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. 41

    Karl R #40
    I get your point that we all do need to make some compromises. Actually, I meant to say that Shari is being more rigid than Jerry, but I probably didn’t make that clear. However, I do think that your 38 year is being unreasonable, because most women in his targeted age range do want kids. Though I’m not sure how you can speculate how rigid most of us are by using a hypothetical example, I think I can safely say that most of us aren’t looking at only potential partners who make over 250k/year. And that is only ONE aspect of Shari’s criteria. We also don’t know if she has height requirements, a certain physical appearance that she prefers, educational background, no prior marriages, etc. Her actual dating pool could be even tinier.

  2. 42

    @Morris #38
    I agree the 14% stat would be higher   if   the lower income women who wanted to stay home with their childen were able to. Headline: Single Mom of 3 hits 56 mill Jackpot! Says Mom: Finally I can quit Walmart and be home with my kids!
    It also wouldn’t surprise me if SAHP was more prevalent in top 10% income households. I further would not be surprised if said households also had STAFF. Nannies, maids, housekeepers. Which isn’t quite the same stay-at-home-parenting I described in #30.   Might be “Shari’s” version of SAHM though.
    The Yale stat does seem high to me. Perhaps the graduates married into the top 10%? Work “behind the scenes” on their husbands political campaigns?
    Back to your original question of it being unreasonable expectation  to find a woman who would be a SAHP – for our hypothetical Jerry it would seem to be because he is attracted to women WHO DON’T WANT TO DO IT.   As hypothetical Shari is attracted to captains of industry who either DON’T WANT HER, or don’t have time for her and a family. The parallel is that it hasn’t occured to either that they may have to adjust their expectations if they want a family life. Compromise as EMK puts it.   You do see that was the point of this little exercise don’t you?

  3. 43

    Welcome to reality.

  4. 44

    @ Selena #43
    “The Yale stat does seem high to me. Perhaps the graduates married into the top 10%? Work “behind the scenes” on their husbands political campaigns?”
    I saw similar statistics mentioned on another online source the other day, and the quote that I saw might have an answer to this question.
    “other research has shown that graduates from top schools are more likely to come from wealthy families and to marry men who also attend prestigious universities and come from similarly wealthy families. That could give them more financial flexibility to opt out.”

    So, yeah. The 1% intermarrying and living on the % of their parents’ capital. They can work if they’re so inclined, but they don’t have to. Nothing to see here, move along folks…

    1. 44.1
      It's you

      56 percent seems high to you? I’m not rich (we do ok) but I live in an area of the country that frequently makes the top 10 wealthiest counties list. From what I see the majority of mothers still work. They certainly don’t have to but they do.

      Traditionally well educated women left the workforce after having children was because it was too difficult too balance both.

      If the study looked at Yale graduates in their 40s in 2000 they would have likely graduated from Yale in the 80s. in the 80s and 90s employers were both more biased towards women of reproductive age and totally uninterested in any kind of flexibility.

      My mom was a working mother with young kids in the 80s and I remember how hard it was for her. She did end up taking time off at various points for that very reason.

      Ive got it far easier than she ever did.

  5. 45

    Not to go into philosophical discussions on this: I think that what determines whether a wish is “unreasonable” is not just the percentage of people who’d then be a potential match, but also how reasonable the wish itself was in the first place, independent of how many people match it.
    In this case, I’d argue that if a man insisted he didn’t want kids, that’s  a perfectly reasonable request, regardless of what proportion of women feel the same way. Why? Because life is so dramatically different if one is childless vs. if one has children.   Likewise, I also think it’s reasonable for a man or a woman to say that s/he  wants only a partner that wants  kids.
    What I don’t  find reasonable is if a person like Shari,  who makes $250K, insists on a mate who earns that amount or higher. Actually, I don’t  find this a reasonable  insistence REGARDLESS of how much the woman herself makes.   Really, you can’t live with a spouse who makes $225K?  Try telling that to 99.999% of Americans, let alone the rest of the world.  Apart from the nuttiness of such a wish, these people don’t seem to be aware of the  phenomenon of economies of scale. Living with another person almost always increases disposable income, unless that person earns nothing or  nearly nothing.
    And enough commenters (myself included) have remarked on how Jerry’s wish is not unreasonable, as long as he doesn’t force his wife to stay home. I would say that if one wishes for a parent to raise kids at home the first several years, cares a lot about the domestic environs,  and doesn’t have the disposable income to hire others to help, then it’s reasonable to at least wish for a SAH spouse.

  6. 46

    In my geographical location, and considering societal influences, at least half of all moms are stay at home moms, regardless of income level.      Most don’t live a  $250K  OR $120k lifestyle either.    Being a SAHP is actually encouraged.       So I don’t think Jerry would have trouble finding someone who would be willing to do this.
    Agreed that being a SAHM hurts.  My ex and I decided  to live on one income and have one of us at home.    That was me.    Then, 18 years later, when he left, I had only just rejoined the work force.   No 401k, just starting out.    However, I worked hard at my job and was promoted, went back to school and just finished my bachelors degree and  today, I make more  than him.    Feel GREAT to be providing for myself and my kids!!
    About the having too high expectations debate that  we always  have; we talk about women and their  rigid and unrealistic checklists  a lot.    Here is mine:  there has to be an attraction.    He has to have integrity, a sense of humor  and be able to  be silly or fun and accepting.    There has to  be  some level of intelligence.   My age range is 5 years either side.   As far as income,  he has to be able to  manage his money and be able to provide  for his responsibilities.  
    I really  can’t think of what I would eliminate from that list.     Maybe that is too rigid and I just don’t see it.       I really don’t personally know any women who have a HUGE list of things.   Most women I know are usually happy to have a guy interested in them because most men in my age range (in my area)  are usually trying to date 10 to 15 years younger.  

  7. 47

    Ok, how is even possible these women with 250K/year or something (which i guess are also smart women) to think that finding love is related with making money?

  8. 48

    You hit the nail on the head with that last page, Evan.   I think that in this scenario Jerry will have a much easier time finding someone than Shari.   Women are getting more and more successful relative to their male counterparts but they still put themselves into traditional gender roles even if they don’t see it.   What I mean is that she might be successful but her man always has to be more successful.   The more money or education a man has the larger his dating pool becomes.   The inverse is true for women.   Jerry can meet a woman who is more successful than him as long as she is willing to conform to his idea of a relationship, which may not be guaranteed but is certainly possible.   There is no comparable solution for her.   Good post.

    1. 48.1
      It's you

      The solution for Shari would be to accept a man who makes less and live a simpler lifestyle.

      Maybe this doesn’t apply to Shari but many women want a man who makes equal or more to avoid the headaches that come with dating and marrying a man who makes less than them. It may be less of an issue today but its been drummed into the heads of women in my generation that making more than him will eventually cause problems.

      As i said it could be less of an issue today. I have several friends who make more than their husbands but I have more who insisted on marrying men who made more. A few I suspect even consciously or unconsciously held back their own careers to ensure he remained the higher earner.

  9. 49

    Evan, Readers
    let’s assume that Shari accepts to date a guy who earns less than she does.
    But … What if the guy  (despite he’s attracted to her) in the long run does not accept that she earns more than he does or  is never accepting to have  holidays or anything else paid by her?
    I cite this as an example, because I know meny men and also dated guys like this. And I am not talking about women earning 250k per year, I’m talking about people in the 35-45k per year income.
    Guys are attracted to successful women, but still keep a traditional mentality when it comes to earning power.

    1. 49.1
      It's you

      whether they still do or not these days, gen x women have been conditioned to believe it’s a recipe for disaster.

  10. 50

    “I really don’t personally know any women who have a HUGE list of things.”
    That’s because you’re not dating women and hearing the myriad seemingly trivial reasons they reject men. (I say this with humor, because I’m not angry about it – rather just observing and learning my own lessons from it – I have my own unrealistic list to consider).
    That you live somewhere that “half” of women consider being a SAHM acceptable, and they don’t live “$120k lifestyles”, then you’re not likely to meet the women that Evan writes for. Believe me – I’ve met and dated them – in every big city they seem to be the norm rather than the exception. It can be a challenge to get through their list and find if they have a value system that matches mine.
    Again, I’m not blaming or even angry about it – just trying to figure out how to work with the challenges of the times.

    1. 50.1
      It's you

      Rest assured, men in those big cities who earn good salaries have their own lists too. And you don’t see it because you’re not dating men. That list might be much shorter than women’s, but bottom line if you’re not young and hot, the short list can be just as challenging to fulfill.

  11. 51

    I was watching a television show about dating last week, and the girl vying for the guy’s attention told him happily she had a list of 50 things she had to have in a man, and lucky him, he met 25 of them already!   🙂

  12. 52

    I would say you are very right in that I don’t date women.   I also think   that I tend to be friends with people who are more like me.   The women you describe seem very high maintenance.   And high maintenance is high maintenance no matter the relationship.  
    I do have one friend who has a huge list of musts haves.   she is very critical and always wants things, even trivial things, her way.   And she is perputually unhappy both in her marriage and with the “other” side relationships.   I have to take her in small doses.

  13. 53

    Michelle #52
    Alot of “Law of Attraction” info I’ve read – and even some dating advice – tells women to make a long list of qualities they want a man to have, to carry this list with them at all times and to refer to it. Law of Attraction proponents believe that making this list and actively thinking about it will help you to attract the right person into your life, and they swear that it works. Not saying I believe this, but it’s common advice that flies in the face of other suggestions to “ditch the list”.

  14. 54

    I didn’t say not to have a list, I’m saying 50 things is toooooo long for any other human being to be able to meet every one of them.   (I’m not against writing/journaling about our past experiences and what we liked and didn’t like about past partners to keep focused on what we’re looking for, just not 50 things!)And how meaningful  can such a long list be?   When really at it’s core, it’s about sexual/physical attraction, the ability to be true friends (you ‘get’ each other) and having similar goals, beliefs and values.  

  15. 56

    You know, This bachelor’s degree requirement is really a very silly thing. Take me for example. I am a guy.  I speak nine languages, travel to europe, asia, oceania once a year, at least. I have studied for 20 years in higher education, but I have no bachelors degree due to my full time job which pays for my school. I have four associates degrees, some of  which were required by my job, others which are required for my  progression to the bachelors in a highly competitive field that I’ve been striving for since I graduated high school. I have enough credits to be a doctor twice over! I am many time more intelligent than these “guys” with bachelors degree, as it seems they give those away now a days to anyone who can afford to go to school. I am more intelligent than these guys or women who are so called “intelligent”. But I am consitently turned down because of that, god knows how many women have passed me over because of this. I say “C’est la vie”, they really don’t know what they’re missing. I’ve had relationships with women who are doctors, lawyers and more, but they are all long distance, not here in USA. Reason: Bachelors degree requirement.
    I defer to my Grandfather’s advise who was a doctor, extemely intelligent and smart yet humble he would say “If I don’t know the answer ask your grandmother, she would know it”. She didn’t have any degree, nor did she have any schooling whatever, in those times women were granted very little right under dictatorship, but she studied, and knew MORE than my grandfather!

  16. 57

    @JustMe #53
    “I do have one friend who has a huge list of musts haves.”
    Yep – I was like that, until I realized how useless it was. One of the more profound lessons in life. As soon as I focused on only about 3 or 4 (essential) items, my dating life really changed,

  17. 58

    At Roman#58 : Just say you HAVE a Bachelors Degree. No one will ever know the difference or call you on it. I’ve been doing it for years.

  18. 59

    I’m a dinosaur.   I’m with Jerry.   I think that a mother of small children should stay at home.   It doesn’t mean forever.   14% at any one time suggests that overall rather a lot of women do it because most people in the UK seem to have had Mum at home when they were very small.   A common or garden professional (lawyer, doctor, nurse, teacher, local government officer, bank manager) can get a restart quite quickly.   The public sector, the largest employer of women, has formal re-engagement schemes.   A career break, voluntary or otherwise, is not held against women as it is against men.   Shari is attempting to be a man.   Men who pursue such a career are desirable to women because they demonstrate status and competitive competence.   That’s why, at some level, they do it.   Career success on this level makes Shari intimidating if not unattractive.   If Shari has real ability, good luck to her.   She’ll be Miss Shari and her nieces and nephews will mourn their Aunty.   If she is doing it for ambition, she deserves her fate.
    The daughters of the English aristocracy are noted for marrying much older men.   (think of Diana). The young men of equivalent status sometimes marry down so aristocratic young ladies have to spread their nets wide to catch enough high status males.   Rather what my fiancee is doing given our age gap = she’s 25 years younger.   On the other hand she’s wealthier than me in terms of assets.   Shari might maintain her income target and marry older or foreign or adjust her status target and find a struggling creative artist to support.   Having it all isn’t on the menu.   I am over 60.   Most of the women I dated at college never married.   I checked them out after leaving my wife.   They were picky at university (outnumbered 5:1) and couldn’t believe the men would disappear but they were driven by their parents ambition from the beginning so pursued their careers first.   Who is Shari doing this for?   Herself? Her parents? Feminism? Money as an end in itself instead of babies?

    1. 59.1
      It's you

      your comment reeks of sexism.

      The public sector in the US does not have a formal re-engagement scheme for stay at home mothers, so I’m going to assume you are referring to UK/Europe (using the word scheme was a dead giveaway).

  19. 60

    I think Jerry should do what Evan suggests women do: go for a 3-6 in attractiveness and a 10 in cleaning and cooking. If he stops looking for the most attractive women, I’m sure he will have no problem finding the one of a-zillion women who would to stay home, live off of her husband,, and have a bunch of kids. How is he not finding one?

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