Although the Art of Love series has officially ended, it continues to have a powerful impact on couples everywhere. As I personally gained valuable lessons during this 11-day series, it is a must I continue to share with my BMWK family.
This conversation, just like the ones prior, was awesome. The dialogue focused on what happens when women are the breadwinners in the home. An expert relationship panel featured a former stay-at-home-dad and relationship specialists and writers.
The discussion began with Alison Armstrong, author, educator and designer of “Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women” workshop series. She opened by explaining a current trend: rise of wives and women who are increasingly better educated. These women have emerged as the dominant income provider in 1/3 of all marriages. The impact effects certain aspects of our relationships, especially the self-esteem of the husband. Alison also went further by describing the challenges women are facing by being breadwinners. “The biggest challenge is separating making money from power. We thought when our men made the money they had all the power ,and we think if we’re getting the money we should have the power. But we’ve missed the accountability that the provider has.” A husband can feel disempowered by not being held accountable.
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist and executive coach, says “Women are feeling more empowered but the challenge appears when they take that to the extreme and becomes disrespectful to their mate. The power has nothing to do with who makes the most money.” Julie goes on further to say that “because the roles and responsibility are shifting, women should be careful about the attitude of even wanting to be married, if they find themselves questioning what the husband brings to the table.”
Katherine Woodward Thomas, author and psychotherapist, suggests that we look at the larger context in order to get a sense of what’s shifting. “There is a huge shift in the power dynamics. Fifty years ago women began to participate in generating our world. It’s wreaked a lot of havoc. Women are rising to power as a result of the workforce.”
Jeremy Adam Smith, author and former stay-at-home dad, added, “At any given time in a resilient family, both parents should be able to stay home and take care of the family.” Jeremy admitted there were benefits in staying home for him. He recommended the need to uncouple power from money. In a lifelong marriage things will change and we must openly negotiate when roles are reversed. To do this, Jeremy says we must put our assumptions on the table. “It’s hard for men who had been working to easily fall into the role that a stay-at-home mom would be able to do.”
Jeremy also added a great piece of wisdom for wives with stay-at-home-husbands. “Gratitude is important. Thanking your partner for what they’re doing and not complaining about what they’re not doing is key. Empathy is also very important and being able to see the world from your partner’s point of view.”
Alison says, ”Letting him know what you need and what would be a bonus. Appreciate everything he got right and maybe the next day add how he can make it better.”
Julie said, “We don’t give people the space to do them their own way. Allow people to be who they are. When there is a change, there is an emotional crisis taking place. Both partners need to be aware of how they’re feeling and give space to process those emotions.” Julie suggests that we ask how our spouse is doing and is there any way we can help.
As the discussion intensified, Jeremy was completely honest when he said, “It’s important to recognize it’s still the case that men and women are not the same, income is not the same, and opportunities are not the same. Women have been rising, and men have stumbled. Many women are reluctant to release power in the domestic sphere. Men are still learning this. Men have to be aware domestic spaces are generally spaces of power for women; we must yield that power.”
Katherine added, “There is an opportunity for men in these roles to connect with parts of themselves that have not been able to flourish while being protector and provider. Women have taken for granted, we’ve had so much time to connect with our feelings, building relatedness and more women are really taking on responsibility of our world. Allow for this time period of redefinition.” Katherine also provided tips for women who don’t want to be breadwinner. “Don’t believe everything we feel; be conscious of the world we’re building. Recognizing where we are is stepping up our creativity. When we became liberated that means men were being liberated too. We have valued manhood by the amount of money and how hard he’s worked, let’s step back and recognize the transition.”
The panel was then asked, “How can both partners ask for more in an effective way?”
Alison answered by suggesting deal making. Deciding what really matters and painting that picture for both partners.
Julie offered, “Let your intentions lead the conversation and be clear and direct. Men appreciate a direct message. They don’t need to be coddled nor do you need to respect his ego. Just tell him and ask his thoughts.”
Jeremy recommended that we treat our family like a nonprofit by asking what our strategic plans are and what each will do to contribute to those goals.
Alison further adds that women must support their men by asking what he thinks will work.
As the panel discussion was coming to a close, one of the last question, but definitely one of the most anticipated, was what happens to sex in this dynamic? Here’s how the panel responded:
Julie says when the woman becomes the breadwinner, sex can shift in one way or another. Couples must create the space for a conversation to take place and uncover how they want to manage those differences.
Katherine acknowledges that it can become unsexy.
Alison reminded us that a man’s sex drive will be related to his testosterone levels. Men must refresh by working, resting and playing. If his attitude about staying at home is one of working, it will work. Wives can put things in context of results being produced, that he is doing something important and essential and remind him of it often.
Again, another great topic and discussion from the Art of Love Relationship series. I found this panel to be extremely insightful and honest about the typical thoughts and feelings that creep into a marriage where the wife is the breadwinner.
BMWK family, if you are currently in this situation, can you relate to the ideas being offered?