Recently I read an article in The Washington Post regarding a decline in inter-class marriages in the U.S. resulting from the rise in economic segregation. The article focused primarily on the marital struggles between couples within inter-class marriages. Reoccurring themes within these arguments reflected differences in upbringing, centering around spending habits and opposing emotional styles when dealing with conflict. The couples interviewed for the article all seemed to follow a similar trend, which was that the spouse who came from a more affluent background handled both money and household chores differently than their spouse, who was raised in either a poor or working-class environment. One couple even strongly disagreed on how their children should be allowed to spend their leisure time, e.g. one parent believed in structured free time while the other pushed for unstructured free time.
Another issue highlighted in the article was how different social class upbringings can affect how a person expresses their emotions to their partner. In one example given, the husband from a blue-collar working class background was taught that keeping one’s emotions to oneself was “dishonest” and would express himself loudly, much to the displeasure of his wife, who came from a more affluent background where she was taught that emotional reactions should be free from emotional tones and more “intellectualized”. These differences in communication caused problems in the marriage but ultimately each spouse learned how to communicate in the style that was more familiar to other, e.g. the husband would wait a bit before expressing an emotion while his wife became more willing to both feel and express her emotions.
Overall when asked whether they believed that class difference was an important factor in their marriages, most of the people being interviewed remarked that they had skirted the issue in order to avoid feeling superior or snobby. While many of the couples didn’t want to admit that class difference had significant influence over their marriages, it was clear that it indeed did. That being said, the influence of class difference needn’t be a negative one, causing fruitless conflict. As illustrated previously, couples can also learn things about themselves by having to find compromise in order to relate better to a partner who isn’t exactly like themselves. The fact that these types of marriages are steadily on the decline owing to economic segregation is rather disheartening. Jessi Streib, in her book The Power of the Past : Understanding Cross-Class Marriages, observes the literary tradition of finding romance in crossing class boundaries for love, and notes that inter-class relationships provide opportunities to have experiences that one’s own class never provided them.
- For richer or poorer: The challenges of marrying outside your class. (2015, March 26). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/for-richer-or-poorer-the-challenges-of-marrying-outside-your-class/2015/03/26/cd7ccf72-ccac-11e4-8a46-b1dc9be5a8ff_story.html
Singal, J. (2015, February 19). What Happens When Rich People Marry Poor People. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/02/what-happens-when-rich-people-marry-poor-people.html