Me Tarzan, you Jane — and smarter and richer
In modern marriage, wives are often the brainy breadwinners
When mechanic Prishen* proposed to optometrist Sadia*, his friends patted him on the back for “hitting the jackpot”.
But the bride’s friends were not impressed, convinced that Prishen was marrying their highly qualified friend for money.
Eleven years later, the couple have proved the cynics — including family — wrong.
“My group of friends openly said I had hit the jackpot by marrying a woman who earned more than me. Even today, people do not believe that we are equal partners in our marriage because in their eyes, my wife’s education and money make her the boss,” said Prishen.
Sadia, who is the primary breadwinner, said her marriage was very different to that of her parents.
“Our relationship is opposite to the one I witnessed as a child . . . my dad went to work and provided for the family while my mother stayed at home and took care of the children and household,” she said.
“Because I earn more, my contribution to our household expenses is substantially higher. At one stage, my husband worked from home so he took care of our two children when he could.”
While the couple are not concerned about their different levels of education and earnings, they are not blind to the negative perceptions of the relationship.
“When we were dating I knew her friends disapproved of me. I didn’t go to university and I didn’t dress the part of a successful man, so in their eyes I was not a catch,” said Prishen.
Their marriage fits with research by the University of Kansas indicating that more women in the US are “marrying down”, at least partly because they are getting better educations.
The study, which looked at Americans aged between 35 and 44, found there were more highly educated women than men in the marriage market.
Local experts say that while South Africans still tend to be conservative about women bringing home the bacon, archaic attitudes are beginning to change. They say many men would love to be with a smart, successful woman.
Such is the case with another Durban couple, who did not want to be named. The man is a workshop manager and his wife is an accountant.
The woman said: “The gap is big, but to be honest it doesn’t affect our relationship because even though he didn’t have an opportunity to study, my husband is intelligent and we can talk.”
Anita Bosch, a professor at the University of Stellenbosch Business School who researches women at work, said that in certain job areas in South Africa women earned more than men.
In financial services, for example, more women than men were qualifying as chartered accountants.
“Companies are certainly seeking the services of more qualified women to enhance their equity targets. However, the employment of men overall continues to outnumber that of women.”
Bosch said younger South African men were more willing to share household tasks, but it was not clear if they felt “truly comfortable” in relinquishing the role of main breadwinner.
Bonita Grobbelaar, who describes herself as a dating coach, said that in the South African social context a man would have to be emotionally strong to marry a woman who was more successful than him financially without it affecting his “manhood”.
She said: “There are men like that out there but I think they are few and far between.” * Not their real names