Professional Wives

There’s been quite a brouhaha going on over at Forbes Magazine. It all started when author Michael Noer published an on-line article with a pretty provocative opener.

“Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career. ”

The article proceeds to list studies showing that the chances for a happy marriage are lessened when a wife out earns her husband, or even has a strong commitment to a professional career. Not surprisingly, in a world where Harvard president Lawrence Summers was ousted for a pretty innocuous statement about differences between the sexes, a fury erupted both at Forbes and elsewhere.

The article was yanked though later re-instated along with a rebuttal article by Forbes writer Elizabeth Corcoran. Now, she certainly was at a disadvantage having to write on the spot, but her article reads like it should appear in Oprah rather than in Forbes. Her arguments for dealing with what she classifies as her colleague’s “downright dangerous story” seem to fall into two categories. Firstly, she is a career woman and is happily married and secondly, men have a responsibility in marriage too.

Quite frankly, her own marriage has nothing to do with anything since Mr. Noer never claimed that studies show that 100% of marriages involving career women don’t work and as for the second point, I can’t seem to make the connection between the fact that men have a responsibility in marriage and the studies quoted.

For my own part, I wouldn’t advise anyone to marry or not or indeed to run any part of their life according to a study. It’s so terribly inconvenient when, as frequently happens, conflicting studies appear or the methodology of a study is questioned or years later it turns out that the study didn’t actually say what people thought it did. And by definition, studies deal in generalizations while people are unique

Notwithstanding that, I would certainly tell my children, who have to listen to my advice whether they want to or not, and anyone else who might ask, that marriage is a partnership with a much greater chance of success when one party, and in 95% of the cases it will work better for that party to be the wife, sees overseeing the marriage as her priority, while the other partner sees providing financial stability as his. This has nothing to do with the fact that cleaning help can be hired and meals can be eaten in restaurants. (Though there is a world of difference between a meal cooked by a stranger and a meal cooked with love.) It has nothing to do with the fact that women can be competent and succesful in business. It has everything to do with the fact that it is all too easy for the husband/wife relationship to be relegated to a back burner, whether or not there are children, and just as in any business, you want to make sure that someone is responsible for taking the pulse of the enterprise and adjusting accordingly. If both partners are immersed in outside careers, neither has the energy or time to constantly monitor and make adjustments, or arrange for the other to do so, as needed. Marriage is a career in itself.

For anyone looking to get married, I would suggest ignoring studies and instead looking for a few long-term, happily married couples whose lives reflect what the single hopes to have. They should then spend time with and have many conversations with those couples to find out the realities of married life really are from those who actually have managed to build a successful one.

2 thoughts on “Professional Wives”

  1. Dear Rabbi Lapin

    This is an interesting conundrum.
    Here in New Zealand many women earn more than their husbands and for some, at least fro a period the dad stays home.
    We are one such and it is facinating to see the attitudes that come out especially unspoken.
    Man must have dignity and earning is part of that.
    Many women stay at home here and then start businesses from home which grow into F/T endeavours.
    Why not men too?

  2. Hellooo Rabbi. This is Sarah. I liked your blog about working women. Its true about needing someone to make sure the pulse of the enterprise is strong and healthy. I used to agree some what with what Gloria Stienbeck said about women not needing a man. Not because I didnt think that men and women should get together or that men were bad, but because I was perfectly capable of doing things myself. Now I realize it has nothing to do with my capability, it has to do with a team effort. And gifts and strengths are given to each of us, not just for me but to help others. Especially in marriage.

    Yeah I know, women hate it when you say you shouldnt marry a career woman. They get mad. But its good advice, because if a woman isnt wlling to give up a career to love her family then it is if you really arent married anyway. She is always gone.

    Its funny because when I used to listen to a certain talk show host that was decidely not a religious or uprightman, he said alot of the same things you said, as far as women working and such.

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