What is the Deal?

A gentleman marries for love and because he believes he and his wife are compatible in whatever goals they decide to pursue – most commonly, the raising of a family.

Two of the guiding lights of gentlemanly behavior are sticking to one’s word, and fairness. A partnership with a woman is the far more complex than most, as it involves so many diverse elements: child-rearing, sex, business, relatives, housekeeping. This makes it the hardest of all relationships. Perhaps the starting point would be to realize and acknowledge how difficult a good marriage will be; many couples begin with, and are handicapped by, unrealistic expectations. The romantic part of the relationship, and the most intense sexual portion, will probably begin to fade after a couple years, or sooner. Children, on the other hand, are around, basically, in thought if not in the house, forever. So shared objectives about whether to have children, and, if so, how to raise them, are critical. Once the kids are born, they’re not going away.

Another critical point of contention is often money, and it’s very important to have some agreement about priorities in spending and saving. An important recent development has been the fact that many women now make more than their husbands; this has profound impacts on other aspects of their partnership. Depending on which set of statistics you look at, about a quarter to a third of women make more money than their husbands, which is up dramatically from only about 4% in 1970.

“Among all married couples, including those where the husband isn’t necessarily working, 33.5 percent of women were making more than their husbands,” according to the 2007 data. And demographers expect the number of such marriages to grow, as women continue to get more college degrees than young men and to outearn them, especially early in their careers. Already, younger people’s relationships look radically different. A recent breakdown of census data showed that in all but three of the 150 biggest cities in the United States, young women age 30 and under are making more money than young men.”

In higher earning female marriages, some see a pattern: “First, the wife starts to lose respect for the husband, then he begins to feel emasculated, and then sex dwindles to a full stop.” According to one high earning female, “sexuality is based on respect, and admiration and desire”, and the sad truth is that many women can no longer respect a man once they start making more money than him. They tend to see the lower earning partner as “freeloading” with no mention of the fact that women have been “freeloading” off men since time began. But that is all in the distant past now. If women are bringing home all, or most of, the bacon, they tend to see men as being dependent, like children, and there is nothing sexy about having another child. One female senior sales executive went so far as to tell her husband, a struggling photographer, “Your business is going to have to get better faster. Until then, I’m withholding.”


And despite women-who-lunch having shafted their husbands a million times in divorce court, high earning women still seem outraged at the prospect of having to make payments when they tire of their lower earning spouses. As divorce lawyer Harriet Newman Cohen explained to New York magazine: “when a big earner wife comes in, the court bends over backward to be gender neutral, and it is possible the bum is going to be rewarded for sitting on his hands. You do a flip-flop and make believe she is a guy.” Women who make more than their husbands can feel “like the victim of a scam”, as if there is some general code that requires that men earn as much or more than their wives, and men not making big money are often referred to as “freeloaders”.

On the other hand, men have seen their burdens only increase over time. “Men kept working the same long (if not longer) hours, while adding 20% of the housework to their loads, and although their fathers had done no housework whatsoever, these modern men drew resentment because their contribution wasn’t 50%. Hard driving wives trying to make partner at their firms felt it was unfair that they should do more housework than their hard driving husbands. ‘Instead of humanizing men,’ Arlie Hochschild concludes, ‘we are capitalizing women.”

A nursery school director quoted by Hochschild remarks: “This may be odd to say, but the teacher’s aides we hire from Mexico and Guatemala know how to love a child better than the middle class white parents. They are more relaxed, patient, and joyful. They enjoy the kids more. These professional parents are pressured for time and anxious to develop their kids talents. I tell the parents that they can really learn how to love from Latinas and the Filipinas.”

“When in the mid nineteenth century, men were drawn into market life and women remained outside it, female homemakers formed a moral brake on capitalism. Now American women are its latest recruits, offered membership on the same harsh terms as those offered to American men. The result seems for a harshness of life that seems so normal to us we don’t see it.” (From a review of The Commercialization of Intimate Life by Arlie Russell Hochschild, review by Sandra Tsing Loh)

“When my kids and I go to the playground, I’m always the odd man out. There’s something awkward about a man approaching a woman at the playground and saying “Hey, you know, our kids are getting along. Want to make a play date?” Even though that’s all it is, that’s all you want to do, there’s an awkwardness.”

“Both my wife and I went to law school, and we knew she had the opportunity to have the higher income. She was on the law review, and I wasn’t. That was one clue. I was working for the city of New York the summer before we graduated. She was working for a high powered law firm, so her salary was roughly twice mine. That was another clue. We didn’t really have preset notions of what she ought to be doing and what I ought to be doing. So we decided to do it this way. Is there regret? Well, you can’t do everything. My wife has regrets even though she’s successful professionally. I have regrets even though I’m doing very well with the kids. Law school cost over a hundred thousand dollars. That’s probably more of a regret than anything else.” (Scott Anderson, stay at home dad in Ashburn, VA, interviewed by Tyler Currie in the Washington Post magazine, April 3, 2005)

I also question author Rosanna Hertz’s claim that the “mother-child dyad” is the revolutionary family form of the future…her subjects almost all reported that the two person unit had been too intense.”

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