Jurich Lecture examines power balance in gender roles


Men and women alike gathered for a presentation led by Carmen Knudson-Martin on the importance of power balance in intimate relationships Friday.

“Most people in Western society, and increasingly across the globe, believe that relationships should be equal,” said Knudson-Martin, director of the marriage, couple, and family therapy program at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. “In heterosexual relationships, men now say they prefer a partner who can carry their own weight.”

People should not tell others what their values should be or how to organize their work or family relationships, Knudson-Martin said. She added that, when asked, most people agree that couples should have an equal balance.

“Couples have egalitarian ideals but do not have a model for an equal, mutually supportive relationship,” Knudson-Martin said.

Knudson-Martin said she cannot ethically help couples when they want unequal roles in relationships and that her job in marriage and couple therapy is to interrupt that flow of power.

“Intimate relationships should be mutual and support each partner,” Knudson-Martin said.

At the end of her lecture, Knudson-Martin answered questions from students and professionals in the field.

“Dr. Carmen Knudson-Martin is a major player in our field,” Heather Love, graduate student in K-State’s couple and family therapy program, said. “She’s done a lot of fantastic research about couples and power and the dynamics that we work with and not just in the therapy group, but in all factors of life.”

Knudson-Martin specializes in intimate relationships but encouraged the audience to apply her speech to all relationships.

The presentation marked the fourth annual lecture in the Jurich Lecture Series in honor of former Kansas State University professor Tony Jurich.

According to the College of Human Ecology, Jurich’s leadership tenets are to “strive for resonance; assume value and be respectful; be compassionate; do what is right; seek out, affirm and utilize diversity and lead by example.” The tenets he lived and worked by were the principles of social justice and traits he encouraged students and faculty to live by as well.

“One of the things that really makes it special is the legacy of Tony Jurich and what he meant to the couple and family therapy program,” John Buckwalter, dean of the College of Human Ecology, said. “He was one of the giants in the field, and it’s really a cool thing to be honoring him this way.”