Are kept men equal partners

Posted by Lachmi Deb Roy on Mon, Apr 25, 2011  
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They earn less than their female counterparts, opt to become homemakers by choice or are forced to accept secondary status. When women wear the financial trousers, can men truly escape being sidelined?


It is a reversal of traditional role models, the high flying wife and the man who plays second fiddle, either willingly or through compulsion. Yet not many can play this reversal role with any success. Many marriages crumble under the onslaught. "Many of the successful and high-flying wives are unable to handle husbands who want them to wear the pants in the marriage. Many men feel emasculated and resort to alcoholism or extramarital affairs in order to regain their self-esteem. And society is cruel. It does not take kindly to men who prefer not to lead the marriage financially. After all, man is meant to be a provider and woman the nurturer," says relationship therapist and psychologist Seema Hingorani.


Anything that defies the norm is scoffed at, treated disparagingly. Where does this leave men who earn less than the women? Indians are a patriarchal society where a man's sense of self and self-esteem is irretrievably linked to his financial worth.


What has lead to this current rash of men who are opting to be househusbands? Basically, it is the break-up of the traditional joint family, where older relatives would be around to handle childcare when the woman decides to go to work. And the fact that living is expensive, necessitating a dual income family in order to have a descent standard of living. "Women today are as professionally qualified as men, and you have start of a change in the family set- ups. A woman who is a super achiever would be, necessarily, a Type A personality, who needs to be on top of every situation, who needs to take charge. Therefore, this is not the kind of woman who would readily sacrifice a career at the alter of domesticity. Therefore, a juggling of the traditional role is inevitable. The dilemma generally affects most working couples with little kids. Generally the spouse who earns more gets picked to support the family financially.


In a New Age marriage, traditional parenting roles are reversed quite easily and the New Age man is as comfortable changing diapers as he is working out due diligence presentations. Therefore, it is the man who can telecommute or work flexible times, or work from home to play the stay-at-home parent and bring up the kids, while the mother rushes off to work.


The dilemma generally begins after the baby is born, when most couples find out that they don't have good enough day care to turn to and that family cannot help out with baby-sitting every day. Or that they would rather not leave the child in the care of nannies and maids.


Today women are no longer looking to marry a husband who will be the provider. Instead other qualities in a partner take precedence. They want creative and nurturing partners, qualities that are the opposite of their own Type A personality to enable compatibility. Women have earning power, so they are less intent on finding a husband who is a high earner and more interested in finding someone who is an all round partner good partner. 


With the shift in traditional roles comes its own share of strife, financial conflict being the most obvious, followed by childcare and household responsibilities. Dr. Seema Hingorani says, "Shifting domestic equation might come easily to new age man, but to a man who has been raised on patriarchal notion of the male being the provider of the family, the shift in mindset might be impossible. This is where the conflict begins."


Financial differences are not always the main bone of contention. In some marriages there is a certain amount of resentment that creeps in with the husband playing a subservient role. Psychologist Dr. Anjali Chabria says, "There was a patient who once came to me saying that he sometimes feels emasculated. His wife was doing well as a high-flying corporate. He had to say that the other men look down at him saying he is joru ka ghulam."


Anirban Sinha, an investment advisor from Vizag says, "I have learnt that making financial decisions should be a complete joint effort. This is regardless of who makes the major money in the marriage. If the wife is the one bringing in the bulk of moolah, she may feel resentful if the husband decides to spend it in a way that is unacceptable to her. And if she voices this dissent, the husband might feel belittles. Therefore a couple going for this kind of non-traditional domestic relationship should sit down and discuss finances more often than the regular couples where the husband is sole bread winner.


Friends and family might not always be as understanding of the new arrangement. The key says marriage counselors and relationship experts, lies in presenting a united front, and not letting the world be disparaging of your partner and not being disparaging of your partners to others. We need to face it that it takes a very secure guy to be willingly play second lead financially in marriage.



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