What Traditional Men and Modern Women Have In Common

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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. 21
    Valery North

    Well, the problem I see is that neither Jerry nor Shari seem to want a partner: they both want an asset, who will function like any other household appliance in their lives.
    Teaming up with someone to make a life together is not about “here’s my current life, let’s add a husband/wife to the mix and get some new upgraded features.”     It’s about creating a NEW life together that may have some elements of the old lives but ultimately is shaped around each other, not oneself.     It’s impossible to know what that life will look like or which things from the old lives will still seem worth keeping once you get to that point.     THAT’S the bigger mistake they both make, and I hear in both stories underlying fears – loss of independence, loss of decision-making power, but most of all, a fear of the unknown.

    1. 21.1
      It's you

      this is why marriage and parenthood are not for everyone. I wish more people could admit this to themselves beforehand.

       

  2. 22
    Crews

    Both people have very fixed perspectives on  want they want in relationships  and are better off single, because if they were married they wouldn’t be for long. Compromise and flexibility is the cornerstone of any relationship, especially intimate relationships and to be over 30 years old and have not embraced this means that you lack the emotional intelligence to make a marriage work. Most people who want to only marry once and to be happy in their marriages will find these types of perspectives unattractive for a sustainable relationship.

  3. 23
    Vixxy

    I have a hard time believing that a smart woman would hold out for a man who makes more then her. I have a six figure income that exceeds my husbands substantially, and more education but it does not interfere in our marriage at all.   He needs travel a “good” income and a certain minimum in education (for me that’s a bachelors) but beyond that, everything else is extra.  
    In fact, most men I met along my career path were largely undatable. Toto busy to make time for sleep, let alone a girlfriend.  
      

  4. 24
    Morris

    Am I the only one who thinks a successful person(and from what I can tell a good person) wanting a stay at home partner reasonable?   I see it happening in my circle all the time.   I understand it’s not as common as in the past but it’s most definitely still in the norm.   I remember reading an article by  Sheryl Sandberg and how she was a little dismayed that only one of her fellow female lawyer friends was still working and the others chose to be SAHMs.   What city do all the posters live in where they are saying Jerry is unreasonable?   Just curious.

  5. 25
    Rose

    Everything is a trade off at the end of the day, It’s a myth that we can have it all.

  6. 26
    Evan Marc Katz

    @Selena:

    Can you tell us what choices these women end up making? Sure!

    Do they come to realize finding a loving partner and father trumps income level? Sometimes.

    Do they refuse to give up the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fantasy? Sometimes.

    Do they decide they would be happier single and childless rather than *downsize*?  Never. They either adjust to reality and find love, or hold onto their fantasies and stay single. They don’t change their fantasies.

      

  7. 27
    Vixxy

    @Morris. It’s not unreasonable , but I don’t think it should be expected. Most women I know work at least part time. We hire nannys, cleaning people and dog walkers, but keep our jobs.   I would think that if a man “expected” me to stay home I personally would find it unreasonable.

  8. 28
    Rose

    If a woman wants to work still and the man wants a woman who doesn’t, it is not ever going to work. They are not a match. I do not know many of these really high earning career minded women in RL or men. They are the minority surely? Are most of your clients in this minority category Evan?
    It comes to making choices at the end of the day of what is most important to the individuals and if they are able to be happy with their life choices.

  9. 29
    Selena

    @Morris
    When I read of what composite Jerry wanted my thoughts were, he’s 38; if he grew up in mainstream US culture he knows not only do most women work outside the home, most women are expected to.   I’m surprised you see women staying home raising children as “most definitely still in the norm” perhaps it is just more common in your social circle? Evan gave a statistic   that only 14% of women are SAHM’s. That would better describe the social circles I’ve been in, and what I’ve observed of Jerry’s generation.
      
    I think people who haven’t as yet had children may sometimes romanticize parenting a bit. It’s not all teaching them numbers, colors, the alpahbet in between strolls in the park and playdates with other mothers and preschoolers. It’s also alot of washing spit up out of your clothes and hair; endless diaper changing; numerous occasions soothing throughout the day of babies who will cry at the drop of a hat; dealing with temper tantrums, breaking up countless fights between siblings; intervening on the behalf of pets (stop getting the cat wet!); washing the walls of crayons and markers (for God’s sake don’t have permanent magic markers in a home with children under the age of 8 unless you want to paint your walls); constant cleaning up of spills and messes and an exhausting amount of correction required to turn your adorable litte ego-centric maniac into a socialized human being. If Jerry doesn’t want to spend 24/7 doing this work, is it reasonable for him to expect someone else to jump at the chance?
      
    Add to that Evan’s description of the women Jerry is attracted to: “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.”   This indicates what? That only dumb women want to stay home with their children? I know this isn’t true. So let’s just say Jerry says he wants a home manager, but he’s inexplicably drawn to the kind of women  to whom that job does not appeal. It’s not so much that it’s unreasonable as   it is unrealistic. Just like Shari who doesn’t seem to see it’s unrealistic she will become a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills. Different sides, same coin.

  10. 30
    Helen

    Vixxy: I agree 100% with your response to Morris. It’s not unreasonable for either side (working husband or working wife) to want a stay-at-home spouse; but it is unreasonable to insist upon  a partner making that sacrifice  in today’s uncertain financial times.

    1. 30.1
      starthrower68

      It’s only unreasonable if both spouses are not on the same page.   But they should also be on the same page about wise money management, needs vs. wants, and staying/getting out of debt.   People are doing those things every day. I hear many of them call into Dave Ramsey.

  11. 31
    Julia

    I think if you want a professional woman or one with an advanced degree, its probably hard to ask. That’s not to say its not impossible, I know women with master’s who never went to work, they also married right out of college. I think people who have rewarding careers and have gotten use to working, its a harder sell. You can hold out for the educated woman who wants to stay at home but you might be waiting forever. Just like you can wait for a man who makes over $250k but you might be waiting forever.

  12. 32
    Frimmel

    So if Jerry expects Shari to retain employment (which seems to be a more realistic expectation on his part) would it be okay for him to work less and earn less so that he could be home with the kids while Shari is working? Jerry probably doesn’t see raising children as something to be left to a nanny. Would that compromise on Jerry’s part — working less so his wife could work but the children still aren’t left with a nanny — make him more attractive to Shari?

  13. 33
    John

    Goldie @15
      250K/year for one person is not the same as 250K/year for a family of three or four.
      
    You stole my thunder. This is exactly what I was going to say. Shari would realize the hard way and then I am sure she would be unhappy.  And   God help them if the guy loses his job or his business struggles.
      
    As for Jerry, this descriptor in Evans profile of him can be the problem:
    he’s had a devil of a time finding any attractive woman who shared his worldview.
    Maybe Jerry can find a woman who does meet his worldview who isn’t as  beautiful looking. Sounds like Jerry is looking for   a 9/10 in addition to sharing his views. I bet if he went for more of a Plain Jane (5/6/ on the looks scale)  he would have better luck finding his June Cleaver. She may not be a hottie, but if she is a little bit cute that would work to increase his dating pool potential.
      

  14. 34
    Helen

    Frimmel: I don’t know if that would make him more attractive to someone like Shari, but that sure would make him more attractive to someone like me! That subset of women would be floored by a man willing to stay at home with the kids and take care of  other domestic matters  – it would be more than we had dreamed of.
      
    Selena, agreed on all points! Kids can be a nightmare to raise nowadays, and it also rubbed me the wrong way that “Jerry” appears to believe that women who would do the SAHM thing are more dumb and unstimulating than women who like to work.

  15. 35
    Goldie

    @ Morris, I like this question. It made me think! And here’s what I’ve come up with: it is somewhat reasonable for anyone to make major career-changing decisions (take 5-10 years off work, change careers, stop working altogether) for ourselves. (With the caveat that, if we plan on losing our income, we better have a solid plan for where we’re going to get the money for our living expenses.) Forcing such a decision on someone else, (aka “expecting” them to make that decision), yup, sounds unreasonable to me. Forcing it on a person you’re supposedly in love with, that to me is just bizarre. FTR I spent a total of three years at home with my children and another year working part-time/temp jobs (not by my or my husband’s choice), so I know what it’s like. It’s like Helen said — not having a source of income puts a woman in an extremely vulnerable position, and her husband in a position where he’s tempted to control every aspect of her life. Taking several years off work does massive damage to one’s career. In my case, my career never fully recovered (though, thankfully, it did recover to the point where I made enough that I could afford to leave my husband without taking him to the cleaners). Neither did our marriage. In these three years at home (and a few years after that — even when I was the only one working in our family, he’d already fallen into a habit of treating me like a housewife and it took him a few years to snap out of it), I saw an ugly side of my husband, and that changed everything. I finally left because I was honestly afraid to grow old with that men, after he’d already let me down once when I depended on him. Keep in mind he never expected me to stay at home, and never demanded that I stay at home — I lost my job after my first child was born, and couldn’t find another in our small town with no daycare available for children under 18 months old. In all fairness I have to add that my staying at home was good for the kids. Well, other than the fact that their parents had a dysfunctional marriage and eventually divorced as a result.

  16. 36
    marymary

    Goldie
    I knew a very successful man who married a beautiful woman.   They had two children.   She stayed home with the kids until the youngest left for university. He then ran off with a career girl. He doesn’t seem to understand why his ex wife is so pissed!   

  17. 37
    Morris

    @Vixxy #28 – I agree that it shouldn’t be expected.   Dating a professional and later expecting them to be a SAHP would be unreasonable.   Someone wanting a SAHP would do better saying that upfront.   Again in my circle it wouldn’t be that hard to find a willing partner assuming the breadwinner makes a good living.   I’m assuming $120k in a city like NYC wouldn’t cut it though and it would be much harding finding a willing partner.
      
    I am curious though.   I know a few ‘career’ women that did a 180 after having a child and deciding they wanted to be SAHMs.   Partner made good money so it wasn’t an issue.   But wouldn’t that also be unreasonable to expect the partner to let them quit to raise a child just because their partner was successful?   Would the husband be ‘selfish’ if he insisted the wife work even though they really didn’t need the money?(Or was willing to cut back?)   Again the men I know in this position loved the idea of a SAHM so it wasn’t an issue.   I’m just asking.
      
    @Selena #30 – The 14% is only because many couples that want to have a SAHP can’t afford it.   I don’t have the statistics but if you check the top 10% of earners I’m guessing you’ll find the statistic much higher.
      
    About the dumb comment.   Did you read what I posted on Sheryl Sandberg?(Google her if you don’t know who she is.)   Her HARVARD lawyer friends all but one became SAHMs.   My guess is those women’s husbands made a good deal of money.   So in a city like NYC Jerry’s wants wouldn’t be realistic.   But there are a lot of places where it would easily work.
      
    I’m not sure how you can say the two are the same.   One wants to be part of a (at a minimum) 14% married relationship.(Again probably higher since he makes a good living.)   The other want’s a partner who would be in the top 1% of earners.   Not really the same in my book.   Striving for what 14% of married couples already have doesn’t seem to unrealistic compared to wanting a top 1% income earner.
      
    @Helen #31 – Agreed.   He would do better if he lived in a place where $120k can provide a good living and date women who want to be SAHPs instead of dating a professional and later asking them to quit.
      
    @John #34 – although you didn’t ask me I wanted to comment on he’s had a devil of a time finding any attractive woman who shared his worldview.   It would be unreasonable if someone wanted a SAHP supermodel just because they can provide.
      
    @Goldie #36 – Agree.   Expecting a career person to quit is unreasonable.   I’m just saying there are a lot of people that would love to be a SAHP.   He needs to find them and that isn’t unreasonable.   Again unless he lives in a expensive city where $120k wouldn’t support a family comfortably.

  18. 38
    Morris

    @Selena #30 —  I mentioned Sandberg twice so I wanted to make sure I got the reference right.   Couldn’t find the exact one in a quick search but did come across this one.   ‘Of Yale alumni who had reached their 40s in 2000, she says, only 56% of the women remained in the workforce, compared to 90% of the men.’   Now not all of them became SAHPs obviously but the takeaway is the same.   It wouldn’t be hard to find a smart SAHM.
      
    I’ve hard so many times from my female friends about how it would be so nice to have the options to be a SAHM.   If it’s not unreasonable to think this way I don’t see why it would be unreasonable to want a SAHP.   Unreasonable to expect a profession to quit work?   Yes.   But not unreasonable to pursue a SAHP from the get go.

  19. 39
    Karl R

    Ruby said: (#13)
    “Jerry might be looking at only 14% of women, but Shari is looking at a mere 3% of the men. Most of us aren’t quite that rigid.”
      
    Most people are that rigid. They just aren’t aware that they’re that rigid.
      
    Let’s say there’s a 38 year old man (it seems to be a popular age to consider) who doesn’t want any kids. He’s fairly open about his age range (30 to 42). Would you say that he’s being unreasonable in his expectations?
      
    Based on my search of Match.com, he’s down to 12% of the women in that age range (and that’s assuming that 1/3 of the women who describe themselves as “Not Sure” are willing to marry someone who absolutely does not want kids). If he doesn’t want to take a chance on the women who have a significant chance of changing their minds, he’s down below 6% of the women in that age range.
      
    However, if that same man starts considering women in the 43 to 48 range, 45% of them meet his “no kids”  criterion. It’s an obvious place to consider compromising.
      
    To each of you who said you can’t relate to Jerry and Shari’s situation, I’d say it’s because you’ve blinded yourself to how closely their situation mirrors your own. It’s only different in the details.

  20. 40
    Shari

    Just had to respond because-my name is Shari! (Not the one mentioned in Evan’s scenario-I’m actually a nurse-and would have no problems fulfilling the “traditional” role of wife!)      : )

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