Thursday, May 19, 2005

Money and Marriage

Before women were likely to actively pursue careers, the idea of marriage being a partnership had a very strong hold among most people. The man might earn money, but the woman's contribution was not devalued and so money was spent as if both members of the couple contributed to it equally. A man did not earn money for himself; he earned it for his family.

Now that women are often pursuing careers with almost equal vigor as men, finances in marriage seems to have changed as well. With both members of the family earning money, there seems to be this idea that it's much better for each spouse to seperate their money from one another. While I do not think it is a bad idea for both parties to have some personal set-aside for emergencies, I wonder whether it is really all that great to view marriage as nothing more than a romantic relationship with little in the way of an economic partnership.

Despite the fact that for a third of relationships the woman outearns the man, both men and women see men as natural providers. If a man earns the lionshare of the money, funds seem to be put into a shared pool. Women seem less willing to do this with their job no matter what percentage of household funds they generate. Women are giving some of THEIR money to help out the family. Men are automatically working to put food on the table for the FAMILY. In younger generations there seems less of this, but it is still there.

I am not saying that women are less generous, but there seems to be an interesting interplay when it comes to finances. Men are automatically going to give up their money, but women are less likely to do so. Not all of this comes from women, it seems. Men are much more likely to decline financial assistance from their wife and take pride in providing nice things to their family. Sometimes even if women went to act as men normally do, their husbands stop them.

I am wondering what people think of this and whether I am just imaginging this phenonmenon. For me, as I soon begin to start a family, the idea of not providing for my wife and my children no matter what my wife does is unthinkable. I would feel like hardly a man and ashamed if I could not provide for my family regardless of whether my wife could pick up the slack. I think if you talk to most men, they would feel the same way.

I wonder is this biological, societal or a combination? Women still care about how succesful a potential husband is so it's not just some patriarchal norm that only men hold on to.

I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts.

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