I have to agree: The guys whose wives stay home do seem to have a bit of what we would call in Philadelphia an “attytude” problem. And as the study says, it’s not overt hostility toward women – it’s more of a paternalistic upper-management mentality:
By insisting on staying the breadwinners for their families, men seem to also be subconsciously buying into the idea that their wives shouldn’t work. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2010 (as cited in the study), there are more than 11 million men in such arrangements, contributing to a culture opposed to women working. The study suggests that these men might be characterized as “benevolent sexists,” but clarifies they are not likely to be overtly hostile towards women.
There is an age-old problem with being a woman at home, and it has to do with distribution and claiming of power. The woman’s opinions are too frequently seen as advisory-only (except in the areas traditionally designated to women: children, decor, schools, etc.) and it’s been my observation through the years that women then indulge in covert strategies to assert their power. In other words, “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” So purchases are made in secret and smuggled into the home, much like an “I Love Lucy” episode.
You see a lot of hostage-like negotiation in which the financial hostage (wife) isn’t even aware that she’s conceded her right to partnership power. Instead, she’s focused on wheedling, nagging, cajoling and subterfuge. No way for grownups to act!
A lot of guys like it, though. After all, it’s familiar to them. Their mothers did it (or their mothers didn’t do it, and the sons preferred they had), it seemed to keep the family together, what’s the big deal? The big deal is, one “partner” in this sort of relationship is accepting inferior status. The other partner is agreeing.
Over the past few years, I’ve had male friends mention how much they wished their wives would go to work. “But not a real job,” they’re quick to add. “Just something to help out.” Because if women insist on career jobs, it’s a lot more threatening than a part-time gig at a convenience store, I suppose.
I’ve also known couples where both partners have careers, but the husband makes a lot more money. That person seems to retain the same paternal mindset as if she wasn’t working at all, which is interesting.
The marriages in which both partners earn a comparable amount of money seem to me to be a lot happier, I suppose because they’re not fighting about money – or at least, not from the power perspective.
I’m interested in hearing about your own experiences, both men and women. What do you think?