Women who have a romantic view of marriage are less likely to do volunteer work for the wider community, leading their husbands to volunteer less as well.
The researchers focused on whether couples took a "soul mate" view of marriage, making it their top priority in life; or whether they held a more traditional view, placing additional values on other functions of marriage such as raising children and fulfilling financial needs.
‘Wives who take a more romantic view of marriage appear to seek (emotional) satisfaction primarily through husbands, which might take couples' time and energy away from their involvement in the community.’
"Wives who take a more romantic view of marriage appear to seek (emotional) satisfaction primarily through husbands, which might take couples' time and energy away from their involvement in the community," the researchers wrote. But husbands' romantic view of marriage was associated with neither their own nor their wives' volunteering, the study found.
For the study, Young-Il Kim from Baylor University and Jeffrey Dew from Brigham Young University, both in the US, analysed data from the Survey of Marital Generosity, a recent US national sample of 1,368 married couples ages 18 to 45.
Participants were asked about their views of marriage, how often they volunteered, how much time they spent solely with each other and how often they attended religious services.
The study, published in the journal Sociological Perspectives, found that wives' view of the marriage as "soul mates" was associated with less volunteering of both wife and husband, but a man's having a soul mate view of marriage was not associated with volunteering by either spouse.
Time spent alone with one's spouse was positively associated with husbands' reports of their own volunteering. "I thought it was interesting to see the gender difference here," Kim said.
"One possible explanation is that couples who invest more time in their marriage are more likely to have better relationships, and husbands in such marriages may be more likely to volunteer with their wives, who may push them to volunteer more," Kim noted.