There’s a lot of talk about gender equality, particularly these days with fourth wave feminism such a prominent topic. But what about when inequality between a couple occurs naturally? I’m talking about when one partner is more successful than the other. This seems to be totally acceptable when it’s the man, it’s even expected. Very rarely though do we see a couple where the woman outranks the man in terms of job superiority or salary.
A few years ago we knew a couple where this was exactly case. The wife was incredibly ambitious and ran her own, very successful airline recruitment company. After they had their second child, the dad gave up his job as a fitness instructor to care for both children full-time. This made perfect sense as she brought home a lot more money than he did, and besides, as the boss of her own rapidly growing business, she couldn’t afford to work part time or not at all.
This all worked quite well for about 9 months or so. Eventually though he went back to working at the gym and they hired a full-time nanny. Her business continued to thrive and yes the marriage ended after not very long. It was never said that that’s why they divorced, and rarely is there ever just one reason that a couple break up over. But he openly said he was unhappy at her ‘attitude towards money’- take that to mean what you will.
We see it all the time in Hollywood marriages. Jennifer Aniston split from Tate Donovan at the height of her Friends career; Sandra Bullock famously split from her former husband Jesse James just weeks after her Oscar win.
Is it too simplistic and too sexist to ask whether many men are unhappy with their wife or girlfriend earning more money than them because they, the man, want to be the bread winner? Is it true that men have an innate sense of wanting to provide, in the same way that many women have a maternal instinct to care for others?
Well before every feminist shoots me down at that last point, let me say that it comes down to gender roles and what we expect from each other in a relationship. In some cultures it can be clear cut- that doesn’t make it acceptable, but at least the lines have been drawn.
For us Asians, men are very much expected to be the provider. Women are often steered into careers considered more desirable or suitable for a woman so that she can make a ‘good marriage match’ by not outranking her future husband man. It’s fair to say that in the case of arranged marriages, a successful woman wouldn’t even be paired up with a man who was less successful than her, even if they were educated to a similar level. It’s simply not the way the culture works. The model is very clear: men provide for, women care for.
This is a situation where men are told that they have to be the more successful one, and women are given the message that they mustn’t be. That’s just all kinds of wrong and I’m not even going to get started on it.
But when it comes to dating there are no such parameters, and the guy would be seen as an ass hole for ending a relationship because he couldn’t handle that the woman made more money than he did.
Or is it just an unspoken rule of dating?