Male Identity’s Influence on Masculinity and Relationship Satisfaction

Masculine ideology and male identity are important components in a man’s life. Men view masculinity as either traditional or nontraditional and shape their identities either dependently or independently of others. Regardless of how a man identifies with masculinity, it will have an effect on his satisfaction in relationships. According to Jay C. Wade of the Department of Psychology at Fordham University in New York, the way a man identifies himself leads to choice in either traditional or nontraditional masculine ideology. This, in turn, directly impacts how happy he feels in his intimate relationships. In a recent study led by Wade, this dynamic was tested on a sample of 90 men. Wade looked at whether men held traditional or nontraditional masculine ideals and whether their male identities were able to be sustained without the need to belong to a specific group.

Wade found that the men who were able to feel confident in their identities without having to be affiliated with a particular group of men were also those with the nontraditional masculine ideals. Although having traditional masculine ideals has been suggested to lead to relationship satisfaction, that was not the case in this study. In fact, the traditionally masculine men felt as if their identities were dependent on group affiliation. Together, these two factors resulted in lower levels of relationship satisfaction than nontraditional, identity-independent men.

“The results of this research demonstrate the importance of masculinity ideology in understanding how and why men of different male identity statuses will feel satisfied or not in their romantic relationships,” Wade said. Clinicians who are trying to help men address relationship issues may benefit from this research. Focusing on ways to bolster male identity without group adherence and feeling the need to belong to a culturally accepted segment of the population may provide men with the ability to adopt less traditional masculine norms. This combined change could increase their level of self-esteem and confidence and result in a more positive outlook and higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

Wade, Jay C., and Patrick Coughlin. Male reference group identity dependence, masculinity ideology, and relationship satisfaction in men’s heterosexual romantic relationships. Psychology of Men & Masculinity 13.4 (2012): 325-39. Print.

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  • Steve


    November 6th, 2012 at 4:59 AM

    So what I read into this is that we have to teach boys to be their own selves and to respect themselves in the same way that we have had this push to do this for young girls. I don’t want to stop doing for one group just to start for another- but I do think that it is important for us to realize that this kind of thing affects both sexes equally and just because traditionally young men have had things a little easier than women does not mean that this is any longer the case. We all have our own insecurities and doubts and many times what helps to calm thos is getting involved in clubs and peer groups. But I think that this shows that many times this involvement can still be detrimental later on because then your personal relationship satisfaction can go out the window./

  • AJ


    November 6th, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    So, I guess beer and poker night with the boys is out? Does that mean girls night out is cancelled, too? It seems like some lines of thought say that you need to take care of yourself and have me time. This article seems to disagree with me time with the boys. So, which is it?

  • Matt


    November 6th, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    There is flexibility in masculinity. We can’t shut ourselves down to a particular interest just because it doesn’t fit the norm. Men who feel comfortable engaging in interests and ideas that are outside the “masculine norm” without it being a threat to their identity as a man experience higher relationship satisfaction.

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