When relationships do not live up to benevolent ideals: Women's benevolent sexism and sensitivity to relationship problems


  • This research was conducted as part of the first author's Masters thesis and was funded by University of Auckland grants (3626244, 3607021) awarded to the second author.

Correspondence to: Matthew D. Hammond, School of Psychology, University of Auckland, 10 Symonds St, Auckland 1010, New Zealand.

E-mail: mham078@aucklanduni.ac.nz


Benevolent sexism promises women a revered place within intimate relationships, which should lead to greater dissatisfaction when they face relationship difficulties. We collected self-reports of relationship problems and relationship satisfaction (Study 1; N = 91 heterosexual couples), relationship problems and relationship evaluations daily over 3 weeks (Study 1), and hurtful partner behaviour and relationship evaluations over 10 days (Study 2; N = 86 women). Women's endorsement of benevolent sexism predicted sharper declines in relationship satisfaction when they faced greater relationship problems (Study 1) and hurtful partner behaviour (Study 2). These effects were magnified in longer relationships (Studies 1 and 2), indicating that the sensitivity to relationship problems associated with women's endorsement of benevolent sexism is particularly pronounced when women have more invested in their relationship role being revered and cherished. The results suggest that women who endorse benevolent sexism are vulnerable within their relationships because their satisfaction is contingent upon the fulfilment of the promises of benevolent sexism. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.