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I was talking to a GenX journalist friend, in the midst of a divorce, about marriage, divorce, etc., and we acknowledged that, unlike Boomers and Millennials, GenX men can be a bit confused about the massive change in gender roles and what women are looking for in a partner. As we continued our free-rambling conversation, I asked her why we women still want men to make as much if not more than we do.

“Well, it’s hardwired,” she said.

OK, maybe it is, but if we truly want egalitarian partnerships (and I’m not exactly sure if we do), shouldn’t we have moved past that by now? 

Despite the many ways women have pushed forward as far as education, the workplace, being breadwinner wives, etc., there’s one area in which we still seem to have antiquated views — women overwhelmingly (78 percent, according to the Pew Research Center) want our men to have a study job. As Jill Filipovic writes in Cosmopolitan, “Pew seems to be operating under the (not entirely unreasonable) assumption that men are expected to have jobs to be ‘marriage material,’ while women simply have to exist.”

In fact, one of my posts from two years ago, He’s broke, you’re not — do you date him, is still one of my most popular. So many women continue to write in, asking if they should stay with a man who is marginally employed.

I don’t offer advice — I don’t have the answers for anyone, just a lot of questions they could ask themselves. But as I wrote then:

A recent study seems to indicate that we are stuck in a time warp when it comes to gender and money — we can’t get past the idea that a husband should make more money than his wife, and that is impacting whom we marry, how much a wife works, and even if a couple stays married. … Unemployed, under-employed and low-paid women are still dateable and marriage material, while guys are not. tweet

I pondered why that might be.

Is it truly because we’re hardwired, as my friend believes, or is something else going on?

Dating coach Evan Marc Katz pondered the same question: “[I]f you can support yourself as well as any man can support himself, what DIFFERENCE does it make what he earns? Why is your boyfriend, the guitarist, ‘bad husband potential’ when his girlfriend, the painter, is just ‘his girlfriend?'”

While he and I have agreed and disagreed in the past, I have the same question for my sisters as he does — if you are both able to support yourselves, what difference does it make?

And if we are going to accept the “hardwired” argument, then shouldn’t we also accept that men are hardwired to be non-monogamous, as some say?

My gut reveals an unspoken desire by women nowadays — we want choices. We want flexibility. We want to be able to work full time, part time or not at all, especially if we become moms. And, if we’re going to have a partner, he needs to make enough so we are able to do so.

Sorry to say, I don’t think we allow men the same choices. Granted, men may not want them. A recent Gallup poll indicates a huge proportion of men — 76 percent — would chose to work out of the home than “stay at home and take care of the house and family” while just 51 percent of women said the same.

But the 24 percent of men who seem to be seeking the same flexibility women want may have a much harder time finding a partner who wants that for him, too.

All of which makes me think what a man earns does make a difference when women are looking for a partner, even if he makes enough to support himself. We want him to support us as well, too. And I don’t think it necessarily reflects well on women. Because if we truly want egalitarian partnerships and we truly want flexibility, we’re going to have to embrace that some men may want the same.

Interested in having a safety marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press), order it on Amazon, and follow on Twitter and on Facebook.

One Response to “Does a man’s income make him ‘marriage material’?”

  1. Rob says:

    Okay so American women want the man to make more money than them and take care of them yet they want to offload 50% of traditional women’s duties on to the same men. This would only make sense to a feminist or a pussified male.

    Take heed guys. Don’t ever marry one of these American feminists. If fact, never get married to anybody if you want to keep your hard-earned money and your freedom.

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