Let’s look at the traditional roles we have seen until the 1960’s: The man is the breadwinner, protects the family from attacks, and is responsible for leading and guiding the family. The woman bears the children and nurtures them, takes care of the housework and has a following, supportive role. There was a lot of grunt work that needed to be done, by men, and many children needed to be born, by women, to do future grunt work. Of course, women did work, and so did children in the working classes, but they earned far less.
When the man is solely responsible for bringing in the income, it is pretty logical that the woman must spend within what he is willing and able to provide. When a man is responsible for protecting his family, it also makes sense for women and children not to get in situations where he cannot protect them. It would for example be a bit mean to overspend when it would mean your husband would have to solve it by doing even more backbreaking labor. If the wife did not submit freely, the threat of being abandoned was often a threat of dire poverty.
On the other hand, men were unable to cook and do housework to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Men needed children to continue their name and to take care of them when they could no longer to the grunt work. Men also needed a wife to have access to regular sex. Of course, many couples got together out of love and stayed together out of love and compassion. But need and fear were also responsible for getting and keeping people together. Men and women relied on the traditional roles to have primary, physical needs met.
Doing something that was unpleasant, perversely, gave people a sense of power, and entitlement in being needed. In case that they did not actively look to partner and have kids, society prodded them to do so. There was a lot of grunt work to be done, and men had to do it. Every man who worked hard, could dance a few steps and behaved reasonably polite could expect to find a wife. Every woman who could cook, put on some lipstick and laugh at his jokes could expect to find a husband. Marriage, happy or not, was there for the masses. It feels very safe to grow up knowing that it is something you can reasonably expect.
Then things started changing… As families became smaller and household appliances were invented, housework no longer needed to be a more than fulltime job. Mechanisation took the lion share of the workforce from the primary through the secondary to the tertiary sector. Service sector jobs overwhelmingly do not require upper body strength. Higher status jobs in the tertiary sector rely on brainpower. Working in a mine, for example, is something that many men can do well, and very few women can do well. Factory work has some roles that require male strength and some that women can do just as well. Gender roles are in flux.