Me Tarzan, you Jane — and smarter and richer

In mod­ern mar­riage, wives are of­ten the brainy bread­win­ners

Sunday Times - - NEWS | RELATIONSHIPS - By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER and NIVASHNI NAIR

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

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