The headline of a recent Seattle Times article caught my (Leslie's) attention. It asked a seemingly innocent question regarding married couples: "Are we peers yet?"
Searching for clues about my own marriage, I decided to take the ten-question "test" that promised to tell me whether my own marriage was a peer marriage (between equals), a near-peer marriage (where equality is admired but still out of reach), or a traditional marriage (where a hierarchy establishes the husband at the top). The test consisted of questions about who initiates sex, who controls the money, whose career is given pre-eminence, and the role each partner takes as a parent.
Sociologists agree there are many ways to make a marriage work, but marriages between equals or peers are thought to be more satisfying to both partners. However, according to sociologist Pepper Schwartz, author of Love Between Equals: How Peer Marriage Really Works (Free Press), only 10 to 15 percent of all American couples have a peer marriage.
The idea of being a peer with my husband has always been important to me. When Les decided to pursue a doctorate, we decided that I would also pursue a doctorate, in large part, to protect the peer quality of our relationship. In our 13-year marriage we have co-authored books, co-taught courses at the university where we both work, and generally approached our lives as a team. But the questions on this test made me doubt my equal footing.
How could I be certain I had an equal say in how we spend our money? In a crisis, would my voice really carry the same weight as Les's? The test revealed that my marriage was more a near-peer relationship than one between peers. But it was the questions—more than the results of the test—that got me thinking.1