“Don’t Force My Hand”: Gender and Social Class Variation in Relationship Negotiation

Amanda Jayne Miller & Sharon Sassler.

Do the relationship processes leading to cohabitation and subsequent outcomes contribute to growing social class disparities in family behaviors? Our paper explores the role played by gender and class in relationship progression, from dating, to cohabiting, to talk of marriage and proposing. Data are from in-depth interviews with 122 service-class and middle-class cohabiting individuals (sixty-one couples). We find that men initiate dating and proposals far more often than do women, though gender equality is more evident in who raises the topic of cohabiting, and women are more likely than men to initiate discussions of marriage. Middle-class women express greater agency in forwarding relationships than their service-class counterparts, as they frequently raise the topic of marriage and establish the general pacing and time frame of relationship progression. Middle-class men’s greater receptivity to marriage also contributes to the diverging outcomes experienced by middle-class and service-class cohabitors.

Full Article