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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  1. 61

    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

    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

      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.

  3. 63

    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

    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

    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

    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.

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