Sisterhood Blog

R.I.P. Breadwinner Marriage

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, professor Stephanie Coontz explains how marriage has not only survived the great upheaval that is the women’s movement, but is actually stronger because of it.

Thinkstock

These days, high-achieving women are more likely to get married, the later a woman gets married (when she is presumably more independent) the less likely she is to divorce, and egalitarian values and sharing housework are becoming increasingly important for a marriage to succeed.

It is wonderful to hear that feminism is not a natural-born enemy to marriage, despite what some conservatives and the traditionalists say. In fact, from the way things are going, it seems as though feminism might have saved marriage. As we saw in the divorce boom in the 80s, that old breadwinner model wasn’t exactly working.

As for myself, I am proud to be in one of these egalitarian marriages that is challenging old notions of who should be responsible for what in a household. But all the pride in the world doesn’t help the fact that equal marriages, as strong as they may be, are trying.

In another recent Times piece, film critic A.O. Scott takes a look at all the work that goes into an equal marriage and what that says about romance today.

To say that marriage is work is to insist, above all, that it is not static. Far from a condition of smiling serenity or unvarying habit, wedlock, in the modern imagination, is supposed to be dynamic, active and interesting. In old movies and TV shows, marriage, when it was not upheld as a romantic ideal, was usually portrayed either as a state of dull stability or endless drudgery. That it turned out to be work was presented as a “realistic” or mocking rebuke to the expectation of bliss.

Scott goes onto to explain how in recent movies and TV shows, the squabbling and wrangling over who is in charge of dinner or whose career takes prominence is no longer portrayed as drudgery, but rather the beating heart of a dynamic and fulfilling relationship.

Indeed, with equality, or at least the goal of equality, comes countless negotiations and score-keeping. But, for those of us suited to it, these challenges bring a potential for growth and discovery that the old model could never provide. And according to Coontz, we seem to really like it.

Ultimately, there is absolutely something utopian, as Scott mentions, about the whole endeavor. Marriage was for so long an arrangement of convenience, with or without love. There are still many convenient factors to marriage, things like having someone to both have and raise kids with, split the mortgage, and to lie beside at the day’s end. Still, one does not enter an equal marriage for convenience or ease. Instead, we enter it because we really believe that having a partner will push us to go deeper into ourselves and into life than we could on our own.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.