When men and women are both working and contributing to the household at a level more equal than ever before, the man cave has the ability to impact relationships and put a strain on communication. So, do they still have a place in our homes and our lives?
Hadley Keller from House Beautiful recently wrote: “At its best, laughably immature and at its worst, glaringly sexist, the ‘Man Cave’ is the isolated room of the house born of the idea that — what, exactly? — a man can only relax in a room full of rich mahogany and leather-bound books? A man has no opinions, input, or thought whatsoever on how the rest of his house looks, let alone functions?”
And I’d have to admit, she has a point. To a degree, the man cave supports the expired ideology that a man needs his own space where he shall not be disturbed, doing only things that men should do. This can’t be a positive thing when it comes to sharing and openness within a household.
Still in many households, the man cave is a place that happily exists. Sure, they might work perfectly fine for some people, whether it be for hobbies, gaming or simply a place to store the framed and signed premiership jumper from 1995. Perhaps both parties have a private space to call their own and are contributing equally to household chores.
For other households, the seperate nature of the man cave has an “endless list” of negative affects, something relationship coach and psychologist James Anderson* experiences through his work with couples.
“The couples I have seen who have issues because of this, their problems mostly come from an aspect of control that’s never healthy,” he says.
“Marriage and long-term relationships are a partnership between two people, and the home they create together is supposed to be based on mutual respect and, by extension, mutually shared tastes.”
The idea that men are deserving of a relaxing time-out (and a private space in which to do it) and women aren’t is problematic. It is derived from the notion that the home (and all the work within it) is entirely the woman’s domain.
When it comes to equally sharing household duties, a 2018 studyThe Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia conducted by Melbourne Institute reveals that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to household equality.
The study reported that attitudes towards traditional gender roles in the home had become less traditional over time, but men continued to have more traditional attitudes around gender roles than women.
Considering there is still a long way to go, and there are still attitudes that to be shifted, is giving men a private area of the home to retreat to after a long day of work (when women have most likely also been working) rather than sharing, contributing and being an equal part of the household a sentiment we should be encouraging in 2019?
Anderson says no, the man cave has to go – if not for anyone’s sake but men’s.
“The problem isn’t actually with the man caves themselves, it is with the mindset that often comes with them. And as well as putting strain on relationships, it is just another barrier stopping men from communicating,” he says.
“The idea of a solitary area for a man to sit in, do his hobbies, and ignore the rest of the world could be dangerous, as it reinforces society’s ideas that men should not show emotion.”
It seems instead of a man cave, the answer lies in open communication, sharing essential household duties and of course, both individuals enjoying some “me-time” when needed.
*Name has been changed due to professional privacy.