What Happened After the Golden Age of Marriage?

Social scientists coined the term golden age of marriage, referring to the period in the middle of the 20th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, the cultural ideology of “love marriage” and a number of marriages became popular and prevalent in many European countries, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and some other modernized societies across the world. According to statistics, more than 90% of all women and men wanted to marry, and they married at a young age. Marriage had become nearly universal in those countries by the 1960s (for a review, see Karandashev, 2017).

The Triumph of the Love-Marriage Cultural Ideology

Love finally conquered marriage and transformed marital relationships (Coontz 2005). The ideals of romantic love, emotional closeness, and sexual satisfaction for both partners became accepted by educated and liberal people, especially those of a young age. The love ideology implied the possibility for men and women to select the bride and groom of their personal choice according to their preferences and love ideals.

The ideals of love marriage also anticipated companionate love relationships and partnerships. Happiness among married partners was expected to be high, and it was frequently found to be so. The divorce rate remained stable. They enjoyed personal freedom in their marital relationships. Married couples had a strong sense of autonomy from their extended family.

Sex and Marriage in the Golden Age of Marriage

In the 1960s and 1970s, sex became a private matter between two individuals. Men and women became more interested in the issues of sexual relationships and sexual pleasure. America and Europe were experiencing a sexual revolution. 

Women’s sexual attitudes changed. Previously, a woman could not achieve full sexual equality because of cultural reservations in this regard. New cultural norms not only permitted sexual pleasure for women but also encouraged it. The sexual revolution of the time recognized men and women’s sexual equality to have sexual satisfaction. 

The fear of an undesired pregnancy also played a role. While she and her partner could have “fun,” only she was primarily responsible for a child. Therefore, couples who had free premarital sex were expected to marry eventually (Murstein 1974, pp. 441–442).

The Beginning of the End of the Golden Age of Marriage

In the 1960s, marriage appeared to have found the optimal balance between the personal freedom of a love match and the constraints necessary for social stability. The ideology of love-based marriage affirms the right of the individual to choose his or her own spouse. Additionally, this cultural ideology emphasized the importance of the individual over inherited wealth and an ethnic group.

Social scientists predicted that many societies across the world would soon adopt this marriage pattern and these cultural values. This perspective on marital relationships was very appealing to young and educated individuals, particularly women (see Karandashev, 2017).

What Happened to Love Marriage Cultural Ideals? 

Surprisingly to many, significant changes began to occur in the opposite direction. In the late 1970s, the cultural revolution took place at a too fast pace and too drastically, getting out of control. The radical ideas of the late 1960s and early 1970s did not transform but overturn “traditional” marriage. Various changes in the realm of relationships occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

The pace of change in marriage attitudes and behaviors became too fast in the mid-1970s. Many of these transformations likely occurred because people did not meet their needs in marriages. Men and women initially sought to find their fulfillment at home. However, when their idealistic expectations for marriage were not met, their discontent grew. Accordingly, people became critical of the lack of intimacy and unsatisfying relationships with their spouses. When they hoped to achieve personal happiness and tried to make this happen within marriage, their expectations failed. Personal discontent with 1950s marital intimacy ideals, combined with economic and political changes in the 1960s and 1970s, most likely overturned 1950s gender roles and marriage patterns.

An American Professor of History and Family Studies, Stephanie Coontz, commented in her book that “it took more than 150 years to establish the love-based, male breadwinner marriage as the dominant model in North America and Western Europe,” but “it took less than 25 years to dismantle it” (Coontz, 2005, p. 247).

Can People Build a True Egalitarian Society?

The idea of an egalitarian society, in which social equality between people is a cultural norm, sounds good for a society to be fair to all. Many could declare their desire to be fair-minded to others. However, this cultural value of an egalitarian society is hard to achieve in social reality. Why so?

Generally, the idea of an egalitarian society where people are socially equal may sound good. It is nice and fair when it is abstract. People in general, and particularly those who belong to the high and middle classes, so-called privileged people, tend to view inequality as something impersonal and fairly distant.

However, they follow this tendency only up to the point when they encounter real intergroup comparative contexts.  Then, they tend to perceive inequality with personal and social bias. As Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California, Paul Piff commented in this regard,

The new progressive social policies aim to reduce inequality and help the poor. These proposed policies may not necessarily motivate wealthy people to support such initiatives. These policies rarely make an appeal to the self-interests of people from the upper social class. Therefore, these advantaged people prefer to preserve the status quo as it benefits them.

In-group Versus Out-group Biases

In-group versus out-group bias and self-interest of people who are currently in a privileged social status play a role in resisting progress in social equality. As N. Derek Brown and his colleagues showed in their experiments (Brown et al., 2022), people of a privileged group consider social equality as good only if it increases equality within their social ingroup but not when it increases in another social group. These studies revealed that equality can appear in a negative shadow for people who have a privileged status because of in-group and out-group biases. Therefore, they misunderstand the social consequences of inequality and social disparities.

What the Old Allegory Teaches Us about Modern False Perceptions of Equality

In a deep-rooted folk parable, God appeared before Vladimir, a poor peasant, and offered to grant him one wish. God told him that he could wish anything.

“Vladimir, I will grant you one wish. Anything you wish for shall be yours.”

Vladimir was excited and started to turn over the numerous possibilities in his head.

But then God adds a stipulation: Anything that he grants Vladimir, he also grants twice to Ivan, Vladimir’s neighbor.

“Anything, I grant to you, I will give to your neighbor, Ivan, twice over.”

After giving it some thought, Vladimir replied,

“Okay, God, I want you to gouge one of my eyes out.”

This punchline tells us something quite intriguing about how paradoxically people can behave in situations of choice.

What Is the “Minimal Group Paradigm” and How Does It Work in Our Group Relations

This fable reminds me of the “Minimal Group Paradigm,” the theory that social psychologist Henri Tajfel developed in his research in the 1970s. He discovered that people willingly categorize people into in-groups and out-groups.
Once we identify ourselves with a group, we come up with explanations of why we are better and why we should all be in the same group. As it turns out, group identity hates a dry spell.
When groups are divided, we naturally favor our own. But what’s more, we prioritize immediate relative gain over absolute overall gain. In his studies, Tajfel demonstrated that the one thing we never do is try to maximize the final result for everyone. Therefore, even though we could all benefit, we’d prefer not to if it meant that the other group would benefit more.

According to Brown and his colleagues’ findings (Brown et al., 2022), even when the people of a privileged group stand to gain some benefits, they frequently refuse to assist a disadvantaged group. Even though they say they want more equality in society, they tend to keep and protect their relative advantage.

How American History Illustrates This Grim Truth About Inequality

The grim history of American racism exemplifies the paradox of social inequality. This is how the policy advocate and New York Times author describes it in her recent book, “The sum of us: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together.”

McGhee, H. (2022). The sum of us: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together. One World. In the 1940s and 1950s, some white American communities were forced to integrate public pools and parks, which grew in popularity. Then, many of them frequently chose to destroy the spaces rather than share them with their black neighbors.

The Last Equality Study Showed a Grimmer Perspective on Equality

Many modern societies have made great strides in promoting social equality. Some nations promote equality more than others. In Western and northern European countries, social equality has advanced quickly. The U.S. equality movement is slower. Voters and policymakers often oppose equality legislation.

Why do conservatives and liberals oppose fair proposals that benefit all? A series of studies have shown that they just misunderstand contexts and, therefore, resist social equality.

Here Is What the Previous Studies on “Zero-sum” Mindsets Revealed

In my previous articles, I presented several experiments conducted by N. Derek Brown and his colleagues (Brown et al., 2022). Their results showed the hidden role that people’s “zero-sum” thinking plays in making them have opposing thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

They agree with equality and see it as a positive change in their privileged social group. However, they oppose equality once it increases between their own and other social groups.

The following experiments produced even more striking results. Researchers formed a fictitious “privileged” group of Rattlers and offered them the chance to take actions endorsing or opposing certain equality policies.

Unexpectedly for researchers, the Rattlers perceived the win-win scenario to be marginally more detrimental to their interests than the lose-lose proposal. Therefore, they preferred “the lose-lose” option over “the win-win” option as a desired policy. These findings are extremely compelling and “grim.” As Derek Brown and his co-authors noted (Brown et al., 2022),

“The misperception that equality is harmful is stubbornly persistent, resisting both reason and incentivization.”

Researchers attempted to address scarcity concerns and assure people that a more equitable policy would not affect their opportunities. Nevertheless, people tend to oppose such equality policies.

What the Final Eagles-Rattlers Experiment Showed

In a second Eagles-Rattlers experiment, the Rattlers were given two options to reduce inequality. In the “unharmful” option, the Eagles get more resources without any change for the Rattlers. The “harmful” option involved the Rattlers getting less, with no change for the Eagles.

Researchers presented those options side-by-side. They wanted to help people recognize that the unharmful one is the more rational choice. Therefore, people would have a chance to choose the less harmful one. Even though the Rattlers chose that option as policy, they still saw it as more harmful to their interests than the harmful option. The study demonstrates why equality is bad or appears to be bad for many people of privileged social classes. Inequality and disparities persist because people fundamentally misunderstand the social consequences of their actions.

These Studies Still Provide a Possibility of a Positive Perspective for Equality

On the bright side, the researchers found that people from advantaged social groups are much more open to policies that reduce inequality within their social group. This could help explain why some countries with less racial diversity than the U.S., like Scandinavia, have been better at making equitable social policies.

What Can Policy Makers Do to Increase American Social Equality?

Brown and his co-authors say that American progressive policymakers could use the findings of these studies to promote national unity. On the other hand, conservative Republican lawmakers increasingly do the opposite. They put social groups against each other based on gender, race, religion, citizenship, and party affiliation.

What Do Authors Suggest to Better Promote Equality?

In conclusion, the researchers suggest,

 “A critical next step concerns how the negative effects of zero-sum equality perceptions can be averted or how we can make progress toward equality despite these misperceptions.”

The question remains,

“How can advantaged groups be convinced to relinquish their relative advantages even as doing so inherently feels like a material concession?”

These studies do not present an optimistic picture for the future of American equality. However, Derek Brown advises policymakers that even though backlash is probably unavoidable, they can promote the change with the justification and motivation to create equality policies. Particularly when establishing a more equal and equitable society is on the table, the risk is still worth the reward (Brown et al., 2022).

These Experiments Show Why Equality Is Bad or Looks Bad

Many modern societies have made great strides toward implementing social policies and practices that promote social equality. However, cultural values of equality spread more rapidly in some nations than in others.

Significant progress toward social equality, for example, has occurred relatively quickly in Western and Northern European countries. However, the social movement toward equality in the United States of America remains slow. The legislative initiatives face resistance from many voters and policymakers. They are often reluctant to support such equality policies. The intriguing question remains why so many people, both conservatives and often liberals, oppose such apparently fair proposals that can benefit all. Nevertheless, they mistakenly perceive the contexts of possible outcomes and resist social equality.

What the Preceding Studies Showed

In my previous post, I described some of the experiments conducted by N. Derek Brown and his colleagues (Brown et al., 2022), which discovered the hidden role that people’s “zero-sum” mindsets play in affecting their oppositional opinions, attitudes, and actions. Because of this, they believe that equality can lead them to lose their advantageous status. They agree with the idea of equality and perceive this as a positive change when equality increases within their own privileged social group. However, they oppose this idea of equality and perceive this as an undesirable shift when equality may increase between their own and other social groups.

Here Are the Other Experiments with Equality, Even More Convincing

The results of the following experiments were especially striking. Researchers made up a special “privileged” social group. They administered a personality test (a bogus test). Then, the researchers told participants that, based on their “test results”, they placed them in either the Eagles or the Rattlers group. In fact, the researchers assigned all of them to the Rattlers’ group. This group held a position of advantage over the Eagles, a fictitious social group. Then, the researchers proposed the Rattlers to reduce the disparity between them and the Eagles. They could take one of two actions:

  1. Either making both groups better off while helping the Eagles more (the win-win, equality-enhancing option)
  2. Or making everyone worse off while harming the Eagles more (the lose-lose, inequality-enhancing option).

Surprisingly and counterintuitively, the Rattlers perceived the win-win scenario to be marginally more detrimental to their interests than the lose-lose proposal. Therefore, they favored “the win-win” option less than “the lose-lose” option as a desired policy.

What Is Especially Striking About These Findings?

One can see that these findings are very convincing. Derek Brown and his colleagues (Brown et al., 2022) characterize these as “grim.” They commented that

“The misperception that equality is harmful is stubbornly persistent, resisting both reason and incentivization”

As Paul Piff, Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California, remarked,

People in general, and particularly elites, “tend to perceive inequality as something abstract and fairly distant. Inequality-mitigating policies are often framed in terms of policies to help the poor, which isn’t necessarily all that motivating for (some) folks. In a sense, then, combatting inequality rarely appeals to self-interest, which is a massive motivation for those advantaged in society to preserve the status quo insofar as it benefits them.”

The Important Conclusion of These Experiments

People tend to resist such equality policies, even when researchers address scarcity concerns and assure people that a more equitable policy will not affect their opportunities. Thus, this study demonstrates why equality is bad or looks bad to many privileged people. Inequality and disparities continue to occur because people fundamentally misunderstand their social consequences.

These Experiments Show Hidden Reasons Why Privileged Social Classes Can Be Against Equality

The social policies and practices of social equality have progressed significantly in many contemporary societies. People in some countries, such as Scandinavia and other North European countries, adopted equality cultural values more quickly and easily than in others. However, in the United States of America, progress on equality is still sluggish and encounters opposition from voters and policymakers. People may explicitly express their support for social equality. Yet, implicitly, they may be reluctant to adopt the policies and practices of equality.

Why does such a discrepancy take place? Why do people tacitly resist equality?

Why Did Researchers Explore “Zero-sum” Beliefs?

A group of researchers led by N. Derek Brown (Brown et al., 2022) looked into the effects of conservative ideology, belief in the status quo, a preference for social hierarchies, and the “zero-sum” worldview of people who prefer to maintain their social advantage.

The study took a special interest in how the zero-sum mentality of men and women affects their opinions, attitudes, and actions. They think that equality can make it harder for them to get and preserve what they need. People in advantaged groups think it’s good when equality grows within their own group but not when it grows between groups. Researchers conducted a series of experiments with several samples of American participants. They discovered interesting results, illuminating why and how individuals in privileged social groups persistently believe that policies that advance equality are detrimental to their own interests. Accordingly, they mistakenly think that inequality is good.

What Did the First Set of Experiments Show?

For the first set of experiments, researchers recruited people from advantaged groups, such as white Americans, able-bodied people, men, and people who have never been convicted of a crime. Then the researchers showed them the proposals that would improve the resources available to members of a less-advantaged group, such as Latino Americans, people with disabilities, women, and people who have been convicted of a crime. In this experimental condition, researchers did not take anything away from the advantaged group. In some cases, researchers openly told the participants from this advantaged group that there were no limits on the resources. Therefore, these proposals to improve equality would not harm their own prospects. Still, on average, these people thought the proposals were bad. Nevertheless, these participants mostly perceived the proposals as harmful.

Here Is Another Experiment on Equality Beliefs 

Prior to the November 2020 election, researchers conducted another experiment among white, East Asian, and South Asian California voters. The researchers asked about a ballot initiative that would repeal an existing ban on affirmative action in public employment, contracts, and university admissions. Researchers considered these people to be the privileged group because many of them, compared to other social groups, studied at public universities or worked in the public sector.

Two-thirds of these respondents said they were liberal. Nevertheless, they thought that allowing affirmative action programs would have hurt their chances of getting public sector jobs, contracts, and college spots for their families. The results of this experiment showed that when they thought affirmative action would hurt their own interests, they more likely answered that they would vote against this proposition. The general vote that year did not support this affirmative action proposal.


Thus, the results of the first set of experiments supported the researchers’ prediction that “zero-sum” attitudes strongly affect people’s actions against social equality.

This Study Revealed the Impediment that Makes People Resist Social Equality

Modern societies in Europe and North America have made substantial progress in the social policies and practices of social equality. Nevertheless, further advancements in equality are still slow and meet with resistance from policymakers and voters. Some countries are more rapidly adopting the idea of equality than others.

For example, equality in the United States of America is still a long way, in many respects, from being good enough. Many privileged Americans, especially those with conservative values, are still reluctant to adopt the idea of equality.

Even though many people may say they want social equality, their thoughts and feelings about equality can be different. Why so? A new study conducted by N. Derek Brown and his colleagues (Brown et al., 2022) investigated how conservatism, belief in the status quo, preference for social hierarchies, and a “zero-sum” worldview influence the behavior of people aimed at gaining a social advantage.

What Are “Zero-sum” Beliefs?

The study has focused on the psychological function of the zero-sum mentality. This way of thinking makes people in privileged social groups think that policies that promote equality are bad for their own interests.

What is the psychology of the “zero-sum” worldview? People with a “zero-sum mentality” view many situations in social relations as zero-sum games. They believe that when one person gains, the other person loses. In other words, a person considers the other person’s gain as his or her own loss. Sometimes this happens in our lives. However, it is not necessarily true in other circumstances. People with this belief think that even simple things like buying food or a car have a winner and a loser. Because of these ideas, policymakers and voters may think that new policies will hurt them more than help others, even though the opposite is true.

What Did Studies Reveal?

Several studies with a total sample size of 4,197 participants showed that members of privileged groups mistakenly believe inequality to be beneficial. They think that equality can be detrimental to their access to resources. People of advantaged groups perceive equality as good only when it is increased within their social ingroup but not between social groups.

When resources and resource access are unlimited, misconceptions also endure. Even when policies that promote equality have positive effects on society as a whole, people still have wrong beliefs.

For example, a long-term study of American voters in 2020 found that this way of thinking about policy was a better predictor of how they would vote than their political beliefs or egalitarian beliefs.

Furthermore, the two final experiments revealed that advantaged people are more likely to vote for policies that increase inequality and harm their finances rather than policies that increase equality and help their finances. Despite any efforts to assist people in making better decisions, people continue to have these incorrect beliefs. So, it’s surprising that the mistaken belief that equality must be a “zero-sum game” may be why inequality still exists even though it has costs for society as a whole.

Why Is Inequality in American Society So Persistent?

In the United States of America, equality is frequently declared to be a high cultural value. And there is undeniable evidence of the progress that American society has made in the social practice of equality during the 20th century.

In many respects, however, equality in the United States is still not consistent and is far from ideal. Despite their declared aspiration for social equality, Americans are diverse in their opinions and attitudes toward equality.

Psychological Discrepancies in Declared Values and Actions

The division between liberals and conservatives is quite apparent in this regard. While many progressive men and women see social equality as a highly desirable cultural value in American society, many conservative men and women may disagree with this view of social life.

Even though many people say they believe in the value of equality, both liberals and conservatives from socially advantaged groups may act in ways that protect their advantage.

Members of socially privileged groups often support the idea of equality, but they use their privilege to make policies that keep inequality in place. This trend keeps going even though inequality threatens the prosperity of both poor and rich groups. Many believe that this “cognitive mistake” is more common for conservatives than for liberals. However, it is not always correct. Both conservatives and liberals are prone to such “cognitive mistakes” and advantage-protecting behavior. Whether conservative or liberal, we tend to cling to our advantages at all costs.

Why Are Privileged Americans So Resistant to the Idea of Equality?

A recent study (Brown et al., 2022) looked at how conservatism, believing in the status quo, liking social hierarchies, and having a “zero-sum” view of the world affect behavior that tries to gain an advantage.

People with a zero-sum way of thinking perceive many situations as zero-sum games. This is the zero-sum attitude, which considers one person’s gain as another person’s loss. The study has especially looked at the psychological role of the zero-sum attitude. This attitude makes people from privileged social groups misperceive policies that promote equality as being detrimental to their own interests.

This zero-sum attitude makes negotiators think that their interests will always be at odds with those of their counterparts. They hold this belief even in situations when there are ways to make one or both parties better off without hurting either.

According to this view, people think that even everyday things like buying food or a car result in a position of winner and loser. Because of these beliefs, policymakers and voters may think that new policies will hurt them more than help others, even though the opposite is true.

The Studies Revealed What Causes American Inequality to Be So Persistent

A series of studies with a total sample size of 4,197 participants demonstrated that members of privileged groups incorrectly perceive equality to be detrimental to their access to resources and inequality to be advantageous. Only when equality is increased within their ingroup, as opposed to between groups, do members of advantaged groups perceive it as harmless. Misperceptions persist even when equality-enhancing policies offer broad benefits to society. Misperceptions also persist when resources and resource access are unlimited.

In particular, a longitudinal survey of U.S. voters in 2020 revealed that voters’ perceptions of harm are a stronger predictor of voting against actual equality-enhancing policies than voters’ political and egalitarian beliefs.

And the two final experiments showed that advantaged people are more likely to vote for policies that increase inequality that hurt their finances than for policies that increase equality that help their finances. Even after a change was made to help people make better decisions, people still have the wrong ideas. Surprisingly, this mistaken belief that equality has to be a zero-sum game could be why inequality still exists, even though it has costs for society that hurt everyone.

The Cultural Value and Practice of American Equality

Equality is commonly declared as a high cultural value in American society. And it is true in many regards. Many legislative norms and practices demonstrate widespread equality in American daily life. However, American equality is still inconsistent and far from ideal in some respects.

What Is Social Equality?

Social equality means that all members of a society are treated equally. This may include having access to civil rights, freedom of speech, autonomy, and certain public goods and social services. Social equality implies that there are no legally recognized social class distinctions and that there is no discrimination based on a fundamental aspect of an individual’s identity.

The best form of equality is equity. Therefore, social equality means that individuals have equal opportunity, not necessarily equal availability. Ultimate social equality means that all individuals are equal in their opportunities,

  • regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation,
  • regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, social class, income,
  • regardless of their origin, language, opinions,
  • regardless of their health, and disability.

The Progress in American Equality

The history of American society has been quite controversial in terms of democracy and social equality. Even though American leaders always declared these social values, real legislative norms and practices were far from ideal.

The 20th century has made substantial progress in this regard. It has been especially true since the 1960s. Thanks to the efforts and persistence of countless American people and leaders. America has now come much closer to the ideal of equality upon which the country was founded. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom became a crucial momentum in this regard. One can see clear evidence of the progress in equality. For instance,

  • Race is no longer a barrier to entry at a lunch counter.
  • Restrictive covenants cannot legally state that only certain types of people can purchase certain types of homes.
  • Literacy tests are no longer a barrier to voting.

However, let’s take a closer look at the realities of today in various areas of American life. Studies have obviously demonstrated that real equality is still an ongoing process. Equality is still just a dream, rather than a reality, for many people in the United States.

Is Further Progress Good for American Culture?

On the one hand, many liberal and progressive men and women believe that social equality is good and is a desirable value for the future American culture. On the other hand, many conservative men and women may not think so.

For instance, white Americans, and white men in particular, have a tendency to view efforts to reduce prejudice toward black men and women as being prejudicial to them. This is especially true when the target population is black men and women. We have seen a lot of this conservative backlash against diversity and racial justice.

“The misperception that equality is harmful is stubbornly persistent, resisting both reason and incentivization.”

And the psychology of advantage can explain this social psychological tendency in beliefs, attitudes, and actions. Whether we identify as conservatives or liberals, we tend to hold on to our advantages at all costs (Brown et al., 2022).

“Self-interest…is a massive motivation for those advantaged in society to preserve the status quo insofar as it benefits them.”

Gender Roles in Families in Nicaragua

Across cultural history, patriarchal systems have been common in many human societies. Gender inequality has been typical of such patriarchal cultures. It is still widely present in many traditional societies around the world. Gender inequality in patriarchal societies, however, has cultural variations across all cultures. Let us see how it looks in Nicaragua, the country situated in Central America.

Inequality in Gender Roles in Nicaragua

In Nicaragua, there is a patriarchal culture with a social hierarchy of gender roles. Men have a higher social status than women. They have more affordances in their behavior than women do. Their culturally normative rights in a relationship are unequal. Men are supposed to be dominant, while women are supposed to be submissive.

Such gender roles and inequalities are rooted in the Latin American cultural norms of “machismo” and “marianismo,” which reflect the masculinity of men and the femininity of women. In Nicaragua, however, machismo and patriarchy take an odd twist with peculiar characteristics (Karandashev, 2017).

Typical Nicaraguan machismo cultural practices include their independence from family obligations, plenty of leisure time, taking adventurous actions, gambling, drinking, and womanizing. According to these gender norms, it is acceptable for men to do whatever they want. They are proud to feel independent.

On the other hand, Nicaraguan women, like many other Latin American women, are supposed to follow the ideal of “marianismo.” The typical cultural roles of Nicaraguan marianismo are to be a “good woman,” submissive, and nurturing. Women are expected to serve men and accept any degree of freedom in their behavior (Hagene, 2010).

These unequal gender roles of Nicaraguan men and women also include their sexual inequality. Society accepts that men are free in their sexual behavior, while women are culturally restricted in their sexuality. Both men and women view these cultural practices as normal. It is assumed that men are sexual beings and women are emotional beings.

Family Roles of Nicaraguan Women and Men

A Nicaraguan man can engage in polygamous relationships after being married. Men frequently have multiple women at the same time. Their formal marriage does not preclude husbands from having more than one partner. They can have two wives and children with other women. They feel free from family obligations.

On the other hand, a Nicaraguan married woman is more likely to stay in monogamy. Sometimes, she may need to engage in a serial monogamous relationship. It happens when one husband abandons her for another woman while another man approaches her with romantic advances. Women in Nicaragua are usually householders. They have strong agency in the economic and religious areas of their family life. However, they are certainly dependent on men in emotional and, to some extent, social matters (Hagene, 2010).

These examples of marital relationships represent a widespread cultural practice in society rather than isolated incidents. Hagene (2010) called this type of patriarchy the “absentee patriarchy,” in which a man is largely physically absent from the family but still attempts to control much of the woman’s life. In family relations, the man forces the woman into dependency by threatening to leave her. In fact, they frequently do so. Such an ambiguous relationship can also be called love, yet it is quite specific. The man practices this kind of love, which the woman calls amor compartido. This means “shared love,” when the man has another lover and sometimes has a second family.

Dramatic Stories of Women’s Marriages in Southwest Nicaragua

Historically, women’s economic reliance on men contributed to gender role asymmetry in Nicaraguan patriarchal society. However, women now control and head a sizable portion (nearly half) of families and households.

These cases are especially common in rural residency areas in southwest Nicaragua, such as San Juan, a small coastal town situated 87 miles (140 kilometers) south of Managua, the country’s capital.

An anthropological study has revealed the dramatic stories of love and marriage of women in those cultural contexts (Hagene, 2010). The women revealed in their interviews how difficult it is to balance the needs for income earning, raising their children, serving, and providing sexual and emotional support for their husbands, who frequently have more than one wife and family.

Why do women continue to accept such inequality and presumably unjust relationships with men? Hagene’s anthropological research shows that the reasons women submit to men and stay in relationships that aren’t fair are more emotional than economic.

Stories of Women’s Marriages in the Nicaraguan City of Rivas

It is likely that cultural practices differ across the country. Here are different examples obtained from the city of Rivas, located on land between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua in southwestern Nicaragua. The stories of other studies have shown different pictures of marriage. For instance, patriarchy in the vegetable-growing collective in Rivas shows a different form of family relations. The husbands apparently sustain their wives and families, as in the classic patterns of patriarchy (Montoya, 2003).

Even though gender inequality is still present, it is based on a relatively fair contribution from both a man and a woman. In such families, the man makes the rules, provides resources, and holds control of family issues while the woman stays home, does household work, and cares for the children.

The Pursuit of Fair Marriages and Families in Nicaragua

There can be hope for more gender equality, just gender roles, and fair marital and family relationships in Nicaragua. In the 1980s, the Sandinista revolutionary government declared new legislation. The new laws pursue less asymmetrical and more just gender relationships. These laws also advocate for more egalitarian family authority, child support, and divorce.

However, Sandinista gender ideologies were ambiguous, allowing men to interpret revolutionary masculinity on their own terms. This revolutionary legislature was not able to dismantle gender inequality but destabilized local patriarchies (Montoya, 2003).

Cultural practices are still diverse in different regions of the country and, likely, in different social classes. In some residential areas and communities, such as Rivas, patriarchal cultural norms tend to be relatively fair according to the classic patriarchy. However, in other regions, such as San Juan, these new laws did not inspire husbands to fairly contribute to their household and maintain responsible family relations.

The Strange Gender Inequality between Nicaraguan Men and Women

Sex differences between men and women are commonly known for several biological characteristics. The long history of gender inequality has shaped social and psychological differences in many patriarchal societies. There is no doubt that these different sexual and gender roles are reflected in the cultural norms and practices of how men and women love and marry.

The gender inequality of patriarchal societies, however, has cultural specifics across all cultures of the world. Let us consider gender-specific love and relationships in Nicaragua, the Central American country located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The Notions of “Machismo” and “Marianismo” in Nicaraguan Culture

In Nicaraguan culture, there is a social hierarchy in which men have a higher rank and have more freedom than women. The rights in a relationship are unequal, with culturally normative men’s dominance and women’s submissiveness. These gender roles and relationship inequalities are coined in the culturally specific terms of “machismo” and “marianismo”, which are associated with Latin American notions of masculinity and femininity (Karandashev, 2017; Lancaster, 1992, p. 92).

The sociocultural conditions of colonial and Catholic traditions have had a significant impact on Nicaragua, like many other Latin American nations in that cultural region. These historical origins have had a significant impact on the formation of gender-specific concepts like “machismo” and “marianismo.” They still certainly affect relations between men and women.

Nicaraguan patriarchy and masculine “machismo,” however, have certain specific characteristics.

Typical masculine behaviors are characterized by independence, risky actions, drinking, gambling, and womanizing. These are the social norms and practices that men are commonly expected to follow in relationships. The fact that men don’t follow these rules is a threat to their manliness.

Cultural Norms of Gender Inequality in Nicaraguan relationships

Machismo norms presumptively assume that wives should serve their husbands in marital relationships. On the other hand, their gender norms allow men to do whatever they want. They can drink and womanize. Women tend to forgive their male spouse’s behavior. Following their gender roles, they frequently justify their husbands’ behavior and infidelity. They say that these manly traits, like strong sexual desires, are part of “male nature.”

According to “marianismo” roles, women demonstrate their submissive and nurturing qualities. They fulfill their gender roles as “good women,” upholding the chastity norm. Community control, ‘social censorship’, ‘rumors’, and ‘gossip’ strengthen their behaviors (Hagene, 2010).

Sexual Inequality in Nicaraguan Marriages

On the one hand, according to gender norms, women are expected to be chaste, submissive, and follow their sexual fidelity. On the other hand, according to gender norms, men can conquer, dominate, and womanize. Such practices are culturally normal. Both men and women believe that men are sexual beings and women are emotional beings.

Both men and women can have extramarital affairs. However, only men in Nicaragua can publicly display these relationships. Sometimes, they even use such relationships to implicitly threaten their women. This way, they enforce them to accept their behavior as it is. For women, having such complicated relationships with their partners is physically and emotionally painful, but they have to put up with it and accept it (Hagene, 2010).

It is common in Nicaraguan society for men to be romancing multiple women at the same time. But only one of these women succeeds in establishing herself as the ‘woman of his house.’ (Montoya, 2002).

Nicaraguan Men and Women Have Complicated Monogamous Relationships

In marriage, Nicaraguan women are more likely to practice monogamy than their husbands. Women often need to practice serial monogamy when they have one husband after another. They still maintain their family household. These instances present a widespread cultural practice rather than individual cases.

In contrast, men frequently practice “polymonogamy.” Formal marriage does not prevent husbands from having several partners. Men often have several women at the same time. Husbands may have two wives at the same time and have children with other women while still living with the first. This case also represents a widespread cultural practice (Hagene, 2008, p.32).

It appears that the practices of intergender relationships in Nicaragua are still following the cultural norms of gender inequality. The Nicaraguans continue to be resistant to modern cultural norms of gender equality, which are evident in many other societies.

What about Nicaraguan love? How does it look?