Covenant Marriage and the Sanctification of Gendered Marital Roles

Authors: contact us about adding a copy of your work at


This study contributes to research on the deinstitutionalization of marriage and changing gender ideologies by focusing on a unique group of marriage innovators. With quantitative and qualitative data from the Marriage Matters project (1997-2004), this study used a symbolic interactionist perspective to compare covenant- and standard-married couples. Findings reveal that covenants are more traditional than standards across religious, marital, and gender attitude indices. Qualitative analyses suggest that covenants see their marital status as a powerful symbol to publicly display their beliefs about the benefits and necessity of traditional religious marriage. Covenant-married couples defuse the stigma of gender subordination by casting it as a service to God and by crafting a hybrid form of gender traditionalism that incorporates emotional ethics of egalitarianism. Conversely, standard-married couples view gender, marriage, and religion as diffuse, privatized, individualized matters. Implications are discussed in light of further research on contemporary marriage and shifting gender roles.