Women's Dating

Gender Role, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: Know the Difference?

Dr. Wendy Walsh

Written by: Dr. Wendy Walsh

Dr. Wendy Walsh

Dr. Wendy Walsh is the author of "The 30-Day Love Detox"" (April 2013).

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles and reports have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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The terms gender role, gender identity and sexual orientation may seem like interchangeable terms, but the truth is they all mean something very different.

And they all mean something very valuable to your relationship.

Gender role.

A gender role is defined by the activities that are traditionally associated with each gender.

As you’ve probably noticed, gender roles aren’t static. They are constantly changing and vary within different cultures.

For example, women traditionally are the primary caregivers and often prepare meals for the family. Today, many men have taken this role in the family, but that doesn’t mean they’re gay or even feminine.

Gender identity.

Gender identity is the gender an individual identifies or feels most comfortable with.

As for sexual identity, it’s simply the gender that one is sexually attracted to (commonly labeled straight, bisexual or gay).


“Both women and men are having to

adapt to the changing gender roles.”

What does this have to do with your relationship?

The person you choose to date and mate with is going to have to fall under the criteria you desire regarding gender role, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Gender identity and sexual orientation may be a little bit easier to sniff out in a potential partner.

Gender roles, on the other hand, require getting to know someone a little better. They may seem irrelevant, but they are crucial to your relationship, especially if you plan on becoming a parent in the future.

Not all couples take into consideration gender roles when planning cohabitation, marriage or kids.

And the fact gender roles are constantly changing doesn’t make it any easier to decide how to share the responsibilities.

Traditionally, men were the ones working and bringing home the dough while women provided the child care. Today, the workforce is much different, with women nearly outnumbering men in the workforce.

This means both women and men are having to adapt to the changing gender roles.

Men and women have both adopted more egalitarian roles when it comes to household chores, research suggests. Studies have also shown that discordance of gender role attitudes has been associated with less marital satisfaction for men and women.

Bottom line: Discuss your gender roles with your partner.

Make sure you can come to an agreement so you both understand who is responsible for what when it comes to finances, household chores, child rearing and even sex.

If you prefer a traditional relationship where the man brings home the paycheck, then don’t expect to be making financial decisions in your relationship, even though that is the norm for many women today.

The modern shift to egalitarian gender roles in marriages has become more pervasive for a reason. It promotes happiness and life satisfaction.

One study found couples that share the responsibilities of paid and unpaid work report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction than those from other models. It claims “couples who do the dishes together stay together.”

What gender role, gender identity and sexual orientation do you identify with? Does this align with social norms? Let me know what you think below!

Photo source: jeffhughes.ca.

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