His Or Hers: Whose Job Is More Important

07/04/2008 05:12am ET | Updated November 17, 2011

CNN Living has taken the time to tackle the age-old couple debate of whose job is more important.

It's common for couples to place more emphasis on the man's career, according to a 2007 study of more than 9,000 married men and women ages 25-59. The researchers, from the University of Iowa and the University of California-Davis, also found that when couples relocate, the husband tends to get a salary boost -- $3,000 on average. But the wife loses $750.

"When couples migrate, they are [typically] doing it for the benefit of the husband's career, and so the wife is what we call the 'trailing spouse,'" says study author Mary Noonan, associate professor of sociology at the University of Iowa. "She may have to take a job in the new location that is a less-than-ideal match for her skills [or] qualifications."

Wondering why this ridiculous phenomenon is still happening? Apparently, it's socialization.

While it may not be true for every relationship, more often than not, Noonan says, "men and women are taught to play very different roles within marriage. Women are socialized to play a homemaking role within the family, whereas men are encouraged to focus on their careers and breadwinning."

And how are you supposed to work through such a caustic debate? Here is some expert advice:

Trade places. "It takes some heartfelt conversations to begin balancing the career scales in a marriage," says Les Parrott, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Seattle Pacific University. "It requires both spouses to be honest with their feelings."

Parrott asks clients to list what's important to them about their careers, assigning each element a value from 1 to 10. After each spouse makes a list, they try to guess how much their partner values each item.


Switch off. Daniel Buccino, a psychotherapist and faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says the fluidity of today's job market gives couples "opportunities to evaluate and re-evaluate and hopefully switch off between whose career takes priority at various phases along the marital life cycle."

And lastly, well, there's always long distance.

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