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!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • 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.