Gender Role Reversal: Civilian Husbands of United States Military Servicewomen Defining Masculinity as Tied-Migrant Workers

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Virginia Tech


Employment of male spouses of female service members in the United States military (i.e., civilian husbands of servicewomen) is frequently affected when they geographically relocate due to their wives' military service. Because of persisting societal norms for husbands as primary breadwinners in marriages and the majority of military couples being comprised of male service members married to female civilian spouses, civilian husbands of servicewomen may experience a gender role reversal in their identity as a spouse and as a provider within their relationships and military culture. This qualitative study examined the experiences of civilian husbands of servicewomen in their positions as tied-migrant workers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 civilian husbands who experienced at least one geographic relocation due to their wife's military service. Descriptive phenomenological analysis was used to discover the essence of participants' experiences. Themes around defining masculinity, being a minority in the military, and being a non-traditional gender provider in a tied-migrant worker role emerged. Participants expanded their masculine identities to include performing traditionally feminine tasks as well as placing value on egalitarianism in their spousal relationships when they experience barriers to breadwinning. Limitations (e.g., predominantly White and exclusively heterosexual sample, potential biases in recruitment and analysis, no explicit exploration of how gender role reversal and mental health intersect) and directions for future research to resolve limitations and expand on the current study are presented. Clinical recommendations for psychotherapists are provided with an emphasis on using emotionally focused therapy with couples consisting of civilian husbands and servicewomen.



gender roles, military spouses, masculinity, breadwinning