I’ve recently had two men approach me in fellowship-that-seemed-to-be-going-somewhere, but everything suddenly stopped when they saw my fully furnished apartment, heard that my car is paid for, and heard about my future schooling and vacation plans. Then each of them backed away. I actually thought they would be interested in the fact that I have a life.
Both men have degrees but no jobs at this time. Both are still great friends, but no relationship seems to be in the future. They all but said to me, “I can’t provide for you; you don’t need me…” The notion that I don’t need a husband couldn’t be further from the truth.
How can I continue to enjoy my hard-earned income and well-kept home and not scare men away? Can’t my income and assets be seen as a modern day dowry?
This is a timely question! It’s increasingly common among Christian singles hoping to marry that women earn more than men. What’ also true, and you’re seeing it firsthand, is that men are troubled by the trend.
You’ve experienced it in men who don’t pursue you, their economic superior. And with that, the sting of rejection and frustration of feeling like you’re doing something wrong, when in fact, you’re stewarding your gifts and talents, working hard, and earning the rewards due you (1 Timothy 5:18).
While some journalists are eager to suggest men like it when their wives earn more than they do (see, for example, this recent Time magazine story, “Why Men Are Attracted to High-Earning Women“), given the chance to try it, many couples find unexpected discord when they do. Yet this trend appears to be more likely going forward. In “When the Wife Has a Fatter Paycheck,” Wall Street Journal columnist Susan Gregory Thomas reports,
An April report by the Center for American Progress looked at U.S. women who earn as much or more than their husbands and found that 34% of wives in families with incomes in the top 20% are the breadwinners, whereas 70% of those in the bottom 20% are. Roughly half of wives are the breadwinners in middle-income families.
The reporter is herself in this situation. “I’m one of the 40% of American women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who are the breadwinners for their families,” she says. “…we earn more than our husbands. Like millions of my sisters, this puts me smack in the middle of a distinctively modern dilemma: how to handle the tensions of a marriage between an alpha woman and a beta man.”
And there are tensions. For every story that insists men don’t mind, and might even prefer, to marry women who earn more than they, there are others that reveal the imbalance such arrangements create. Men don’t ultimately thrive when they know they are dependent for their survival on their wives’ earnings. Nor do their wives. As Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during an ethics class last fall, women who earn more than their husbands end up feeling like their mother, and they no longer find them sexually attractive. That’s a problem.
The dilemma Susan Gregory Thomas raises has even higher stakes for a Christian couple. We’re not merely talking tensions between alpha and beta, but defiance of the Alpha and Omega. We believe God designed men and women with differences on purpose. There’s a reason to His design, and no less so in marriage. He gave Adam and Eve a shared responsibility to take dominion and be fruitful. Then he gave Adam primary responsibility to tend the garden and gave Eve primary responsibility to bear the children. Our distinct tasks are carried out most effectively, and most enjoyably, in a home economy marked by mutual help, kindness, love and other-centeredness (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
A good and godly father will live with his wife in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7), giving her breaks and helping his weary wife with the children. A kind and loving wife will help her husband bear the heavy burden of providing for his family wherever she can. I do this in our home by writing these columns for extra income and by listening to Steve talk about his challenges at the office and then praying with him for the wisdom to handle them. But it matters which way the help is going. If I were to ask Steve to take over the cooking and cleaning of our home, as well as caring for our kids, so I could fly off to a conference in another city, all in the middle of his work week, that would be counter to the help I’m called to provide. And if he gave it, it would be help at the expense of his primary responsibilities. (This may be why a godly man would view your demanding career and the lifestyle it affords not as a dowry, but as ongoing competition.)
This is not to say there won’t be seasons where a wife earns more than her husband — my mom put my dad through dental school and I have a lot of friends who’ve done similarly — but barring atypical circumstances (like disability) that shouldn’t be the norm and certainly not the goal. Why not? Because it goes against the grain of our design.
God made us male and female, with distinct roles and responsibilities. We are equally made in God’s image and thereby, equally human. We are also equally in need of God’s forgiveness and saving grace. Before the cross, there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. But in marriage, there is distinction. Man is charged with providing for and protecting his wife and family, all the while leading them in love. Woman is equipped to bear and nurse infants, to keep the home, and to help her husband. Again, I realize this is offensive to many and nearly obsolete in our culture, but it’s still what the Bible says. And God’s Word is unbroken, true and our only hope for freedom (John 10:35, John 8:31-32).
What does all this mean for you in your adventures in dating?
Think biblically. For starters, it’s a reminder that the goal for Christian women who hope to marry is marriage to a Christian man who takes the Bible seriously. If a man who is trained to work and eager to work, but as yet, still looking for work, recognizes that he’s not in a position to provide for a wife and children, you should appreciate his integrity and cheer him on in his search for employment. Be a friend to him and where possible, encourage him and pray for him.
Be a helper. When your male friends are actively pursuing work, look for ways to help them. Do you know of a company that’s hiring? Are you in a position to make a recommendation? Have you heard about ongoing education that would help them? Whatever you would do to help your own brother find a job, do for them. They are, after all, your brothers in Christ. Even if they don’t marry you, you’ll be making an investment in someone else’s potential husband and future family. That’s never wasted.
Check your motives. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It’s far too easy to trick ourselves into thinking we’re charitable with our motives when in reality, we’re competitive and take secret delight in knowing we’re better than others (Galatians 5:14-16, 2 Corinthians 10:12). You have nothing that you’ve not been given (Romans 11:33-36) — remind yourself of that, humble yourself before God and ask Him to make you a good steward of His good gifts, and offer them back to Him in service. Ask Him to show you how you can serve others and not just accumulate more.
I pray God will use your circumstances and my reply to draw you closer to Him and to go deeper into His Word. It is there that we discover how things are supposed to work and how to reconcile that which is broken.
In His Grace,
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.