Money can’t buy everything but it can buy you a wife

Most little girls fall asleep to fairy tales in which beautiful princesses are rescued by handsome princes and then live happily ever after in majestic castles. As we grow up to become women, the media and entertainment industry perpetuate this fairy tale through rom-coms, made for TV movies, and E.L. James novels (apparently no one’s reading Jane Austen anymore). I still think Pretty Woman is the most romantic movie ever made. What girl doesn’t want to be rescued from her fire escape by Richard Gere with a rose between his teeth? Parents and teachers can emphasize the importance of education in attaining a good job and achieving financial independence. Role models for today’s young women are often successful career women, such as mothers or perhaps even grandmothers who go to work every day to support their families. Would-be feminists can read The Feminine Mystique ten times over and embody every quality of the modern woman.  Yet even in this day and age society still nourishes traditional gender roles where the man should bear the brunt of the financial responsibility for his family while the woman, even if she ‘chooses’ to work, should still have time to cook, clean and rear children. Perhaps even more surprising? How many women who not only buy into this stereotype, but aspire to it.

Since our mothers got married, the number of women in the workforce has gone up substantially. Not only that, women’s salaries have also increased, mainly due to the fact that more and more women are getting college and university degrees than ever before. In 2009, the Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that 40% of US working wives were out-earning their husbands compared to 25% in the early 1990’s. One would think this a positive step for women in terms of equality as it seems to signify a narrowing of the wage gap between genders, long been a thorn in the side of feminists. However, a study published in January 2011 by London School of Economics professor Dr. Catherine Hakim seems to contradict this, reporting that women actually prefer men to earn more money than them.  “…64% said they aspire to find a husband bringing home more money. None wanted to marry a man who earned less.” So it seems that when it comes to relationships, women actually do revere their traditional position as needing to be provided for. A similar study done by Meghan Casserly of ForbesWoman via the website YourTango.com revealed that 91% of women would marry for love over money, but that 75% of women would still NOT wed someone without a job. And it seems that deviation from the husband-as-breadwinner role is unappealing to men as well as women. A Cornell University study published in August 2010 reported that husbands who earned less than their partners were up to 5 times more likely to cheat. Researchers found that “the secret is for women to earn 25% less than their husbands. As that gap narrows, it becomes more likely the man will be unfaithful.” Men are clearly threatened by the thought of losing their historical role in their relationship dynamic.

It comes as no surprise that many women like men with money. We all know the cliché of the young beautiful woman and the old rich man. The Real Housewives series is one of the more popular reality shows on television. Hugh Hefner still dates twenty year-olds. Anna Nicole Smith is most famous for marrying a billionaire in his 80s. I am just surprised that the distribution of earning within a relationship is an issue for so many people. Why are successful women not celebrating the progress they have made, being happy to be making more money now than ever before? Why does it matter who earns what as long as family is taken care of?

In most of my relationships prior to my current one, I have made more money than my significant other, which has generally never bothered me. As I have blogged about before, I have always and still do believe that a woman should never be dependent on a man, that she should have her own career, friends and interests. Therefore, I have always assumed that I would work, even when married with children. In relationships I have always paid for my fair half (or more) of everything. When I first moved in with my fiancée he was a medical fellow. Our arrangement was that we split rent and basically took turns paying for everything else. When he finished his fellowship and started to work as a full-fledged nephrologist, his financial situation changed quite a bit. As in, he is now making about 6 times more money than me a month. I share this information with you not to flaunt how extraordinarily upper middle-class we are, but to share with you how I came to understand the 64% of women who are seeking husbands who make more money than them. This is because I surprised and disappointed myself by the sense of security I felt at my husband-to-be’s salary revelation and how much I have taken it for granted. I no longer even glance at the cheque at the restaurant when it lands on the table, never mind make any move to pick it up. The same goes for groceries, take-out, trips to the wine store etc. He books all of our flights and hotels for trips, concert tickets and sports events. Oh, and I dropped my laptop last week so he also bought this new MacBook Air I am typing on. These are things I could pay for myself. As a pharmacist I make a good salary. But he makes a much better one and we’re partners, therefore when he offers I don’t decline. Beyond the material things, it’s comforting to know that if we decide to have children, although I have never imagined myself as a stay-at-home-mom, I will have that option. Furthermore, I am currently making a career change and taking some time off, and am able to do so without being concerned about money.

Maybe there’s a little girl inside every woman, holding onto that fairy tale, waiting for her prince. But today’s Prince Charming may not look the same as yesterday’s. Modern relationships are changing, and so are the roles of man and wife. I think it’s time we embrace the idea and make new fairy tales. Perhaps Pretty Woman was ahead of its time:

Lewis (Richard Gere): “So what happens after he climbs up and rescues her?”

Vivian (Julia Roberts): “She rescues him right back.”

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