Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Dog That Caught the Car

We've worked hard all our lives to justify our feminist ideals. We chose academic degrees in medicine, law, engineering, and business and we studied hard. Upon graduation we competed for the best opportunities in the field and won the positions. Once there we put in extra hours earning the respect of our supervisors and peers.

In a word, we have arrived.

And like the proverbial dog that caught the car, we are not quite sure what to do with our hard earned success. Because our husbands did not arrive with us. They have not enjoyed the same career success. On the contrary, they are embarrassing failures.

No problem. We're doing well enough for the both of us. Our relative success only makes us prouder of our achievements.

But that is a problem. Because that's not what we signed up for when we married. Rather than icing on the cake, it has become a fly in the soup.

And it's not just the embarrassment of having to explain to family, friends, and colleagues what it is our husbands do or, rather, don't do. We feel overwhelmed by the burden of being both breadwinner and homemaker.

If our husbands had been as successful as us then we could have hired maids to keep the home and nannies to care for the children while we each pursued our successful careers.

But now we realize that will never happen.

And, as if to add insult to injury, our husbands are equally unhappy with the situation. They feel emasculated by their failure to be the primary breadwinner in the family. Sure, they willingly allowed us to pursue our careers but always with the expectation that ours would be a supplementary income and that keeping the home would remain our responsibility.

This situation breeds resentment from both the wife and the husband each directed at the other and at the situation in which they now find themselves. Patience runs short, affection wanes, libidos atrophy, empathy dies.

It's no wonder, then, that marriages where the wife is the primary breadwinner are 40% more likely to end in divorce.

But divorce is not the answer.

Rather, we must adapt our marriages to our unexpected, perhaps even unwelcome, status as the primary or sole breadwinner in the family.

And in order to adapt our marriages we must first adapt ourselves beginning with the recognition and resolution of our conflicting desires.

We love being successful in our careers. We are rightfully proud the fact that women who work hard can outearn men, such as our husbands, in the workplace. We enjoy the self respect and adulation that comes from realizing our dreams.

But we also dreamed of marriage to a husband who would provide for us and the family as our fathers did. We can't help but feel disgusted with his failure to measure up to our expectations.

We bested our husbands in the workplace and now we resent our own success. We caught the car and don't know what to do with it.

We must resolve these conflicting desires for our own peace of mind and for the sake of our marriage. And the best place to begin is by bravely confronting reality: For whatever reason, we are now the primary breadwinner in the family. No amount of nagging our husbands is going to propel him ahead of us, even if we wanted that, which maybe we don't.

Instead, let us savor our success and make peace with our husbands on new terms. They may not be what we hoped for but that does not make them useless or unworthy of our love and respect.

The solution, of course, is staring us in the face. We can't do it all and we don't need to do it all. We are not giving up our role as breadwinner so we must look to delegate our homemaking responsibilities. Not to a maid or nanny but to our otherwise useless husbands.

And that, in turn, means seizing the reigns of power at home. Because men do not naturally gravitate to doing housework and caring for children. We must assert our rightful authority at home and gently and lovingly guide our husbands into a subordinate role as homemaker, supporting the family through their contribution of domestic labor.

We have arrived at the wife led marriage.


  1. This post really bothered me. Maybe it was in the way that it was written but the premise of the post is based on the word 'success'. Success as written here is defined as one's level of earning. So because a wife earns X more than her husband that deems him as unworthy, disgusting, embarrassing to family and friends and a primary source of discontentment because he didn't end up as "a husband who would provide for us and the family as our fathers did".

    I'm sure you are speaking to some but what about all of the women who want to be the head of the household who don't out-earn their husbands, or choose to stay home and raise a family instead of work, or who barely out-earn their husband, or who earn more but don't have the prestige he has via the public nature of his job?
    Is success really all about how much money one makes? And if that is the case, are those women who are neurosurgeons more valuable and worthy as a person than a female primary care physician? By tying success to $$ there is an implicit failure by all who don't meet the standard of the highest paying female. And if success is tied to out-earning one's spouse it again is tied to his earnings rather than some specific standard.
    Starting a WLM based on the above circumstances seems far less than ideal. Shouldn't a wife be valued because of who she is, rather than the letters that come after her name? Isn't intrinsic value so much more important to one's value than the labels the world puts on you? A female may be the attorney making much more than the auto-mechanic but when the transmission fails, whose occupation has more value? Hmmm :)

    Love your post - and am so glad you have written but this one isn't sitting so well with me - and I'm the primary earner in my family and although I am, I do not look at my wife with disgust, or am embarrassed to tell my family how little she earns in comparison to me. Rather, I value her as my Mistress and as he head of our home. I kneel before her daily and confess my submission and acknowledge her leadership. I fulfill the tasks she has told me I must do and none of this has anything to do with how much money either of us make in our respective jobs.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.... I need to end now. My wife just gave me an order I must attend to. :)

    1. I can well understand why this would rub many men the wrong way, perhaps even some women. But while this situation is specific to some marriages (such as mine), and not to every marriage, still, it represents one of the most challenging marital situations, one that is most likely to end in divorce if not correctly resolved.

      To some extent, I am channeling my "inner bitch" here but these sentiments are not extreme for those women who find themselves in these circumstances. I really did think these thoughts two decades ago when I found myself the primary breadwinner and I know for a fact that there are many other women out there who are contemplating divorce for the same reasons.

      It is absolutely true, however, that success can be measured in many different ways and that is, ultimately, the point of this post. As you can learn from my book, after my initial frustration with my husband we restructured our marriage and he became a my househusband.

      You should never read my posts as applying to every conceivable situation. Not every husband should be a homemaker and not every marriage should be wife led.

    2. From my perspective you are missing the point of this post, and getting hung up on things you think were implied. There is an excellent point of observation here with recent feminist achievements in the workplace that is worth examining. The disgust and resentment of our own success doesn't come merely from besting men financially, but because nothing automatically changes even after that happens. After the dog catches the car, then what? Women are seemingly expected to carry it all? They are left expecting to be breadwinners and homemakers. This is a big reason why divorce rates increase when the woman becomes the primary breadwinner.

      What I believe Lady Misato is hoping to encourage, is that as women achieve their different successes, it becomes imperative that adjustments in the home take place. As the woman learns to delegate homemaking responsibilities the marriage can avoid unnecessary resentments and frustrations.

      One thing I have learned while achieving success in the workplace, is that people tend to avoid giving credit where it is due, and making appropriate adjustments. Whatever company I work for tends to avoid coming to me and saying, 'We've decided to give you the more money you deserve.' Instead I have had to learn to even go beyond just asking, and instead demand what I deserve. Once I become a valued asset in my company, I use that leverage to make them adjust. In the home it tends to work the same. Our husbands may avoid coming to us and saying, 'I want to start taking on more of the housework now that you are doing so well with your career.' So we need to learn to leverage our feminine power and influence to make the needed changes in our homes take place.

      However, certainly as you have obviously learned, there are plenty of other reasons men should be making these adjustments outside of financial success. On that point, I could not agree more.

    3. Thank you, Alannah, that is exactly right.

  2. I’m a female who stays home with her children as well as a now retired RN. This is a load of crap. Where is the love and respect for each other. You are talking about people as if their value depends on their submission. I thank the Lord for my strong masculine husband and I thank the Lord for my own feminine nature. I have nothing to prove bc my value was placed in me at birth.

    1. I appreciate your point, this was a very harshly worded post, by design. However, I don't think you appreciate the difficulty that some women find themselves in when they outperform their husbands in the workplace. The sentiments expressed are very real and quite common.

      Adjusting roles in the marriage is a necessary step toward restoring and maintaining love and respect in the marriage. The alternative, the wife carrying both the financial and domestic load, is beyond unrealistic.

      As I've noted in other blog posts, when wives outearn their husbands this setps up a dangerously destabilizing dynamic into the marriage. Culture has simply not kept pace.

  3. Hello all. My name is Bill. I'm married and my wife and I both work. We have four kids. The youngest is now 20. And while I do make more money than my wife, I also take responsibility for the vast majority of the domestic role in the relationship. In fact, my wife also relies on me to do countless mundane tasks/errands for her. Perhaps you would say I'm her administrative assistant. Why do I do this? Because it reduces her stress (and thus my own) and I'm good at these things. I'm also pretty sensitive to the demands on wives who are career oriented and the toll that it takes. I choose to eliminate any burden for her at home so it can help her to achieve workplace success without having to sacrifice motherhood time (which she is great at)plus having some time for herself (e.g. to exercise). For years, my wife struggled with this role reversal as she's old fashioned but I think she's come to see that it works. I fully believe in the concept of if "mom's happy, everyone is happy". It's my primary job to try and achieve that goal. From what I see and hear, more and more women will out earn their husbands going forward. Earning more often comes with added stress. It seems very natural for a woman to have resentment if she carries the load outside and inside the home. As husbands, it seems that we either need to take steps to earn more to lessen the pressure she might have or take on the home duties and without complaint. To do neither puts the husband in a very vulnerable role within the marriage. I choose to be Hazel Burke (showing my age). Maybe I'm ahead of my time. Maybe I'll be part of the majority at some point. I wonder if getting the husband to be the domestic spouse is largely in the wife's hands. Demeaning the husband continually could cause defensive reactions from the husband, even if it's deserved. My wife can pretty much get me to do what she wants and she does it lovingly. Don't most guys, at least the smart ones, want their wives approval? If yes, perhaps women need to consider the "manner" in which they influence their husbands to get their way. So I support what Furmika says but ask her, and others in her situation, to think about "how" to best get your husband to buy-in to his new role. And if the husband won't step up, maybe he needs to be single. It really is fascinating to see how the workplace is changing. If husbands find themselves lagging behind, the concept of "helping her" at home may need replaced with "it's my job". Until a husband accepts and embraces their role, friction will certainly exist.

    1. You make many excellent points but, in particular, this is the most important comment:

      "Demeaning the husband continually could cause defensive reactions from the husband, even if it's deserved. My wife can pretty much get me to do what she wants and she does it lovingly."

      The harshness of the post that some have reacted to is not, I repeat, not the ideal. It is the harsh reality of many marriages where the wife is carrying the dual load.

      The solution, as you suggest, is for the wife to adopt a more loving approach to leading the marriage, or for the husband to invite and facilitate this.

      Wives who give into resentment simply don't appreciate their own power. Husbands who nurse their resentment don't appreciate how loving a wife led marriage can be.