The study dates to yesterday but the story has been around for years.
Yesterday I posted about a research study about marriages where the woman is the breadwinner. The study showed that men in such marriages are more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and that women are more likely to suffer insomnia and anxiety.
Then, Lastango contributed some excellent analysis of the situation in the comments section of yesterday’s post. In it, he linked to four articles about the same subject, articles that affirm the research results, but that date from between five and ten years ago.
A discerning reader of the popular media could have known, years ago, that role reversal marriages were likely to produce serious psychological problems. The evidence suggests that marital roles are not merely a social construct, to be disposed of willy nilly, but are grounded in reality. Couples who fail to respect the old rules and roles pay a price.
Women who decided to go out and become world-beaters have discovered, to their chagrin, that they had been duped by feminists.
Five years ago Sandy Hingston explained:
When my best friends and I signed on to the women’s movement three decades ago, we were aiming for equality. What we’ve ended up with is something else altogether.
From the time she was in junior high Hingston and her friends embraced the gender-bent, role-reversal vision that feminism had been hawking. They became the kinds of women who would attract the kinds of men that they married.
In Hingston’s words:
But Jill, another friend from junior high, reminds me that it was different for her and Ann and me: "Don’t you remember how ambitious we were?" she says of our school days. "We used to bet which of us would be on the cover of Time first. We were driven. We did everything, and we had to be the best at everything. We were real type A’s." We took it for granted that our husbands would keep pace.In our marriages, though, roles have been reversed or, at least, merged and muddied. "We never said to our husbands ‘You’ll be the one who stays home; I’ll be the breadwinner,’" Sharon says. "We expected they’d be able to do what we did: to have both those identities." We changed diapers and made PTA meetings while charging full speed ahead with our careers. Yet by chance or by choice, none of our husbands have really prospered.
She and her friends are afraid that their successes have come at their husbands’ expense:
But our joy in our own fulfillment is always tempered by that nagging fear that it has come at the expense of our husbands’, and impatience with the life choices they’ve made.
If Ann and Sharon and Jill and I had been more dependent — or less controlling — would our men’s lives be richer? Have we held them back by insisting on being all that we could be?Perhaps all along we’ve been subconsciously disparaging or discouraging about our husbands’ goals and careers. After all, the fact that our kids were at home and in good hands freed us to work the long hours we needed to get ahead without worrying that anyone would think we were bad moms.
Ralph Gardner, Jr, made a similar point in New York Magazine in 2003, adding that such role reversals tend to be emasculating:
From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Alias to Kill Bill, the culture has for some time been awash in fantasies of powerful women. Fetching as these female superheroes may be—and however potent at the box office and in the Nielsens—are these really the same chicks the average, or even above-average, guy wants to curl up next to in bed in real life? Perhaps not. As the wives grow more powerful and confident, their husbands often seem to diminish in direct proportion to their success.
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.
Writing in Marie Claire in 2007 Amy Brayfield explained why she divorced her husband:
What I didn't have was a husband I felt proud of.
The truth is, I wasn't attracted to him anymore. It wasn't that he'd changed-he still had the same floppy brown hair, bright green eyes, and long freckled limbs that had literally made me quiver when I first met him. But in my head, I'd neutralized him as a sexual being. I wanted to be overwhelmed by the sheer power of his masculinity in the bedroom, but I wasn't. Because I felt like the man in our relationship.
Unsurprisingly, Brayfield did not marry an alpha male the second time around. She simply found a more compliant and contented househusband.
Amazingly, these ideas are never really discussed in the culture. Anyone who dares to articulate them will immediately be denounced as sexist and worse.
Yet, if you care more about women’s lives and less about ideology you have to acknowledge the pain that these women are expressing. For having embraced an ideology that was blind to what was best for them and their children they have paid a serious price.