Intriguing article from New York Magazine about the relationship issues that come up when a wife earns more than her husband and the effect on their romantic life. It is becoming more of an issue as women finally are starting to achieve equal pay and positions in the working world as men. What I’m showing you here is by far not the whole article- and it is a good read you should go check the full article out. These are just pieces I found interesting and the basic outline of the article.
Well into feminism’s second generation, there are finally a significant number of women reaching parity with the men in their fields—not to mention surpassing them—and winning the salary, bonuses, and perks that signify their arrival. (The Town Cars idling in front of their children’s schools these days at morning drop-off are almost as likely to be Mom’s as Dad’s.) In 2001, for example, wives earned more than their spouses in almost a third of married households where the wife worked. Yet this proud professional achievement often seems to have unhappy consequences at home.
Indeed, there’s little evidence to show that as women acquire financial muscle, relations between the sexes have evolved successfully to accommodate the new balance of power. Neither the newly liberated alpha women nor their shell-shocked beta spouses seem comfortable with the role reversal.
For women, the shift in economic power gives them new choices, not least among them the ability to reappraise their partner. And husbands, for their part, may find to their chagrin that being financially dependent isn’t exactly a turn-on. According to psychologists (and divorce lawyers) who see couples struggling with such changes, many relationships follow the same pattern. First, the wife starts to lose respect for her husband, then he begins to feel emasculated, and then sex dwindles to a full stop.
The article examines a few couples, among them this one:
While they may have been able to avoid the truth while she was off at work during the day, it came back to haunt them at night. “Sexuality is based on respect and admiration and desire,” says Anna. “If you’ve lost respect for somebody, it’s very hard to have it work. And our relationship initially had been very sexual, at the expense of other things.
“I think women earning more than men can be devastating to relationships unless the guy is doing something the wife regards as having cachet, such as academia,” says Betsy, even though she still speaks fondly of her ex-husband and sends him the occasional check.
It’s not as if these women ever expected their husbands to support them completely—at least a lot of them didn’t. It’s just that it never occurred to them that they might be the ones doing all the heavy lifting. And as hip and open-minded as they like to think they are, they were, after all, raised on the same fairy tale as the rest of us—the one where Prince Charming comes to the rescue of Sleeping Beauty.
Among the reasons these women were originally attracted to their husbands—sex appeal, sense of humor, charisma—earning power may not have been high on the list. But that could be because it was a given. Unfortunately, the other qualities start to fade over time if the husband isn’t adding something tangible to the equation.
In our society, a man is often qualified as such because he plays the role of providing for his family. (through income) Since the wives are taking this role, it seems they force themselves to develop another idea for what makes their man valuable in his gender.
When it works, it tends to be when the wife’s respect for her husband remains intact. “Women need to admire their partner,” says psychologist Harriette Podhoretz. “They need to find something that doesn’t interfere with their passionate glue, that keeps the marriage charged up and alive.”
But the relationship works well, they report, because Laura’s admiration for Jeff, whom she met when they both worked in finance for a giant West Coast media conglomerate, seems complete. “Jeff was never laid off,” his wife explains. “There’s not that feeling that my husband is a loser. We made a conscious decision—he’s got the creative talent—to play to each other’s strengths.
It happens even to the point of disqualifying the wife’s own accomplishments, to make her husband seem better.
“I know my husband could do my job with his eyes closed,” she says. “He’s really good at math. He’s twice as smart as I am.”
Often it seems that the problem alot of women have with their position of power in the relationship is not their husband’s role, but adapting to what is seen as a more masculine role for themselves.
Sometimes it’s the Alpha woman who needs reassurance that she’s still feminine.
“When you’re a big money earner and your husband isn’t, it makes you question how feminine you are,” says Barbara Corcoran, the ubiquitous real-estate broker. “I felt I was less feminine than if I was a supporting wife, or a second fiddle, or ‘Mrs. Higgins.’ The struggle was as much mine as Bill’s.”
What is funny to me is that often these women who are in power in their professional roles actually want their husbands to act like are in a superior role in the home life. These very powerful women seem to either want to fulfill their traditionally weaker feminine role, or want their husband to fulfill his traditionally more powerful masculine role.
“My husband had a very strong identity and was successful in his life,” Corcoran explains. “Thank God for that. There’s no way I can control him. I wouldn’t stay married to him if I felt I could. I can readily take my business personality into the home. But he forces me to be a partner rather than the boss. It’s what keeps our marriage healthy. He won’t give me an inch of satisfaction. He won’t acknowledge my superiority.”
The truly scary part is that this new dynamic is forcing some women to be more cold and calculating in their considerations for partners. No longer satisfied with romance, which fades with time, they are looking for men who can be their equal in paychecks.
For her part, Anna has promised to be more tough-minded in her choice of mate if and when she slips back into the dating scene. “I didn’t ask the right questions,” she laments. “ ‘What have you done? Where have you come from, and how much have you made?’ It’s not the kind of thing one talks about. You believe what you want to believe. When you’re madly in love, you don’t really care about that kind of thing. But I will the next time.”