What Traditional Men and Modern Women Have In Common

What Traditional Men and Modern Women Have In Common

Meet Jerry.

Jerry is 38, makes $120,000/year, and wants to be a husband and father. Jerry’s a man’s man. It’s not that he’s insensitive, per se. It’s that he’s far more comfortable building a deck in his backyard, tinkering with his car, and playing golf than he is talking about his feelings. Still, for all his Marlboro Man demeanor, he’s good-hearted, generous and loyal. He may never be emotive, but he will be a good partner for a woman who doesn’t expect a man to express himself verbally. He shows his love through acts of service.

Problem is that Jerry’s had a hard time falling in love. Women love his manly side, his innate nobility, his serve and protect ethos. What they struggle with is his view of women.

He wants a traditional homemaker as a wife, and in his city, he’s had a devil of a time finding any attractive woman who shared his worldview.

Jerry wants a stay-at-home wife. One who handles the household and takes care of the kids and has dinner on the table for him when he gets home from work. For most of his thirties, he’s been dating attractive women who respond to his masculine energy, and yet each of those relationships has imploded. Because when push comes to shove, Jerry believes in traditional marital roles. It’s not that he thinks women are inferior. Nor does he feel that women don’t have the right to work hard and make equal money as their male counterparts. This is simply about him and his needs. He wants a traditional homemaker as a wife, and in his city, he’s had a devil of a time finding any attractive woman who shared his worldview. Simply put, Jerry likes smart women. They’re more stimulating. And it just seems that all the smart women are so busy juggling career, friends, travel, the gym, book club, and a side business, that he’s not sure about what to do. Should he keep dating the smart women who are out of alignment with his life goals? Should he hold out for Suzy Homemaker, although, after ten years, he’s beginning to doubt her very existence? Or is there a third, middle path – some form of possible compromise?

I don’t know about you, but it would seem to me that options 1 and 2 are out. If he continues to date career women, Jerry’ll be unhappy in the long run. If he hopes to organically meet a stay-at-home Mom type at bars and business functions, he may be single forever. Thus, it would seem that the third option – compromise – would be Jerry’s most prudent choice. But what does that compromise look like? How can Jerry find what he’s looking for?

Hold that thought.

Now I’d like you to meet Shari. Shari is 36 and wants to be a wife and mother. Shari is a smart, strong, successful woman. It’s not that she’s masculine, per se. It’s that she’s far more comfortable talking to venture capital firms and planning to summit Mt. Whitney than she is with cooking dinner for her husband. Still, despite her Hillary Clinton exterior, she’s good-hearted, generous and loyal. She may never be domestic, but she will be a good partner for a man who doesn’t expect his wife to perform traditionally feminine roles. She shows her love by working hard, achieving her dreams, planning and taking care of business. Not that different from Jerry, actually.

Problem is that Shari also has had a hard time falling in love. Men love her brainy side, her intellectual curiosity, and the way she seems to have it all under control. What they struggle with is her view of marital roles. The men that she wants to marry want a more traditional wife. And that’s just not who Shari is.

While Shari is succeeding in a “man’s world”, at home, she still wants to be the woman. Apart from the housework. And the dinner on the table.

Shari makes $250,000/year and lives a life consistent with her salary. She has season tickets to the theater, takes at least one international vacation every year, and never skimps out on good restaurants and spa treatments. She’s looking for a man who makes at least what she does, so she can quit her job, be a stay at home mom for as long as she wants, and not sacrifice her lifestyle at all. While Shari is succeeding in a “man’s world”, at home, she still wants to be the woman. Apart from the housework. And the dinner on the table. When she really stops and thinks about it, Shari wants to raise kids, do yoga and have playdates with her friends until she goes back to work. While this feels like a reasonable expectation – she’s seen the Real Housewives! – Shari’s struggled, consistently dating attractive men who always fall short. If her boyfriend makes more than Shari, he’s inevitably self-involved. Whether he’s working 60 hour weeks, traveling all the time, or only communicating by text, Shari never feels like a priority. And if her boyfriend makes less than Shari, she discovers he’s either threatened by her success, or, just as likely, Shari doesn’t see him as husband material.

Why wouldn’t a man who accepts Shari’s success and appreciates her ambition be qualified to be her husband?

Good question. Well, as Shari sees it, there’s no way she can quit her job and maintain her $250,000 lifestyle with a guy who makes anything less than $250,000.

Because of this self-imposed restriction, Shari remains single. It’s not that she really believes there are no good men out there. It’s that the men she’s most attracted to – the captains of industry – just aren’t that into her. The men she works with all married “normal” women – high school teachers, nurses, graphic designers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it doesn’t seem fair that an amazing woman like Shari should have to “settle” for a man who makes less. So far, she still holds out hope that she can get the man of her dreams, but she’s starting to waver. In Shari’s mind, she sees only two options: 1) Ignore men who make less than her, and keep dating charismatic successful men who have no interest in dating the female version of themselves, and 2) Remain single for the rest of her life. A third option, involving compromise, never occurs to her.

I think it’s very clear that both Shari and Jerry need to compromise. But I’m guessing that if you’re a woman reading this, you have a lot more sympathy for Shari holding out for her George Clooney than for Jerry holding out for his June Cleaver. That says a lot more about you than it does about the situations, which are completely parallel.

You may find Jerry frustrating, but, like Shari, he wants what he wants. He’s just not getting it. If you were to point out to Jerry that only 14% of women are stay at home moms (and a majority of them were economically disadvantaged, not privileged), you may raise his eyebrows a bit. But nothing will change. Facts are rarely strong enough to change feelings. So even though Jerry’s spent ten years chasing a unicorn, he will not let go. He wants what he wants. Even though he’d be happier expanding his search. Maybe then he finds a woman who will stay at home until the kids are in school and then return to work part-time. Maybe he finds a woman who will take the lead on child-rearing and household chores, but asks him to help out with the cooking (or bring home take-out). But until Jerry comes toward the center, his mythical smart, stay-at-home housewife fantasies may never be realized. And if this is the case for Jerry, wouldn’t your advice to Shari be the same?

Sure, Shari can go out with another hedge fund guy, only to discover his work comes first, he’s looking for a younger women, and he’s not ready to settle down. Sure, Shari can continue to scroll through men online who list their incomes as $150,000+. But isn’t she guilty of the same all-or-nothing thinking as Jerry? Isn’t she holding out for 2-3% of men – men who have largely proven themselves indifferent to her as a partner? So how can Shari compromise the way Jerry did? How can she come towards the center and stumble her way to happiness?

Shari sees men who make less money as leeches.

Well, one thing Shari hasn’t fully contemplated is that whatever her future husband’s salary, it’s additional income. It doesn’t take money out of her pocket. This is a revelation, since Shari sees men who make less money as leeches. For example, if she wants to go to Bali, she has to pay for her husband’s plane ticket, and that’s not fair (even though husbands do it for their wives all the time). This hypocrisy restricts her from seeing the potential in the 97% of men who make less than she does. While Shari works, if she makes $250,000 and her husband makes $120,000, together they’re making $370,000, which, quite objectively, is more than the $250,000 she was bringing in without her husband.

Why Shari sees him as a drain is beyond me.

Next, if Shari decides to quit her job when she has kids, she will still have a husband who is financially solvent and then some. Remember, Shari wants a man who makes MORE than she does. $100K is not enough. $125K is not enough. $150K is not enough. $175K is not enough. $200K is not enough. $225K is not enough. This is Shari’s big blind spot. As long as her husband is not in debt, is happy at his job, and can pay the rent and support the family on his salary, then everything will be okay. Plenty of families live on less than $125,000/year. Plus, Shari will not be going for spa weekends, safaris in South Africa, or to her personal trainer three times a week. She will be up in the middle of the night breastfeeding, lugging her baby to Mommy and Me class, strolling around the park, and wondering how any Mom gets anything done during the day. Yes, $125K will do just fine, until the kids are off to school and Shari can resume her career part-time or full-time.

I’ve written about this subject before, namely here and here, but in presenting the case of Jerry, the man who wants something he cannot have, I think the solution is obvious: compromise. Find a woman who gives you most of what you need, instead of holding out for your fantasy woman whom you have never been able to land.

For some reason, that same compromise seems a little less obvious to many of the smart, strong, successful women who read this blog.

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 61
    AB

    Hi Evan, I am sort-of in Shari’s shoes and I think the idea of getting Jerry and Shari to compromise is great. However, I wonder if your description of the Shari’s in the world is accurate. I am a female software developer in my 30s. My compensation is in the 6 figures and I realized long ago that expecting a future partner to earn as much as I do reduces my dating pool considerably. So, I have always been open to dating any men regardless of their income (I only care that they have ambition and drive to excel in their profession).
    The only reason why I think the Jerrys of the world and I can never forge a workable relationship is that our beliefs about male and female gender roles are polar opposites. For Jerry to want a marriage with traditional gender roles he has to have some values that are traditional. For me to work in a male-dominated field and earn a good living I have to have some progressive, maybe feminist ideas about gender roles. Even if Jerry could live with a woman who works and earns more than him, he will have other beliefs about the role of men and women that I have probably struggled to escape from.
    I think this is a good immediate solution to help the traditional man and modern woman compromise, but they will not succeed as a couple because ideological differences about gender roles may simply be too great.

  2. 62
    Monica

    Thank you for posting this. Compromise is key. However, most people can’t compromise because they’re often unaware of what’s driving them. When you don’t understand the core of what’s driving your wants/needs, it’s harder to find solutions that satisfy more than one parameter.
    Do men like Jerry think smart women are content to be at home? Kids, while precious, aren’t very intellectually stimulating. Many very intelligent women are, and many of them do, return to work. They’re driven to get things done in the outside world.
    Also, do women like Shari think all that money is going only to them? Like her husband isn’t going to want to spend his hard earned money on himself? Or like kids aren’t expensive? Even if her husband makes 250K a year, she’s probably still not living a 250k lifestyle as she knows it. One person with a 250K salary is different from two adults plus kids.

    1. 62.1
      manualal

      Well statistics do seem to indicate that smart women are more likely to stay home with kids, unless driven by feminist ideology. Just look at the alumni records of any Ivy league university. Some thing like 65% of the women are either SAHM or working part time, 15 years after graduation.
      While I have nothing against women who are career driven and ambitious, I would not marry one of them. Simply because there is no point in a relationship where both people are just rushing through life without time for each other.
      Belonging to the traditional school as Jerry, I think it is very important for the mother to be with the children at home till they start school. Even after that the mother should ideally work part time (unless financial situation dictates otherwise). I was always clear when looking for a wife, that she should be smart (mine graduated near the top of her class in engineering), be reasonable looking (I was not into “hot women”, other than for one night stands), and understand it would be her responsibility to run the house i.e a full time career was not an option after kids. It was not easy to find such a woman, but it is not too difficult either.
      Shari will have a tough time finding a solution to her problem, because she is thinking like a man and most alpha men want femininity, which will complement their drive / ambition. They are unlikely to go for a copy of themselves. I remember breaking up with a long term girl friend, earning 200k a year, who could not believe that I wanted out, specially when she offered to pay off my not insubstantial Ivy league MBA student loans after marrying her ! My view was, I can always make the money, but I cannot spend my life with a man-like woman. Shari should, in my opinion, go for men for are more likely to take a supporting role to her career driven personality. But they will most likely be earning no where near 250k a year.
       
       
       

      1. 62.1.1
        It's you

        “While I have nothing against women who are career driven and ambitious…”

        No you just call them “men” and project that they’ll be bad wives.

        I hope you and your mail order slave-wife will be very happy together. That is before she gets citizenship, files papers, and walks away with all of your stuff.

        See, I can spout sterotypical nonsense too.

        1. Gideon

          No you don’t. Just the other day I was at the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Polo Lounge with a friend who had married a beautiful amazing gal from Norway for 9 years. they have 5 kids. His previous wife wasted his time by keep postponing the issues of having kids. Money and Dogs are never substitution for kids. My friend comes from big Jewish family and his poor mother dead without meeting any of his kids, just because his previous American wife was heavily confused just like our girl Shari here.

  3. 63
    123willow

    Jerry and I have the same problem: Each of us lives in La La Land! I am intelligent, educated,love children & animals, would love to lavish attention on the right man. However, I am also bipolar (not diagnosed correctly util forties) and ADHD. I haven’t been able to attain the financial stability to live in a community where a man worthy of me can be found. I need a man who is bright, funny, kind & loves animals. A little elaboration on ‘kind’ – doesn’t speak rudely to or about waitresses, fat people, etc.

  4. 64
    Helen

    I was a stay-at-home mom to two children for about 1o years-until they entered kindergarten. Since then, I have worked part-time, still do. I have been married for almost 26 years. Rearing my children and being a dutiful wife has been my career, of which I take tremendous pride. I have kept and warm and inviting home and prepared great meals for many years….my greatest joy comes from my family who are never short of praise for my skills in the kitchen and my decorative touch in our home…my daughter wants for herself what she grew up in. I am grateful to my husband for his ability to provide the gift of being a traditional wife and he is grateful for the support to have built his career with a safe place to retreat at the end of the day. I am proud of being a wife and mother, working part-time pays for college. It has worked beautifully for us. I look at our family and know full well we did it the right way. There are no regrets, only complete unadulterated satisfaction, pride, and confidence in decisions made. I think our society would benefit from similar choices…money will never buy or substitute for some things in this life…the really important things like family.

  5. 65
    Thinker

    Jerry is described as “he’s good-hearted, generous and loyal” and “He shows his love through acts of service” Both statements could be applied as toward others, ie – generous toward others, loyal toward friends, acts of service (towards/for others)

    Then you describe Shari as “She shows her love by working hard, achieving her dreams, planning and taking care of business. Not that different from Jerry, actually.”

    How is that not that different from Jerry? Most of Jerry’s attributes are toward/for others and most of Shari attributes are toward/for herself. Those two are polar opposites.

  6. 66
    Brandon

    Your right about a lot of things and your compromise is very diplomatic.  However I believe you are forgetting that the western ideals have not reached all of the world yet.  As a traditional man when the time comes I will be looking outside of western countries for a wife.  More particularly places like Thailand, India, and other south,east Asian countries.  It’s not that I can’t appreciate independence but for someone I’d have to spend the rest of my life with I don’t plan on compromising on my core beliefs when there are other viable options.

  7. 67
    Lisa

    I do not want a man that makes more money than I do.  I could care less what money he makes, but he does and I think that’s the flaw you miss. Jerry may compromise on many things but a woman that makes 150k more than him no way.  And if she is willing to stay home that’s great but his income is not “extra” of she’s living single on 250k they will raise a family on 100k.  Sure you can cut expenses nit people’s bills are the same, student loans debt.  I would willingly stay home and care for children of a man could support the family.  But I think with this woman’s personality she could never be happy with him or he with her.  You are asking them both do change their personalities too much on too deep of a level.  They are too polar opposite.  Honestly if they live in a city I think she’s got a better shot than he does.  His woman does exist just not in big cities or of she does she has already likely been married.  He would do better in small town USA or the south.  These women are in my small town many of the where I grew up lots of them.  I think both may be in the wrong city and looking I’m the wrong places.  I so agree with compromise I don’t agree with fundamental personality changes.

  8. 68
    Carro

    Jerry reminds me a lot of my brother. And Shari reminds me, in some ways, of myself, although I don’t make anywhere close to $250k a year. Nor do I go on international trips or spend time at the spa… or date hedge fund guys, for that matter  🙂

    My brother is 38 years old with an MBA. Single with no kids. He owns a successful business. All he wants is a wife and kids. At least four kids, to be exact. We were raised by a SAHM, so that’s what he thinks “normal” is and that’s exactly what he wants in a future wife.

    The problem is that he also wants a smart, highly educated career woman – his equal, he says. I’ve been telling him for years that if he continues to insist on having both in a partner, he’s going to have a hard time finding a woman who has invested all of the time and effort to earn a Master’s degree or a doctorate, and who has climbed the rungs of her career, who then is going to be willing to forsake all that to be a SAHM to a house full of kids.

    I’ve suggested to him that he needs to focus on finding his complement rather than his clone. He’s an alpha, so he needs a beta – specifically, a beta who can help him be a better alpha.

    I suggested to him that he consider dating woman who maybe don’t have college degrees, but who are nonetheless very smart and have a lot to offer, and already WANT to be SAHMs. Or perhaps women who aren’t on a high-octane career path.

    Nope. He’s holding out for the highly educated professional career woman who is harboring a secret desire to leave it all behind and be a SAHW and M.

    There are probably some women out there who fit that description. But as I’ve told him many times, when deciding who to marry, we don’t get to choose from all the people out there. We choose from those that are in our social group – whether that’s via personal acquaintances, online dating, etc. And so far, he hasn’t unearthed anyone in his social group that aligns with what he’s looking for.

    I think as he gets older he’ll compromise a bit on what he wants. He’ll have to. Because those that refuse to compromise get nothing at all. That’s a far worse outcome.

    It’s tough. We want what we want, even when those desires often really conflict in our lives.

    But who wants to sit across the table on a first date with a guy (or a girl) and pick up on the fact that the person you’re sitting across from already has a pre-determined punch list that any partner of theirs has to live up to – ex., must be willing to be a SAHM. Must have a career. Must have a college degree. Must be of my religion. Must be at least (blank) tall. Must be of my race. Must be very attractive. Must be thin. Must be no more than two years older than me. Must want to live in the country/suburbs/city. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    It’s totally fine to have preferences for a partner, and even a few non-negotiables. It’s another thing entirely to have this complete role organized in our minds that we expect people to want to audition for, and then get hurt when people understandably don’t want to do that.

    As for me, I can identify with Shari in some respects, although I’m far from wealthy. I’m in my mid-30’s. I’m a doctoral candidate at a prestigious (read: work like a dog) university who aspires to work in management-level positions at international NGOs and IGOs.

    It’s taken me YEARS of hard work and sacrifice to get where I am… and the hard work and sacrifices aren’t over yet. I’m single, and I’ve been so for awhile now. I’m okay with that.

    I’m open to having a husband and being a mother. But I don’t want either within the next 3-4 years because quite honestly, there’s no room in my life for that at this point. I made a commitment to finish a doctoral program, and I’m also working. I have to see those things through first.

    And I’m not the type of person to half-ass things. If I have a boyfriend, I want him to be among my highest priorities, or it’s not worth it to me to have a boyfriend at all. Same goes with having a family.

    I also realize that my age (mid 30s) may mean that I’ll never achieve a family of my own. It does make me a bit sad at times. But if that’s how it turns out, then I’ll throw myself into being a fantastic aunt to my nieces and nephews. Or perhaps I’ll become qualified for foster care. Or maybe I might adopt a hard-to-place child when I’m at an older age. I’m determined to be open to a variety of ways of building, and having, a family.

    These are the choices I’ve made thus far. I’ve never once believed that women can have it all. That’s bullshit. No one can have it all, and, sadly, life doesn’t owe us anything.

    But we do have choices. When we’re thoughtful and honest about what we really want – what’s really important to us – making the right choices at the right time is the gateway to getting a lot of what we really desire in life.

    My choices have led me to also be open to NOT ever marrying or having kids. This is because I realize that if I want kids or a husband, I have to actually create that reality for myself, and not just expect it to happen with minimal or no effort from me.

    But if it ever worked out where I found myself contemplating marriage with a man, I would make it very clear to him from the beginning that I have no intention, ever, of being a SAHM. I have all the respect in the world for SAHMs – my beloved mother was one – but I know that that is absolutely not for me. I want at least a part-time job every day of my life until I’m too old to work.

    Nor is being Suzy Homemaker right for me (again, no disrespect meant to the Suzy Homemaker’s out there. I actually admire what you do. I just know I don’t have those stripes).

    I’ll do a little cooking, and a little cleaning. But those would be side jobs, and not the sole reason for my existence in the marriage.

    If I had kids, I would want to take the primary role of raising them in conjunction with my husband. But I’m not deluding myself. I don’t have all of the skills needed to be a great parent. So I would want my kids to be exposed to other caring adults who possess skills I might lack. I don’t want to be a SAHM and have it all be on me.

    I’m under no illusions that I alone possess everything needed for my kids to become happy, healthy, and successful human beings. On the contrary; I would welcome the help from other well-placed people in my children’s lives, whether that came via the kids’ relatives, a cherished day care program, family friends, teachers, mentors, sports coaches, doctors, etc. I honestly view parenting as being a team-based effort; ideally with the parents being the air-traffic controllers, but with lots of other valuable people on the “flight crew.”

    When I date guys, if I determine that he’s absolutely dead set on getting (a) a SAHW or M; or (b) biological children (which I’m not sure I want – I think I would prefer to adopt); then I quickly and politely end the relationship. I’m not going to argue with him or try and change his mind about what he wants. But if there’s no flexibility on those two key issues, then we’re not compatible.

    To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a guy wanting those things (or a woman wanting those things, for that matter). Nothing at all. But I may not be able to give him what he wants, especially with the biological kids. If two people aren’t in lockstep about that, then that’s truly an irreconcilable difference.

    I know my way of handling these situations may leave something to be desired. I’m constantly learning how much I want to do it better and smarter than I have in the past.

    To be blatantly honest, my fear in any relationship is that the guy is going to look at me and think only about what I could possibly give him – ex., that I could cook; that I could clean; that I could take care of him; that I could be a mother to his children… but that he’ll overlook the other parts of me that are vital to who I am, and that, at times, run contrary to the traditionalist ideas of what a woman “should” be.

    I have a mind. I have intelligence. I have ambition and drive. I have unusual hobbies I want to pursue. I want to paddle my own canoe, although admittedly at times I wouldn’t mind if someone was in my boat with me. I have goals and dreams that I badly want to accomplish. And I never want to be subservient to ANYONE.

    My problem is that I’ve never figured out how to reconcile this inner defiance with also being a wife and mother. Both are important to me, but for very different reasons. I don’t know yet how to make them co-exist.

    I know I don’t want to shrink in a relationship. Like most people (I suspect), I want to grow, and to help a partner grow, in ways that eclipse everything we previously thought was possible in love, life, and happiness.

    I’ve been in relationships in different formats in my life where I was sidelined, suppressed, and expected to live up to a certain ideal that wasn’t reflective at all of who I really was. I don’t worry that every new guy will subject me to this. If I did, I wouldn’t date at all.

    Instead, my fear is ME – that I’ll make the wrong choice, out of convenience or obligation, and that it won’t be true to myself and what I believe in. That I’ll classify the wrong things as being “expendable.”

    This isn’t a problem with men. It’s a problem with me. It’s about me needing to learn how to get to a place in relationships where what I want and what I can give and receive are all much better aligned; rather than always stumbling on what’s behind me.

    Okay, I’ve gone on long enough, you think?  🙂

    Cheers to all of the readers of this blog who are also trying their best, and to Evan for stimulating such a great conversation!

     

  9. 69
    Suzanne

    Though I have my career I want to settle the down and raise a family and have a man support me in this role but it is really difficult to be open about this without scaring them away! I think you are made to feel as a woman that you shouldn’t want this also men might feel you are just looking for someone to support you. I would be delighted if a man said he was looking for a stay at home mother! I’m surprised Gerry is having trouble I think more women want this than would admit to it. I think Evans advice to let the man lead and relax into the relationship without trying to control or change a man or demand stuff is actually freeing and must be nice for men too. Then to threaten to leave if not moving forward at a certain point. Men and women are different that’s the attraction, it annoys me when people get on their high horses about it; if I wanted my romantic partner to beg die mike a woman I’d be a lesbian!

  10. 70
    ABCXYZ

    Simply put, if I were Jerry I would not settle for any female unless she was willing to accept the traditional role putting their marriage first and children second, which was the way it was for centuries … key point being, have children however breast feed them, nurture them, teach them, love them, making THIS their career coupled with being a wife.  Women did this world-wide for the most part prior to ~ late 60s or early 70s.  So do the past 5 decades of chaotic family-life define Truth OR does the rest of human history for thousands of years?  Children easily answer this IF given a say as to how they wish to be raised.

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