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August 24, 2009

Is It OK for Women to be Breadwinners?

He Said/She Said

model wearing black patent pump standing in coins

Photo Credit: Karin Catt

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SHE SAID: I grew up in a single-parent home with my mother who, by default, was (and remains) the breadwinner. She went on to date and marry, and in every relationship, she brought home the bacon and fried it up, with no complaints from the lucky men she was with. For me, the breadwinner wife "trend" (according to the New York Times) is just the norm.

That's not to say that I'm ignorant to the fact that some men would have a problem with it. Money is not just money, after all, and to many it represents success, power and strength...all qualities that, I must add, are not exclusively male ones. Am I being naive? Perhaps. But I'm not sure I'd want to date someone who would squirm uncomfortably every time I brought home a paycheck. I want someone who celebrates all of my successes, monetary ones included.

When I asked a select few ex-boyfriends for their opinion, they enthusiastically agreed that it's completely acceptable for women to be breadwinners. Granted, their answers were perhaps a bit self-serving considering my streak of dating not-exactly-employed struggling musicians, but even my most alpha-male breadwinning ex, when questioned, asked "where can I find one?"

Like the New York Times article pointed out, the unemployment rate for men is 10 percent, compared to 7.6 percent for women, so whether it's "okay" or not, reality is in favor of women as breadwinners. Now is not the time to let ego get in the way of paying rent and putting food on the table.


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HE SAID: Let me start by stating that I am about to reveal one of the dirty little secrets men have and lie about constantly. The reality is that it takes an exceptionally confident and self-assured man to be comfortable with a woman being the bread-winner in a relationship. As a gender we don't admit this. “Of course!” we say. “I wish my wife was so that I could stay home” we boast. “How great would it be to not have to work?” we ponder smugly, as if having a partner that lived up to this would solve all our problems. But most of us that say these things are lying through our collective grinning teeth.

The truth is that, while most men are attracted to women with power (and money is a vehicle for power), we do not want powerful women for partners. The idea of a woman that desires, earns, and achieves more is scary. Most men simply do not want to compete with their partners for power. Our partners can earn, do, and achieve slightly more than us and we're fine with it. It's a fun and friendly competition, and it helps keep us honest and focused. If, however, you eclipse us to the point that we can't out earn or success you, we'll lose interest faster than you can say "corner office".

For those of you that watched Sex in the City, remember Steve breaking up with Miranda because she wanted to buy him an expensive suit for an event at her law firm? He said, "No way. I'll start to think of you like my mother...You need to be with someone more on your level." Now, I realize this is horribly unfair. The reality, though, is that most men would rather reach down than up economically. It's safer, less stressful, more comfortable, and ultimately sad. This is why it takes an exceptional man to be in a relationship with a bread-winner. Exceptional men don't measure themselves solely against their partner's income or success. They measure themselves by knowing who they are, understanding the difference they make in their partner's life, and by celebrating their partner's success instead of being jealous of it.

Women are outearning, outpacing, and outshining men like never before. Meet some real-world female breadwinners.

On the Soapbox

Abraham Lloyd is a divorced dad, closet geek, and aspiring author dating in New York City. He believes all men should own at least five jackets, know how to dance, and pay on a first date. You can tweet him at twitter.com/abrahamlloyd.

Diana Vilibert is Marie Claire's associate Web editor, a chronic oversharer, closet romantic, and blind-date addict. You can e-stalk her at diana-vilibert.com.

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