was I should say, a staunch Republican (brainwashed into it, I tell her… her family is part of the ‘1 percent’) and I am a staunch social Democrat. Yes, there has been many a spirited debate over the last ten years… lol!

    And while I never did sway Tina over from the ‘dark side’ in all that time, the Republican Party managed to do it with one single action…

    Allowing that ignorant, misogynistic, racist and sexist buffoon Trump to become the Republican presidential nominee.

    When that happened Tina said “That’s it! I’m done! Not my circus… not my monkeys. No more!”

    So I do have one thing to thank that great, ugly, orange ape for.

  • See?
    This here proves there is sanity in the world and the wrong people are in the White House.

    The comments are so ‘revealing’ as to how we have coped, managed, cooperated and flat out ‘rose above’ and carried on.

    I think Dude should deliver this by Pony Express straight to the NY Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

    Thanks for putting into words what the rest of us are feeling, battling, and conquering as we come into what could be a very defining term for the US over the next four years.

    I HOPE there’s ‘something funny’ down that road.

      • If you were full of the meds. I take, even though I feel “normal” there may always be that one cop that doesn’t think so, so, I don’t drive. I don’t drive the Cadillac I drive the bomber Mitsubishi Endeavor. I think that if I run into that one cop I’d rather see the bomber on the tow truck.

        Teresa is a fine driver. When anxiety does inevitably hit me I feel comfortable enough to just close my eyes until it’s over.

  • Hi Michelle,
    My husband and I disagree over who should lead the country. Over the years, we usually get along. This election cycle we have had our low points but then went back to openly communicating about it calmly.

  • After I read this the first time I went and listened to a radio program while washing dishes. And when the program’s host said the next guest would be a mathematician I assumed that person would be a man even though women are also mathematicians–and the next guest was a woman.
    Thank you for talking about this because even though male privilege is being widely discussed right now had I not had your words in mind I might not have reflected on my assumption. Thank you for the reminder that male privilege operates in big and small ways, and sometimes the small ways enable the big ones.

  • This is one of those posts that I read days ago, thought about how powerful it was and wasn’t going to reply because of just how I didn’t have anything to add aside from a “Great post!”. But then I found myself thinking about it and realizing maybe I did have more to say on that. It’s not coming from my happy place though.
    My sweetie is more conservative than any guy I have ever dated but not the point that we view the world completely differently. We agree economically and for the most part socially, but he does have his old school way of thinking as a man. I actually think his daughters teach and his ex taught him a lot so he’s much less “my way or no way” than I probably would have even considered being with. He still has those moments/thoughts but to his credit he keeps them pretty much to himself and to my credit I have pretty much stopped rolling my eyes and settled for just looking at him like he lost his damn mind. Progress.
    I am a woman of color. My sweetheart is a man of a different ethnicity but is still a minority. I will never know what it’s like to be him, or to grow up being his daughters, and he will never know what it’s like to me, or my father for instance. But the thing is, we know this. And I think that is one of the things we do right. I do not have to explain to him why certain movements are important to me. He does not have to explain to me why certain movements are important to him. And because of our differences, I think we view the world in general through even more eyes. We deal with our shit and wonder how the other person would have to deal with the same shit just because we love each other.
    The thing is, it gets tiring sometimes. And because of the extra baggage we carry out in the world, there are times when one or both of us just want to not deal at home and we’re probably not as sensitive to the other to the extent we should be, and usually are. It’s made this election season just depressing as fuck. The crazies are out and it makes it harder for us out in the world, and it means that he and his ex (and me) are dealing with daughters who have more shit to go through than they normally do. You want your home to be a safe place for you and your thoughts but everyone is on edge, and I just know there are things we’d have more patience for on a normal day than we do now. And I can’t wait until this election is over, but I worry. Not about what happens to us at home, because we’re pretty solid despite some bumps, but about how many more years will there be this extra shit because it’s hard to have home be the safe place when there is just so much crap.
    I’m going to watch some puppy videos now.

By Michelle


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