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10 A Wife is Clothes Family Politics, Cultural Organization, and Social Structure
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Husbands, Wives, Love, and Marriage

As their reaction to their death shows, men are very closely attached to their wives. There is, in fact, a sharp contrast between the spouse relationship and all the others the men participate in. It is only in marriage that men can express and expect intimacy and emotional support. For women, the spouse relationship is distinctive in its economic significance, but from the standpoint of intimacy and emotional support, the relationship is similar to a number of others including the women's relations with their children. Table 17 shows the quite substantial differences between wife/mothers and husband/fathers in the emotional experience they have in marriage and other nuclear family relationships.

A majority of informants say that there is more love between parents and children than between spouses, but it is notable that fathers and sons lead female family members in choosing the alternative statement that there is more love between spouses. The tense relations between fathers and sons may well play a part in the occupants of these statuses indicating that there is more love between spouses, since they both experience something different from love in their relations with each other. Since, however, it is true that sons (and fathers, after all, were and are sons as well) generally experience a relatively warm, if restricted, relationship with their mothers and that daughters (including those who are also mothers) have distant relations with their fathers, it seems warranted to look at the spouse relationship itself as the basis for the greater frequency with which males choose it as having more love.

We have seen that men's relations with everyone but their wives are restricted by various values and beliefs. There is tension between fathers and sons and competition between brothers. Considerations of honor (fakhri) and the avoidance of shame (aibu) prevent most men from having close relationships with peers. Relationships with daughters are circumscribed by respect and, like relations with the mother, attenuated by the separation of the sexes.

For men, the spouse relationship is unique. This is the one relationship in which men can expect emotional warmth and support and in which they can express themselves. Table 17 shows that the spouse relationship is chosen as the one with the most love by a larger group of sons and fathers than by mothers and daughters, with the women more often choosing the parent-child relationship. Although the same expectations in the spouse relationship apply


Table 17. "In families around here (i.e., in Old Town), is there more love between wives and husbands or between parents and children?"

Informants' status

Between spouses (%)

Between parents (%)













to women, for them the relationship is one of a number in which affectivity, a prominent expectation in the woman status, is freely expressed and in which warmth and support are common.

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