I recently interviewed a high-achiever. She was in her 50s from my guesstimation, and looked very fine for her age. She was a very sharp tool, I could tell. And very confident. And classy. After 45 minutes I said, “This was fun, I think I have asked you all my questions.” Then she said, “No, you haven’t asked me about my marriage.” So we talked about it.
She’s divorced. Distance also played a part: She lived and worked abroad, he lived and worked here. They saw each other once in two years, which is almost like seeing each other every World Cup. OK, maybe I’m stretching the analogy a bit, but you get my point. Anyway, it didn’t work out. There were other factors too. As she climbed the career ladder, she started making more than him. This information gave way to a brief debate on why men get insecure if their wives make more than them.
Later I wondered how this is even possible. Which man knows how much their wife is making anyway? Are they psychic? Do they have a special relationship with HR at her workplace? I think it’s easier to walk on water than know for a fact how much your wife is making.
Anyway. Of course there are men who don’t mind making less and having the woman take care of things in the house. It frees them up to complete other tasks like pick the kids up from school and collect her clothes from the tailor who does Ankara dresses. If you have made peace with that then there never should be a problem. But it’s true that making less than your woman makes you feel disempowered. Or disenfranchised. (Always wondered where I would use this word in 2018. It might not even be appropriate here but my year is almost running out.)
There is something that fills you with male pride when, say, you go to a restaurant and the wait staff puts the bill right next to you. It means that they imagine that you are the one taking care of that business even if she is the one taking care of that business that day. I always pretend that it’s completely rude for the wait staff to do that, but secretly I’m always filling with pride to be identified as the one who takes care of business. It’s how some of us were socialised, albeit in reverse at times.
MONEY IS POWER
Most of us grew up with our mothers telling us, “I don’t have money, go ask your father.” Fathers made more – even though most did much less with it. The roles were clear: Fathers bought fridges. Mothers bought eggs. But then somehow mothers became fathers for some and started paying fees on top of buying eggs and fridge, and fathers somehow continued to pretend that they were the ones buying the fridge because mothers covered their nakedness. Now nobody cares if you are embarrassed, which means we might be tougher than our fathers. But these fathers who stopped buying fridges never lost their “power” as men of the house because mothers let them, covered for them, supported and even loved them in that facade of authority. There was never a question of where the power emanated from. The king sat at the head of the table, even though he no longer had legs to stand on. He sat at the head of that table only because the queen let him.
When your woman earns more everything is magnified because your core is challenged. You start imagining things, seeing things, hearing voices. If you are earning Sh100,000 and your woman brings in Sh500,000 and, say she upgrades her car, you will sulk and brood around the house like a lone buffalo, acting like you were not “consulted,” picking on your food, and sleep facing the wall. It’s power. She didn’t need you to buy the car and because she can easily afford it, she made that call. So you feel useless. It’s even worse if you are those guys who can’t even fix simple plumbing issues around the house, like me.
Let’s flip it. If she was earning Sh100,000 and you Sh500,000 you will feel resourceful when she says, “Babe, si you add me Sh300,000 I get another car?” You will feel needed. If she is earning Sh100,000 and you Sh500,000, she can come home late and you won’t think it’s such a big deal. But if it’s reversed, you will imagine that the reason she’s coming home late is because she doesn’t respect you. She’s acting like she’s the man.
“Men who get insecure about their women earning more are not secure about themselves. They have not filled their lives with more productive qualities.” A friend told me when I raised this story with her. I said, “What productive qualities? That he can hold his breath longer underwater? That he doesn’t cry at sad movies? You think knowing what HDMI stands for will make a difference?” Money is power and the person who pays the piper calls the tune. It’s that simple, the rest is just propaganda you hear from Steve Harvey.
Here is how a relationship where the woman earns much more than the man can work. (1) If the man has accepted that the bill will always be placed next to her - total and complete resignation. (2) If the man is lazy and loves being taken care of. In fact, he will pray for her to get bigger jobs. (3) If the woman musters a great emotional intelligence to make the man BELIEVE that his participation and opinion are very important even in the face of her good fortune. That he’s still THE man. [Stop rolling your eyes]. (4) If the difference isn’t that significant - she’s earning 200K a month and he’s earning 150K. (5) If she never tells him exactly how much she is earning. (What else is new?) (6) If he manages to convince her to join those churches where every end month the wife takes all her earnings to the husband to plan for the family.