Pitfalls of Dating Down

When talking about salaries on this blog, most of my time has been spent pondering the frustrating injustice of the gender pay gap. On average, women in this country earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Unfair indeed.

We now have a different pay gap to examine.

Last Sunday, the New York Times explored Putting Money on the Table: With Rising Incomes, Young Women Discover the Pitfalls of
"Dating Down."
Despite the odd placement in the Sunday Styles section (how does women's earning power qualify as style?), the revelations were fascinating. Young women are catching up -- indeed, surpassing, men. At least in New York. According to the article and another piece that ran in August, the median income of women age 21 to 30 in New York who are employed full time was 17 percent higher than that of comparable men.

The new pay gap is driven largely by a gulf in education, explains Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College in New York. Over 50 percent of 20-something women who work full time have college degrees, compared with only 38 percent of men. This reminds me of a refrigerator magnet I saw two weeks ago: two elementary school girls smirking underneath the caption, "First, we get better grades than boys, then we take their jobs!"

Of course, I applaud these smart, hard-working young women. But there's an unintended side effect, says Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. "One one hand, they're proud of their achievements, and they think they want a man who shares house chores and child care," she told the Times. "But on the other hand they're scared by their own achievements, and they're a little nervous having a man who won't be the main breadwinner."

The Times profiled the strategies employed by several young women who outearn the men in their dating pool. Dating older men, who are more likely to earn more, helps some. Minimizing their tax bracket and achievements works for others. Recognizing the inherent conflict of being a cultural vanguard works for a few.

What do you think? Do you outearn your boyfriend or husband? Have you faced this conflict of breadwinner vs. diaper-changer yourself? Men, do you earn more or less than your partner? Does it matter to you? What's your advice to women (and men) staring down this anti-stereotype?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 1, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts , Moms in the News
Previous: Cars and Balance | Next: I'm the Mommy


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Comments

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First!

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 7:30 AM

First!

I think this whole "trend" is ridiculous. Who cares who earns more?

For the record, I have been in both situations -- I've earned less that DH, then much more than him, and for now he's our primary breadwinner. It hasn't made much difference in our relationship. Much more important is that we share similar values and financial goals. As long as we're working together, it doesn't matter whose paycheck is larger.

Posted by: newsahm | October 1, 2007 7:30 AM

"On average, women in this country earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Unfair indeed."

Sigh.

And on average women in this country live 7 years longer than men. Unfair indeed.

Perhaps we need a policy to pay women more and kill them off sooner?

Every time someone repeats this idiotic 77 cents number it reduces their credibility.

I love the irony that when the average women's salary for a group is higher, it is immediately viewed as a rational correlation with higher degrees of education and not associated with some type of blatant or underlying societal discrimination. I'm skeptical that if the numbers were reversed we would see the same treatment of the data.

Posted by: columbia_md | October 1, 2007 7:36 AM

It's just another article perpetuating gender stereotypes. Who cares which person in the relationship earns more?

Posted by: dennis5 | October 1, 2007 7:58 AM

Yet another good thing about the ocean. No money here and danger is an equal opportunity employer (and provider) Mrs. Mako has the same abilities and opportunities as I do!

Posted by: nonamehere | October 1, 2007 8:02 AM

Dating down. Now there's a classist concept.

Posted by: nicekid | October 1, 2007 8:08 AM

I once dated a girl who "earned" more than I did. She kept pointing this out (gee, wonder why she never became my wife) gleefully.

One day, I sat her down and asked her, on average, how many hours per week did she work. I told her how many hours per week I worked, on average. After doing the math, she realized I made more per hour than she did. That shut her up.

So, I wonder if the story compared hourly effective salaries or just annual salaries (with or without bonuses).

Posted by: r6345 | October 1, 2007 8:13 AM

My husband still makes more than I do. I really don't care who makes more, it all goes to the same pot and we take money out of the budget equally for spending.

I think that if you marry someone (man or woman) who makes more money than you and makes a big deal out of it, you kind of ask for it.

Posted by: Irishgirl | October 1, 2007 8:25 AM

Perhaps people should only be allowed to date and/or marry people who earn between 95% and 105% of themselves. If they fall out of that range due to someone getting a raise or someone getting laid off then the partners have full authority to divorce based on financial incompatability. Or maybe they can just have a duel with loaded postols.

Posted by: baseballguy | October 1, 2007 8:27 AM

Another long term concequence of this trend may be a decrease in overall productivity. Not that women are less productive but that, even though they now are better educated and are obtaining an increasing percentage of high paying professional positions, they still tend to leave the work force sooner. I think half the moms on my sons' soccer team are lawyers who no longer practice. They worked for 5 to 10 years after graduation but then opted to stay at home (segue into tomorrow's On Balance?). So I would venture to guess that even if women surpass men in earning potential, men will still earn more over a lifetime.

Posted by: emilylsharp | October 1, 2007 8:32 AM

I read that article, and I gotta say, the double standard really bugs me. If you want to be out in the world, treated as an equal, with a high-powered career and salary, then how do you justify believing that the man has to be the breadwinner and pay your way? You don't get to choose only the stereotypes that benefit you.

That said, they do have a point -- there are definitely men out there who are threatened by women who don't conform to the stereotypes. It seems like ambition in a woman is a threat to some guys. (BTDT) Yes, it's frutstrating -- but, umm, isn't that what dating's for? To find those things out? Hint: if a guy is uncomfortable with who you are, what you have accomplished, or what you want to achieve, then keep looking -- he's not the right guy for you, and another 3 months or 6 months or 2 years isn't going to change that.

And Scarry had it right: if you're that fixated on the disparity, maybe you're the problem.

Posted by: laura33 | October 1, 2007 8:39 AM

If the guy has a problem with you making more while you're dating, then he's REALLY going to have a problem being the SAHD after the kids come.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 1, 2007 8:44 AM

"Who cares who earns more?"

One of my friends earns twice as much as his wife even though they both work full-time. Because of this, he justifies:
1) Making the large spending decisions, car, computer, health care provider...
2) Spending more of the resources on his own personal hobbies
3) Spends less time and effort than his wife doing household chores.

I admit that I agree with the principal.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 1, 2007 8:46 AM

I earn more than my husband, but he has a more flexible job. I also have a higher degree, so it makes sense. He doesn't have that macho disease that poisons relationships, so it's not a big deal.

I can completely understand problems dating outside your "class," but I don't equate class with how much you earn, but with how intelligent you are.

Apparently this is a HUGE issue with African-Americans. The education gap between AA men and women is astounding.

Posted by: atb2 | October 1, 2007 8:48 AM

"I love the irony that when the average women's salary for a group is higher, it is immediately viewed as a rational correlation with higher degrees of education and not associated with some type of blatant or underlying societal discrimination."

columbia, md, that's actually the opposite of irony; it makes intuitive sense. Women used to be oppressed in our society. That is a fact. Men, as an entire group, were never oppressed in our society. When history supports those statistics, we don't question it. When they don't, we think of a different explanation.

I would love to hear what your explanation is for why this age group of women is earning more, and why the rest are not.

Posted by: Meesh | October 1, 2007 8:48 AM

Emily - I'd be willing to bet that most of those mothers who used to work as lawyers didn't marry people who made significantly less than they did - or at least, their husbands weren't making less than they when they decided to stay home. If they married schoolteachers, like I did, far fewer of them would have the means to leave the workforce.

Posted by: burntnorton | October 1, 2007 8:49 AM

Emily - I'd be willing to bet that most of those mothers who used to work as lawyers didn't marry people who made significantly less than they did - or at least, their husbands weren't making less than they when they decided to stay home. If they married schoolteachers, like I did, far fewer of them would have the means to leave the workforce.

Posted by: burntnorton | October 1, 2007 8:49 AM

DandyLion- I know you're joking. If not, I'm virtually smacking you. Then again, I don't know who this "principal" is you're talking about. Maybe (s)he's a really smart individual.

Posted by: atb2 | October 1, 2007 8:51 AM

I make roughly 2.5 times what my wife makes. We just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary this year. All our money goes into one pot and it is spent according to what needs to be paid or bought.

Large purchases are discussed and agreed upon by both of us before we make the purchase, but the day to day financial work is done by my wife.

Posted by: johnl | October 1, 2007 8:52 AM

I wouldn't care if he made less. I make less now, and it's never an issue. We have one account, so we only look at the total amount we make, not who contributes what. It's the same with combined debt.

The only time it would be an issue (for us) is if only one person had an income. We think it's not fair to saddle one person with the entire financial burden, so neither of us would be comfortable if one of us did not have a job.

What makes us equal is that we both support our lifestyle, not that we both bring the same anount of money in.

Posted by: Meesh | October 1, 2007 8:55 AM

Most important topic today: Baby Watch. Scarry and Emily and other pg moms, given that you might have other thoughts on your mind once you go into labor and have your baby, could you please please ask someone to send me an email so I can spread the good word as soon as possible to your legions of fans on the blog? leslie@lesliemorgansteiner.com

Second (on topic this time): I hate hate hate to admit this, but here goes. For the most part, it never ever mattered in dating who earned more. It was totally irrelevant and the policy pretty much seemed that sometimes I paid, sometimes whoever he was paid. If he had money and chose expensive restaurants and entertainment, naturally he paid. I chose cheap places and I paid.

However, I did have a serious relationship once with a lovely man who earned less than I did. Earning more than a subsistence level was irrelevant to him. He wore cheap clothes, lived in a dirt cheap apartment and didn't have a car. This value was something I LOVED about him. He gave money to every homeless person he passed and seemed totally above material possessions.

But...he was so stingy with me, because I earned more, that I couldn't stand it. He damaged my car once and refused to pay for it, saying it was my car so I had to pony up. My mother once paid my plane ticket to visit her and he asked me to split the money she gave me with him "to be fair."

Although I loved this guy, I started imagining what married life with kids would be like with someone who was such a penny pincher, and who assumed that whatever I earned was his too. I could imagine him piling all financial responsibility on me. It drove me crazy. There were other problems, too, but his lack of generosity towards me, and his assumption that I could pay for him all the time was tough to take.

He was no slouch. He did not think he was taking advantage of me. It wasn't that I wanted him to take care of me, financially. It was just that I really was unnerved by his assumption that what was mine, was his too.

Even now, more than 15 years later, I am not sure if my attitude was sexist. A lot of men have no problem with women who assume the man will pay for EVERYTHING, including repairs to the woman's car, etc. What do you think?

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 8:57 AM

Leslie, Unless you are a woman who finds nothing wrong with a woman acting the same way your ex did, your attitude was not sexist. Different attitudes about standard of living and financial management are pretty much a dealbreaker. Your ex was happy to live at subsistence level and felt that it was appropriate to claim half of everything someone to whom he was not married earned/received. You didn't. Hopefully, you've both found people whose expectations and goals are compatible with yours.

Posted by: burntnorton | October 1, 2007 9:12 AM

'My mother once paid my plane ticket to visit her and he asked me to split the money she gave me with him "to be fair."'

Did you say no? How did he respond? I bet he didn't like to be told "no" and made it clear in a lot of little ways. "Gaslighting" is a term that comes to mind.

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 1, 2007 9:22 AM

In a few years, I want to quit my job, have a baby, and be a SAHM. So, in order to prepare, we live off my husband' salary and use mine for savings/paying off the mortgage/student loans. I make over twice what he does and we could have more stuff if I was the primary breadwinner, but he loves his job and I hate mine.

I don't think that we are being sexist by being more traditional, we're just trying to figure out what will make us both happy.

Posted by: klynnwilder | October 1, 2007 9:24 AM

Leslie

"Even now, more than 15 years later, I am not sure if my attitude was sexist."

Was this gem your before or after your first husband? You sure can pick 'em!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 1, 2007 9:27 AM

Here's a well known, dirty little secret (if that's possible):

Every man knows that the guy with a big house and the fast, expensive car can always bag a hot chick. A big heart only goes so far, women are more attracted to a fat wallot.

On the other hand, men are much more attracted to a woman with a big heart rather than a woman with a um, lets see, a bloated Coach bag.

Posted by: DandyLion | October 1, 2007 9:32 AM

Comments on this topic at the WSJ's "Juggle" blog:

http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2007/09/25/take-out-or-fine-dining-can-different-salaries-be-compatible/

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 1, 2007 9:33 AM

Argh...for some reason WaPo changed my ID, and I'm no longer Organic Gal...but it's still me.

Both Organic Guy and I are lucky enough to have jobs that speak to our souls. And we're both self-employed. Some years he makes more (he's a hands-on general contractor, and is happiest with graph paper designing a floor that he'll lay himself the next day), this will likely be such a year, when he sells the house he's been working on for some time. Last year I made more, because my work was steady and he was busy laying floors and cutting countertops, and this year it'll pay off. We both pay bills, we both work at house work, and last week, when I was at a training in North Dakota, he was a single dad for the first time ever, for a week (and did great!). We do what we do based on what's best for our family, and who makes what doesn't even come into consideration. The only time a particular purchase may be discussed is when we need a new printer/scanner/copier thing, that we could both write off come tax time...then the discussion isn't who makes more, and they should buy it, it's who makes LESS, so they can get the tax benefit for that year!

Posted by: OrganicGal1 | October 1, 2007 9:35 AM

This is both depressing and exciting news. As someone in her 20s, I find this a promising step toward equality [or superiority! :) ]. On the other hand, I have no interest in dating slackers who haven't accomplished as much as I have, although I don't know if money is always the right measure of accomplishment. I'm more interested in why men are not getting the same education as women. Do they not need it to make more money than women over the long term? Also, I've heard the same thing about AA education gap between women and men; several of my friends have witnessed the anger of AA women when they see educated black men dating white women saying that there are so few educated black men for them white women should back off. Navigating relationships outside of gender stereotypes is difficult and seems destined to leave women lonely even as their achievements increase.

Posted by: danielle.todd | October 1, 2007 9:37 AM

I am a constant lurker on this blog but felt compelled to post today. I read that article in the NYTimes and felt like it could have been written about me. I'm a 26-year old Harvard-educated lawyer. My boyfriend works construction while he's taking a year off from his bachelor's degree in engineering. Even when he does finish his degree (which he expects to do next spring), I will significantly outearn him. It is a strange issue of balance. On the one hand, I don't want him spending money on me that he doesn't have. On the other hand, when I insist on paying for everything, it's emasculating to him. Our solution has been to not discuss finances. Ever. That won't work long term, but it works for now. I don't know the answer, but all of my female friends, at all income levels, face this issue.

Posted by: CDTiger03 | October 1, 2007 9:37 AM

I am a constant lurker on this blog but felt compelled to post today. I read that article in the NYTimes and felt like it could have been written about me. I'm a 26-year old Harvard-educated lawyer. My boyfriend works construction while he's taking a year off from his bachelor's degree in engineering. Even when he does finish his degree (which he expects to do next spring), I will significantly outearn him. It is a strange issue of balance. On the one hand, I don't want him spending money on me that he doesn't have. On the other hand, when I insist on paying for everything, it's emasculating to him. Our solution has been to not discuss finances. Ever. That won't work long term, but it works for now. I don't know the answer, but all of my female friends, at all income levels, face this issue.

Posted by: CDTiger03 | October 1, 2007 9:37 AM

I haven't knowingly had the experience dating (I'm a guy).

But I have had similar experience in business. An experience
I use a touchstone to remind myself the world is a biased place
happened about 15 years ago. I went to dinner with my boss
(female) and a board member (also female). They had been
gracious enough to invite me along as I was the third person
from the organization at a meeting we were attending.

I was clearly the youngest and least well dressed of the three
people at the table.

The waiter delivered the check to me.

Posted by: craigp | October 1, 2007 9:42 AM

My mother out-earned my father, now I out-earn my husband. There are alot of problems stemming from the fact that my husband makes not just less than me, but half of what I make. There is always that thought of how improved our financial situation would be if he could step up his salary. I guess the honest thought is "if I can make this much, why can't he?" (we both have the same degree). I simply want more money in savings, more assets that we can share - I don't want to be "kept".

Posted by: jnjarrell | October 1, 2007 9:57 AM

I outearn my husband, though not by tons, but my earning potential in the future is much higher than his. It wasn't always like this though and for a number of years (pre- and during law school) he far outearned me.

Who makes what really doesn't matter to us now, but I wonder if that is partly b/c we've both had turns being the primary breadwinner and we are married.

I think dating is a different ballgame - especially in the early stages - b/c typically you aren't pooling your $$$ together for the mortgage, car payments, kids (if you have any), etc. I think my husband and I were a little more sensitive about who was paying for what before we got married and started living together...

I do think though that b/c we are equal partners financially (or at least almost equal) that I expect equality on the home front too. DH is expected to do his equal share of the grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, child care, etc. These "traditional" mommy roles are ones that we split.

And I don't know about the rest of the prego girls, but I am sooo done being pregnant at this point!

Posted by: londonmom | October 1, 2007 10:05 AM

"I'd be willing to bet that most of those mothers who used to work as lawyers didn't marry people who made significantly less than they did - or at least, their husbands weren't making less than they when they decided to stay home. If they married schoolteachers, like I did, far fewer of them would have the means to leave the workforce."

I can't speak for anyone else, but at the time we decided to have a child, I was earning approximately double what DH was. Making the decision to cut our income by 2/3 wasn't easy. But by the time we got to that point, DH was no longer comfortable with the idea of being a SAHD, and we wanted one of us to be home for at least the first few years. So it was me who quit, and for the most part, we've been very happy with that choice. It's surprising how easy it's been to adjust to the smaller income.

That all said, I am very much looking forward to returning to work. Just the thought of how much money we'll be able to bank if we keep living on one income and save the rest makes me a little giddy.

Posted by: newsahm | October 1, 2007 10:16 AM

Amen about the double-standard, Laura! I make more money than my husband, which is a complete non-issue for everyone but my mother.

Posted by: shandavegh | October 1, 2007 10:18 AM

I am done being pregnant too but I want the news first!

Maryland Mother -- When I refused to give that boyfriend half of my mom's "gift" of a plane ticket to visit her, he went CRAZY. It was our first HUGE fight. I asked if his parents gave him a present, would he split it with me? The answer, of course, was NO. I was speechless. I had thought that because he was so generous with homeless people, he'd be that way with me too. Silly me!

That first fight, about eight months into our relationship, opened my eyes to a few other flaws. He started to become possessive about me. I got invited by a male friend to meet Carol Moseley Braun (a big deal at the time) and boyfriend threw a fit that I would go ANYWHERE with a man, even a friend. He even admitted that if he got married, he wouldn't be comfortable with me taking a business trip with male co-workers. Hey, at least he was honest, but I worked at a 2000 person ad agency and about 60% of my colleagues were male, so that was a problem.

Then I started noticing that we had a hard time going to parties together. If the party was thrown by his friends, fine. But at parties thrown by mine, especially fancier ones, he behaved kind of badly. I remember one black tie New Year's Eve party where he told me I looked like a Vegas showgirl (I had on a sequined dress) and then passed out, drunk, on the hostess's bed. It was hilarious and awful at the same time.

Then he broke up with me, three times, the last one on Valentine's Day. He was right, we just weren't a match made in heaven. The last breakup I realized he was onto something. It was one of those "right thing at the right time" relationships that just didn't last. But it taught me that I probably needed to be with a man who had a similar approach to finances. And he soon after married a woman who lived in his apartment building and they lived very happily ever after, I assume.

And Chitty, I am SO very glad to know that it sounds like you've never had a bad relationship. Guess you were born perfect in this department. Sadly, not my karma. Maybe you can pass on some tips...

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 10:19 AM

Posted by: leslie | October 1, 2007 08:57 AM

Leslie wake up! He was just a crazy cheap bastard.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 1, 2007 10:20 AM

CDTiger -- Good to hear from you. Welcome to the fray. Please tell us more. Are your friends with the same problem from Harvard too -- and if you all dated Harvard or other Ivy guys would the problem be solved? What do your parents think? Have you ever tried dating someone older to solve the problem? Do you ever feel like you have to apologize for or hide your success?

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 10:22 AM

"several of my friends have witnessed the anger of AA women when they see educated black men dating white women saying that there are so few educated black men for them white women should back off. "

You of course took them to task for their racist attitudes right? Or did you just slink off?

Posted by: pATRICK | October 1, 2007 10:23 AM

"Even now, more than 15 years later, I am not sure if my attitude was sexist. A lot of men have no problem with women who assume the man will pay for EVERYTHING, including repairs to the woman's car, etc. What do you think?"

Leslie, first, yes, I will let you know when the baby comes, She is not due until early December, so we still have some time.

Second, I don't think that your attitude toward your ex was sexist at all. His stinginess toward you probably had less to do with money than with selfishness. You can be generous even if you don't have a lot of money. When I met my husband, I made more money than him (and still do), and often paid for the more expensive datees, etc. But he made it up to me in other ways. For example, I bought my house when were were dating, and it was a real fixer-upper. He spent his weekends for months helping me repair it, put new floors in, paint, and generally make it livable, even though he had no financial interest in it. When we honeymooned in Europe, he insisted on paying for the trip, and I know he used a big chunk of his savings for it. He is also generous in other ways, with his time, and with his patience. Which I am eternally thankful for, because I know I am strong-willed and stubborn, and most men would probably think I am an insufferable shrew.

I also find the concept of marrying up or down to be ridiculous. Even though I outearn my husband, I feel that I married up, because he is such a dear, kind, honest, smart and good natured person who teaches me every day something about goodness and kindness. I am in awe of him.

Posted by: Emily | October 1, 2007 10:23 AM

Leslie, did you date OJ? haha

Posted by: pATRICK | October 1, 2007 10:25 AM

ISTM that Leslie's ex-boyfriend was a Controller, and money was just the way he first showed it. As she mentioned, though, later in the relationship he wanted to control who she saw, where she went, what she wore, etc, as well.

That's one of the hallmarks of an abusive partner; not all controllers are abusive, but it is certainly a red flag to keep in mind.

Posted by: johnl | October 1, 2007 10:35 AM

I earn a decent amount more than my wife now. She supported me getting a master's degree, so we had a period when she earned more than me also. It doesn't bother me either way. Once I finished my degree and I started getting paid a fair amount more than her, she said that when I lap her (earn 2x her salary) she gets to quit her job and mooch off of me (no kids, so it would be basically mooching). Luckily for me, it appears this will never happen.

Posted by: none | October 1, 2007 10:36 AM

JohnL - I think you are right, that my ex was a controller. He was a lot of other things, too, most of them wonderful, so it made it hard to recognize how controlling he could be . Interestingly, when I finally broke things off with him, he went NUTS (even though he had broken up with me three times before). He harrassed me, stalked me, and even tried to break into my apartment one night when I was home. I had to call his mom to get him to stop (it worked even better than calling the police). All this was particularly confusing for me b/c he was my first boyfriend following my divorce from my physically abusive first husband. This boyfriend seemed so incredibly nice, so anti-husband, but turned out they had a few nasty habits in common.

Just for the record, I did not date OJ!!!

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 10:43 AM

Very interesting discussion. In my experience (where unfortunately I've never seen a woman strongly out-earning her husband) disparity in earnings usually means *some* disparity at home. Like when the couple is having financial issues, I've seen the men have the same attitude as the Harvard grad who spoke up early "if I'm earning this much, why can't she" especially if their wife stayed home with the kids who are beyond the age of being little ones.

In my case, I'd like to think my husband doesn't resent *me* but I know he resents that I earn less. We both have bachelor's degrees, both received them within a month of one another, and in fact I entered the work force two years before him. And yet I make about 67% of what he does. True my degree was in a less highly compensated field, which is one reason I'm working on another degree right now. It will be telling to see if in another few years when I finish my degree and get a job where the entry level pay is higher than he makes now if I'll actually be compensated what I'm worth. I'd hate to think it's because I'm a woman that all of this pay equality is slow, only time will tell.

Posted by: _Miles | October 1, 2007 11:07 AM

As "jnjarrell" touched on, the issue for me is not the amount of money earned but the work ethic in general.

I could date a man who makes less than I do if he is always striving to learn more. If that means going back to school to get an MFA to earn $30,000, that's great. I could not, however, date a man who intends to live off my salary to be a couch potato.

I would hope that men have the same standard for women they date.

I make less than my husband, but I'm in grad school to remedy that. When we're living off my salary, it will be because my husband is in law school, striving to continue learning. I think that distinction makes a big difference.

Posted by: Meesh | October 1, 2007 11:07 AM

"(I had on a sequined dress) and then passed out, drunk, on the hostess's bed. It was hilarious and awful at the same time."

Glad to know that it was not just me who did these things. I had alcohol poisoning a few times in my crazy youth. Mainly because I would not let anyone drink the "Irish girl" under the table.

And Leslie, I had a few bad boy friends too. Sometimes, they sneak up on you and hide how they really are. And, I had a wonderful, engaged father and a stable family life, so it sometimes has nothing to do with how you were raised.

Posted by: Irishgirl | October 1, 2007 11:08 AM

I fail to see what this has to do with life balance.

Posted by: meglulofs | October 1, 2007 11:09 AM

Irishgirl,
I think it was the guy who passed out drunk:

"I remember one black tie New Year's Eve party where he told me I looked like a Vegas showgirl (I had on a sequined dress) and then passed out, drunk, on the hostess's bed."

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | October 1, 2007 11:12 AM

I think for some weird reason these men and women seek each other out. I don't know why, but like Leslie, women find these same nutbags over and over again.

Posted by: pATRICK | October 1, 2007 11:17 AM

Oh, I thought it was Leslie. I still did that a few times, though I never passed out. I was just really sick. It was funny after the fact.

Posted by: Irishgirl | October 1, 2007 11:18 AM

That is the way I read it - maybe I read it wrong.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | October 1, 2007 11:19 AM

Goodness, Leslie. At least you got out of that one alive. Seriously, I'm glad you found your current husband. You could have just as easily ended up with another abuser who liked guns.

Posted by: atb2 | October 1, 2007 11:22 AM

Just in the off-chance that anyone here is currently dating someone who is making them uneasy in ANY way, here are two book recommendations. (The first one is geared for women, but there are gems in there for gentlemen too.)

"Why Does He DO That?" by Lundy Bancroft
"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker

Hey, I was once dumped via the phone, collect, during finals week in college!

Evidently, he hasn't changed much. His wife just left him. I shouldn't smile, but I gotta tell you, karma drives a bright yellow bus.

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 1, 2007 11:33 AM

I outearn my husband. We had always earned roughly equal amounts for the first ten years of our marriage, with his salary always a bit higher than mine. But then he hit the maximum he could realistically earn with his education and background, while I lept ahead because of mine (more education, more strategic work experience that I knew would pan out into a better paying job eventually). And suddenly an issue that hadn't existed before for us existed. The problem isn't with him, but with me. He makes the same as always and thinks it's great that I'm contributing so much more to the household income. But I now find myself resentful that he isn't doing more to further his own career and at the same time I'm resentful that he isn't taking on more responsibility for household tasks and childcare. There's a part of my mind (a part I try to squelch) that figures that the lower earner should "make up" the difference by pitching in more around the house, something I always did when I was earning less, and because he can't read my mind and see that I'm irritated that he's not doing more around the house, he naturally just keeps doing what he's always done at home. So I seethe quietly and earn more money and do more around the house and have arguments in my head about how stupid this is of me, and I *hope* that none of my resentment is apparent to my husband who has done nothing to deserve this!

Posted by: sarahfran | October 1, 2007 11:35 AM

Posted by: sarahfran | October 1, 2007 11:35 AM

That's what I mean...I think unfortunately society has brainwashed both men AND women to have these ideas. That whoever earns less needs to "make it up" somehow whereas since that was historically women, maybe men just think of household chores as women's job, whether they earn less or more!

Posted by: _Miles | October 1, 2007 11:39 AM

"because he can't read my mind and see that I'm irritated that he's not doing more around the house, he naturally just keeps doing what he's always done at home. So I seethe quietly and earn more money and do more around the house and have arguments in my head about how stupid this is of me"

Quit stewing. Get a chore chart together and divvy up the "every once in a while, but a pain" chores with the "every day, every DAY! pain-in-the-butt" chores. If he's willing to pitch in (and you don't say that he isn't), then this can be dealt with relatively painlessly.

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 1, 2007 11:40 AM

Scarry, although it wasn't me passed out that particular time in my sequined dress, back in my drinking days I did stuff like that all the time. The best/worst one was probably the time I drove my sister's stick shift chevette home from Georgetown (and then back again) when I couldn't find her at a bar we'd come to together. I had a bit too much beer in my blood, was underage (separately for both drinking and for driving), and didn't know how to drive a stick shift. I went all the way from Georgetown to Bethesda and back in first gear.

I know this is a terrible, horrible, dangerous story, especially now that I have kids, but it was hilarious in its own way so please forgive me. Especially given it was 25 years ago and things were different then. I've got a bit of the Irish in me too. The important thing is that just like with dating (and marrying) those bad boys I didn't hurt anyone but myself and I learned my lesson.

These 20 something couples trying to figure out work/life balance when the woman earns more will figure it out too and I suspect the juggling act will get easier when there is not so much of a gender pay gap.

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 11:45 AM

"because he can't read my mind and see that I'm irritated that..."

In my experience this is one of the worst communications problems in relationships. We expect someone we know and love to automatically know what we want/need. Failure to disclose usually leads to resentment. And it is unfair to the "resentee" not to tell them what you want or need or what they are doing that bothers you. If you don't tell them, how will they ever know? If they don't know how can you go on blaming them?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | October 1, 2007 11:45 AM

Haven't read all comments yet, but...

Do you remember when Miranda (the lawyer) was dating Steve (the bartender). He would only take her out for pizza, and she would want to pay for nicer dinners, but he wouldn't have it. It was cute...

I do have a friend who was dating someone and had some reservations - that he wasn't making a lot of money, that he was happy where he was, that they might struggle if they got married. I don't think it had anything to do with money - I told her at the time (they're married now), that maybe he is happy where he is, so he doesn't have the drive and ambition that she has seen in others, but she needed to figure out if that was okay with her. I mean, not everyone has the same drive and ambition, and one needs to figure out if that is a trait that they would want their spouse to have, or if that's something they don't need in a spouse.

So I don't think it has anything to do with money - but definitely, the whole outearning your spouse can be an issue. I earned more than DH for about 3 months, when my salary had been adjusted between raise times, and then when he changed jobs, it was evened out.

No one cares in our house, it goes into one pot, and we don't care how it got there. We're just both working towards the same goals...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 11:47 AM

'Fess up, Leslie. You bought some clothes at Commander Salamander, didn't you?

And I know of at least one saucily named store that we all went into, giggling and then left giggling and red-faced. You know the one!

But no, I never did the Halloween scene in Georgetown. Got a little scary for me.

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 1, 2007 11:48 AM

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | October 1, 2007 11:45 AM

Agree with that. But since Sarahfran probably realizes she doesn't really like what she's thinking, or aknowledges it's wrong of her, she doesn't want to just come straight out and start accusing the husband but instead is maybe trying to change her outlook.

Posted by: _Miles | October 1, 2007 11:49 AM

Leslie you should tell your children these stories. My parents (and aunts and uncles) frequently reminisced about the stupid the things they did drunk and how only by the grace of God did they live through it all. Now I drink maybe 2-3 times a year and never in excess, and my sister refuses to drink alcohol at all. Neither of us has felt the need to try any other drugs either. Hearing about how stupid our parents were helped us get our priorities straight, no need to be dumb like them and repeat the same mistakes (ok yes they lived through it, but barely).

Posted by: _Miles | October 1, 2007 11:51 AM

I've seen some posts that suggest that the spouse who earns less should "make up" for it by doing more around the house. But I don't think that is a very loving way to treat someone. If each spouse is working 40 hours per week, it's just mean to insist that the one who earns less has to do 5 more hours of chores, for example. Just because your spouse's 40 hours is not as well paid as your 40 hours doesn't mean that it doesn't take him or her as much energy to do the work.

If you're the higher-earning spouse and can't deal with the idea of doing the same amount of stuff as your mate- use your great wealth to hire some help.

Posted by: barfster | October 1, 2007 11:58 AM

sarahfran, communicate with the guy! Give him a chance. If you sit down and talk about it, you might be surprised by how much more he's willing to do. Speaking as a guy (and speaking from experience!), if you expect one of us to read your mind and do what you want, you're very likely to be disappointed, which builds into resentment, which will eventually build into a lot more.

Oh, and it's best if you don't "keep score" about who does how many chores/brings in how much money. Again speaking from experience, if you're going from a framework of "I bring in X, you bring in Y, so that means I should do 3 chores a day to your 5. And you've only been doing 2, so you owe me big time!" you're just going to be frustrated with how it winds up.

The two of you need to sit down together, talk about the chores that need to be done, and divide up how you're doing. Oh, and my last piece of advice - when factoring work/money into this, please don't use how much money you make as the factor. Make it how much work you have to do and how stressful it is. I'll guarantee you that if you make 300,000 a year and he makes 50,000 a year, but his work takes more hours and causes more stress, he's going to be VERY resentful if you tell him that he owes it to do you to do more chores than him because you bring in more money.

Communication is the key to almost all of this. From dating to marriage, and each time the situation changes, you really need to sit down and talk about expectations and how those expectations have/will change.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 1, 2007 12:01 PM

Armybrat - but isn't "keeping score" human nature? Of course, one would hope we wouldn't do it so much with our spouse since as a couple you're supposed to be a team. However, I've noticed that comparing what you have to what everyone else has seems to be the greatest source of happiness/unhappiness around.

For instance, I was very satisfied with my salary at one point, until I kept finding out AGAIN and AGAIN how people less qualified than me were making a lot more. Now what did that matter to my salary? I should have continued to be satisfied, OR if not pushed for a higher salary merely on its own basis, not on what other people were making. But isn't that the crux of human nature?

Posted by: _Miles | October 1, 2007 12:10 PM

ArmyBrat

" Oh, and my last piece of advice - when factoring work/money into this, please don't use how much money you make as the factor. Make it how much work you have to do and how stressful it is."

How do you measure this stuff when it's pretty much subjective?

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 1, 2007 12:11 PM


Addressing another point I've seen several times in this thread:

"But I now find myself resentful that he isn't doing more to further his own career"

Not picking on you, sarahfran; there are others who have posted the same general point. It's possible a spouse can make more, but some career fields are such that once you hit a certain point you can't do much to increase your income. And if you like the field a lot, then changing fields to make more money might not be something you want to do.

Examples of such career fields include teaching, public safety (police, firefighter, etc.), the military, and numerous others. As a teacher, there's a ceiling on how much money you'll make. Yes, you can get advanced degrees and move into administration, but even that's income-limited, and if administration's not what you wanted, it's not worth it.

One of my college roommates married a teacher. She worked while he went through law school. He graduated and eventually made partner in a New Orleans firm. She remained a teacher; she loved it and was good at it. His income was a multiple of hers, and he just didn't understand why she remained in that job that paid so little money. She was happier as a teacher and, while more money would have been nice, she was happy with her life. That one ultimately ended in divorce because he couldn't understand why she wasn't more motivated toward financial gain.

Another set of friends were in the same situation. She's a doctor; he's a police officer. Her income is a multiple of his. They were married when she was still in med school. After she got into private practice, she wanted him to take the opportunity to get into a more lucrative career. He was happy doing what he did. She thought it would be better if he was a lawyer; she offered to pay his way through law school. He refused; he wanted to be a police officer. That one, too, ended in divorce because she wanted somebody with "more ambition".

On the other hand, I know any number of similar couples that are happily together because they both agree on expectations. The higher earner doesn't regard the lower earner as a "slacker" but as someone who chose a less-lucrative career field for reasons of "balance."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 1, 2007 12:14 PM

Miles has got it right--I don't want my husband to know that I'm irritated and resentful over something that isn't his fault. He DOES do quite a bit around the house (my husband that is, not Miles, although maybe Miles does too for all I know), and it's not as if I'm working longer hours now than I was before so there's no real reason for him to take on more. Housework and childcare responsibilities shouldn't be tied to salaries, and when I think about bringing it up with him it sounds so ridiculous in my head--there might be nicer ways to put it, but what it comes down to is "honey, I know this is how we've done things for ten years, but I have a fatter paycheck and I wear the pants now, so you need to put on your frilly apron and start dusting."

And if you reverse the situation it becomes very clear that this is a really, really idiotic attitude. How many women would put up with their husband telling them they need to pitch in more around the house because they make less money?

Posted by: sarahfran | October 1, 2007 12:17 PM

_Miles, I'm as competitive a person as you'll find, and I love to find a way to "keep score" in almost everything I do.

However, I've learned in a little over 20 years that "keeping score" in marital life just means I lose - always!

Yes, we can keep score when we compete against each other in pool, or mini-golf, or cards, or whatever. And we do!

But we're not supposed to compete against each other in the marriage. Especially when both of us can be pretty sore losers!

So I've learned to tone it down. Saying "I did 20 loads of laundry this week; you only did 3 so you have to vacuum" isn't going to get me anything but yet another night on the couch.

We do talk, and it evens out to our satisfaction in the long run, so keeping score in the short run is just counterproductive.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 1, 2007 12:20 PM

Thanks ArmyBrat, I agree, and would like to think I don't keep "score" in my relationship (actually I've noticed with family that my husband and I BOTH do it, we'd both like to think we're the one doing more household chores *snicker* each of us wants to be the martyr, but it doesn't seem to go beyond occasional whining).

But how do you handle it in the rest of your life? I mean you can't always be top dog, yeah, sometimes other people beat you out or make more/are more successful, how do you stay happy and dare I say, "balanced"?

Posted by: _Miles | October 1, 2007 12:26 PM

I've dated men who earn more and men who earn less. My measure of a man is what's in his heart, not what's in his bank account or what's parked in his driveway.

DandyLion: If a man is more interested in a big-hearted woman rather than a woman with a big Coach bag, then breast augmentation would not be the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the U.S.

Leslie: Sounds like you were dating my ex-husband! My former boss and I have discussed writing a collection of essays, "Dating all the wrong men." If we get this off the ground, we'll look for a chapter from you!

ArmyBrat: That is sad about the people who did not appreciate their spouses who were teachers and police officers. I have so much respect for these people (I worked with firefighters previously, and I work with cops now). These vocations are a calling.

John L: Congrats on your 23rd anniversary.

Posted by: pepperjade | October 1, 2007 12:27 PM

chittybangbang:
"How do you measure this stuff when it's pretty much subjective?"

You establish a rough value for things like stress and time. If the two of you can't reach agreement on a rough value, then you're going to have problems.

e.g., I work 40 hours a week in a high-pressure job; you work 50 in a job with much less stress. So even though I nominally have 10 more hours a week to get things done around the house, it takes me at least 10 hours to decompress from the job, so those are roughly equivalent. If you disagree, and insist that since I work 40 hours and you work 50, I have 10 more hours per week to do stuff around the house and thus I'm obligated to do more, then we're going to have problems.

(And if I say that since I make 80K in my 40 hours and you only make 35K in your 50 hours, so you have to do twice as much as me around the house, we're going to have some VERY interesting discussions!)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 1, 2007 12:31 PM

sarahfran, I got the impression from your original post that he does less than you do around the house. If you're fed up with it (whether that feeling was spurred by a pay increase or an episode of Oprah or a new house or whatever), you should say something. I wouldn't be happy unless we were both doing the same amount, and my husband would care I wasn't happy with the deal.

And Army Brat, "keeping score" in my house works well for us. This is because my husband tends to be blind to what I do, and vice versa. If I just say "please do the laundry," he'll think "I've already done a load this week" and be mad that I didn't notice. If says "I already did one this week," I can say "Oh, okay, I'll do it" or counter with "But I've done three loads" or "But I have to vaccuum right now," and he'll do it. Either way, no one's sleeping on the couch because we sometimes don't realize how much the other person is doing around the house.

Posted by: Meesh | October 1, 2007 12:32 PM

sarahfran: how about taking a different approach? Don't say: I think you should do more around the house.

Maybe say something like: hey, I've been feeling this way - it's a horrible way to think, but this is how I've been feeling. I'm working on not being angry/resentful, etc, but I don't know how to get better at it.

As in, he can help you by you talking with him about it. Clearly he likes you a little bit, and if you're frustrated with something or unhappy or whatever, I bet it's coming out somehow - and he may not know what's going on. And him just knowing what you're thinking (and you telling him that you're not happy about thinking this, but it *is* what you are thinking), will get it out in the open, and possibly both of you can work together.

Maybe you're afraid of what he'll think of you if you tell him? But really (hopefully?) he loves you and respects you and it would help both of you to get through it together.

Does that make sense?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 12:36 PM

ArmyBrat

"So even though I nominally have 10 more hours a week to get things done around the house, it takes me at least 10 hours to decompress from the job, so those are roughly equivalent. "

Again, this is subjective. Your example sounds like a phony excuse to sack out on the couch and have an affair with the remote for 10 hours.

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 1, 2007 12:36 PM

Leslie: Sort of on/off topic:

How did you get out of the dating/marrying inappropriate men? When you married said guy: did you know something was up? Did your friends/relatives say anything to you? Did you just ignore them?

Asking cause I am painfully watching my sister who married a horribly abusive man, then proceeded to have three children with him. She was well aware of his behavior when they married (oh, I'll just get some books and handle it cause he doesn't believe in counseling - and other things abused women say...). Her friends and relatives (over something like 8 or so years) have tried to talk with her and/or help her, she wants no help - she seems to want to be in this type of relationship (not completely unlike how we grew up), and wants no change in her life (or lifestyle).

Just curious...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 12:40 PM

Atlmom, what you say makes excellent sense.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 12:41 PM

I was referring to Atlmom's 12:36 PM post, although her questions at 12:30 are also provocative (in the positive sense).

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 12:42 PM

Should read, "her questions at 12:40..."

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 12:43 PM

I am not sure I understand the concept of doing more at home if you make less money. Seriously, there is really something wrong with that thought.

I also don't understand the concept of not just asking your husband to help out and getting mad about it. If there is a lot to get done, I ask my husband to help out. I am more organized and get to the chores first. But, rather than getting angry if he doesn't help, I just ask, he helps and we have more time together.

FWIW, I make more than my husband and think it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. We discuss big purchases together, so no one person writes the big checks alone. For me, it is not how much we make individually but how much we make together and can save. Personally, these years of working long hours have worn me out. I am ready to take a step back in my career as is he. Who cares who contributed more to the savings accounts? What matters is that we have flexibility and can enjoy more things together.

Isn't that what matters? I always thought people got married so they could enjoy doing things and experiencing life together.

Posted by: Thought | October 1, 2007 12:47 PM

Thank you, mehitabel.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 12:47 PM

Over the years I have tended to date women approaching or exceeding my earning potential. This is because I am the sort of person who occasionally likes to argue for the sport of it, and I've tended to seek out a GF/wife with the same tendency.

This has tended to push me towards dating professional women (dated a bunch of lawyers, pre meds and a dean at one of our fine local private academies before ProudMama came along) since you guys hold up your side of an argument.

I know that ProudMama's salary is going to pass mine in 2-3 years max. When she passes me I am going to open a nice bordeaux and chug it. ;-) Not only do I not mind my wife out earning me, I encourage it. I'd like to retire as fast as possible, thanks.

Detouring briefly into the topic pATRICK, atb and another poster touched on, I've been on the harsh end of the "stop dating white women b/c you owe it to the black community to date black women" conversation plenty of times. What I've learned is that just about no one arguing that position has truly thought it through. It's lots of emotion and gut feeling, so it's hard to reason with those folks.

(I think I'm being waaaay too honest on this blog lately.)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 1, 2007 12:50 PM

(I think I'm being waaaay too honest on this blog lately.)

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | October 1, 2007 12:50 PM

Appreciated though, as always.

Posted by: _Miles | October 1, 2007 12:52 PM

My DH has a friend who is an exec at a large corporation. Her BONUS is larger than her husband's salary. He definitely enjoys their nice lifestyle (they're able to have a beach house, an airplane, nice vacations, nice house). He is so okay with it - he told DH one day that they both think - hey, we can retire earlier with each and every penny he brings into their household.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 12:55 PM

I'm really irked by the supposition that because someone makes more money, they are more worthy to be around. Some of the most absolutely boring, self centered people I know (and dated) are very wealthy JDs, MDs and MBAs. Yawn. Give me a well-read PhD with a mind of his own and a modest income over a mid-6-figure high-maintenance automaton anyday. Oh, I already have one.

Posted by: gottabeanon | October 1, 2007 12:56 PM

Dating down, at least financially, is hardly just a young woman's issue. Match.com and the many other dating sites are brimming with women my age (40s) and older who are lawyers, business owners, bankers etc. who list high salaries. Many say they work and/or travel so much they never meet anyone. And many state they'd be open to meeting someone earning less, a teacher or other lower-paid professional. Does a teacher take a six-figure ad executive out for a $125 dinner? And follow with roses or maybe an invite for a weekend away? What about the male social worker and his offer of a homemade supper and wine from Rite-Aid? Is he aced out?

Posted by: OrlandoNan | October 1, 2007 12:59 PM

I am likewise irked by the notion that all well-educated, six-figure-salary-earning people are stuffed shirts and corporate automatons while blue-collared laborers are salt of the earth types who eshew the life of luxury to enjoy their families.

I have way more fun with my "stuffy" lawyer friends than the pot-smoking artisits and laborers I knew in college.

Mainly I just hate the stupid stereotypes. Money doesn't define anyone.

Posted by: Meesh | October 1, 2007 1:02 PM

I earn more than double what my husband earns. Thankfully, it has never been an issue for either of us. I am very independent and always knew I wanted to rely on myself for my own support. I was already well established in my career (IT) and earning a decent salary when we got married at 37 (and I owned my own house).

DH had a different path. Even though he was more educated than I was, he was in a career that paid poorly, had few benefits and offered little job security (broadcasting). After we got married, he went back to school and finished his degree, and is now in a more stable career.

Posted by: cjbriggs | October 1, 2007 1:03 PM

Sarahfran - I am almost surely over-simplifying things, but have you thought about getting a house cleaner 1 or 2x/week? I know it sounds like a luxury, but before DH and I had one, I was a lot more bitter about the amount of housework I felt I was doing compared to what he was doing. Now much of that is done by the cleaner, so really it is just smaller stuff that doesn't take up that much time (so we can spend more time with the kids). Childcare is of course another issue, but sometimes it is easier to focus on just one issue (I want you to help out more with DS/DD) than multiple ones (I want you to help out more with DS/DD, and do the laundry and clean the dishes).

Posted by: londonmom | October 1, 2007 1:19 PM

Ahhh, this topic is so amusing to me...I'm just trying to envision making enough money that I could actually participate in this discussion, other than as the "date-down" datee. In order for me to date down (financially) I would have to go for a barista at one of the local $tarbuck$...not that there's anything wrong with that!

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 1:26 PM

atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 12:40 PM

Altmom, as I was in a similar situation, I'll take a stab at this. I met my husband when we were both young. My own upbringing was awful (my mother divorced my abusive father when I was young). I was 22 when I met my husband, and I had gone through my own trauma (got pregnant in college, BF married someone else, I put the baby up for adoption...friends and family collectviely turned their backs on me because I refused to have an abortion).

I was 21-years-old when this happened. I met the guy I would later marry right after giving up my child. He was loving and attentive in a way I had never known. As he grew controlling, I believed this was how he expressed love. I didn't know the difference between love and co-dependency. Then I learned he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I couldn't leave someone who was sick. We were in and out of counseling, and sometimes he could cope for a year or so at at time. Once we had our child, I could no longer make excuses for his behavior. He refused to take meds for his condition, and he became a full-blown alcoholic. Quite simply, my insticts to mother my child overcame my instincts to mother my husband. It was difficult, because I knew he loved me to the best of his ability--he was sick and too weak to properly take control of this illness.

For your sister...this is tough. I, too, had plenty of people tell me I should leave my husband. It is extremely difficult to break out of a co-dependent relationship once you recognize the difference between love and co-dependency. And the tie of having children makes it even more difficult to break. Again, it was my desire to raise my daughter in a conflict-free environment that led me to finally end the marriage. I immediately sought counselling for my daughter and myself. She and I are both doing much better as a result, and I would not date a man who demonstrates these tendencies (now that I know how to recognize them). I wish your sister the best, and I truly feel for your family.

Posted by: pepperjade | October 1, 2007 1:27 PM

I find this entire topic to be offensive and grounded in assumptions not relevant to the world we live in. Whatever he makes now, you don't know what he will be making in 10 years. He could become disabled. He could develop a mental illness. So could you. If you are with a partner for any reason other than that you love each other and have shared goals and aspirations, you are too immature to deserve happiness.

Posted by: anonfornow | October 1, 2007 1:28 PM

Ahhh, this topic is so amusing to me...I'm just trying to envision making enough money that I could actually participate in this discussion, other than as the "date-down" datee. In order for me to date down (financially) I would have to go for a barista at one of the local $tarbuck$...not that there's anything wrong with that!

Posted by: educmom_615

Unemployment office would be a good place to look, Sugar Mama!

(How're the boys, by the way?)

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 1, 2007 1:31 PM

chittybangbang: "Again, this is subjective. Your example sounds like a phony excuse to sack out on the couch and have an affair with the remote for 10 hours."

Shh - you're going to blow it for me! :-)

I personally have almost never had a job that required me to "destress" - although there are bad days, I'm generally happy - but I do know people who need time to wind down after a shift. One of the guys who coaches in my youth sports program is a detective in Baltimore. There are times when he's had to work a triple homicide, and we've postponed a game because he's just not in condition to coach right then (and his assistant wasn't available). So I understand the phenomenon.

And besides, I wouldn't hit the couch and have an affair with the remote - more likely it would be a quick fling out in my vegetable garden. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 1, 2007 1:31 PM

My partner lost her job in February, and so I'm the sole paid worker in the house (although she does have a small annuity). It didn't cause friction at first, as when I moved here I was unemployed, then working as a substitute teacher for peanuts ($40 a day I think). However, now that it's been a few months, and now that I have gotten a couple of pay raises, she's starting to feel like I'm bearing too much of a burden or something - yet she can't find a job (no, not even McDonalds) because she's overqualified for jobs that are hiring in our area and under qualified to do something where she could telecommute for a job located elsewhere.

*sigh* I feel the pain of women making more than their spouses.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | October 1, 2007 1:36 PM

Finances/spending is an issue that every relationship needs to work out on its own.

The problem of "I make more than him" is ONLY a problem for stupid women who believe that they need any man to accept and want them- even a man who would make them feel bad for who they are.

If every woman stopped buying into that line, men would stop using it. But women still buy into it all the time, so men still use it with good effectiveness.

I make more than my partner and it's an issue only because we both love to thoroughly spoil eachother and he puts too much pressure on himself, so I try and keep the spoiling to a reasonable level for us both.

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | October 1, 2007 1:40 PM

_Miles
"But how do you handle it in the rest of your life? I mean you can't always be top dog, yeah, sometimes other people beat you out or make more/are more successful, how do you stay happy and dare I say, "balanced"?"

By realizing that there's an important difference between "losing" and "getting beaten."

I want to get the best performance appraisals in the company. I want my youth sports teams to win the championship. I want the biggest bonus I can get. I want my company to win all the contracts. Etc. etc. (Mind you, always within my moral coda: we don't cheat; we follow the rules; we always have good sportsmanship. If I have to cheat I shouldn't even be playing.)

But at the end of the day, if I can say that I've done my best job, and somebody else did better, that's fine. I accept that.

"Getting beat" means that you've done your best, but somebody else was just better than you. There's absolutely no shame in that; no reason to hang your head. You shake the better player's hand and congratulate him, and you walk away.

"Losing" means you didn't perform to the best of your ability, and then you realize that if it matters to you you have to do a better job.

I've found that as long as I recognize the difference between "losing" and "getting beat", balance isn't too hard to maintain.

And Meesh, if keeping score between you and your husband keeps the relationship strong, then by all means do so. But we've realized that in our marriage, noting how often or how much each of us is done just leads to arguments about "but you didn't count that or that or..."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | October 1, 2007 1:45 PM

pepperjade: thanks for the insight. The thing is, she was definitely old enough 'to know better' when she got married. She KNEW he had 'problems with his anger' and said she would 'handle' it. She is the type of person who thinks divorce means a mistake was made (rather than saying: oh, I made a mistake, let's fix it, she'd rather ignore the problem altogether, i.e., make the same mistake each and every day, again and stay married - of course, it wouldn't be easy, and she seems to look at friends and family as if we don't have her best interest at heart, which hurts, immensely).

It just looks at those looking in that she just wanted to have kids, she found this guy (who told her: oh, other women left after things got tough, so you're so wonderful that you are staying when you know there are issues - a typical line from an abusive person) - and she did what she wanted, i.e., had kids cause she wanted, not had kids cause she found this great situation. So it looks selfish to me, that's all.

And then she had not one, not two, but THREE kids with him.

I guess one difficulty for me is that, in talking with relatives, they tell me how my mom was well aware of my dad's issues at least after my sister was born (the oldest) then she proceeded to have two more children. So then I think that maybe my mom knew about all of this before my sister was born, or even before she was married. And it's kind of unfair, cause my mom's not around to talk with ya know?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 1:52 PM

Unemployment office would be a good place to look, Sugar Mama!

(How're the boys, by the way?)

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 1, 2007 01:31 PM

Good idea! Maybe I'll find me a cutie...

They're doing well, thanks. Of course, they do like to keep it interesting...son #2 wants to transfer to another college to follow his girlfriend (this realtionship -- no, LOOOOOVE STORY -- is a SAGA of EPIC proportions)...she is a HS senior and wants to attend a large state university (he would not even consider schools with half as many students as her first choice because they were too large), even further from the beach than he is already (he loves the beach), north of home (he always wanted to go south) and with a D-1 football team (he is not big or fast enough to play at that level). And he claims to like the college he chose originally.

So, for this girl, who is admittedly nice, he wants to transfer to a school in which he otherwise would feel lost, in a region he hates, and give up a sport he loves. I'm trying to talk him out of it without being controlling, nagging "well-I-won't-pay-for-THAT" mom. And of course, this school is cheaper and has a good engineering program (figures). His father said to let him try to transfer, because at least he will be motivated to get good grades. LOL! Just goes to show you, boys trying to please girls can be just as dumb as girls trying to please boys.

I've had some people tell me to say very little, because he will change his mind on his own. I hope so. And I know sometimes you have to just let them make their own mistakes. But I don't have to like it.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 2:02 PM

realtionship**
relationship (although the typo is kinda funny, isn't it?)

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 2:05 PM

educmom: coworker of mine didn't accept a scholarship (!) offer to an ivy league school cause he wanted to stay home and be closer to girlfriend, who he broke up with within 2 weeks of college cause he saw potential in the girls at school.

He learned a valuable lesson, and he knows it now (10 years later). Sometimes you have to let them go and make their own mistakes - you can only control what you do (pay/not pay for what you want to - whatever your decision is). And let them make their mistakes - which in the end, might work out the best for them.

No help at all, I know.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 2:07 PM

I'm trying to talk him out of it without being controlling, nagging "well-I-won't-pay-for-THAT" mom.

Stick with the salient points listed above (size, region, physical limitations) ONCE, then let it go. For once, just suck it up and say, "Your father knows best!"

Yeah, it'll hurt. But maybe if you say it in front of said father, you'll get treated to a nice dinner?

Just bite your tongue until it's hanging by a thread. Practice your enigmatic smile. Nod. Your quiet acquiescence may startle him to the point that he actually ponders your points. He may ignore them anyway though!

Posted by: maryland_mother | October 1, 2007 2:08 PM

And, ya know, educmom, he KNOWS deep down, all the things you're telling him. Try not to make it that he does it cause you're telling him not to (i.e., he does it out of spite). HARD, very. Definitely.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 2:10 PM

Scorekeeping would not work for us.
What does work is that we know we are both giving 100% all the time.

Sometimes one of us has an extra hard day at work, and can't give any extra at home. Sometimes it swaps around.

As long as we both know we are doing our utmost all the time, then there is no need for us to keep score.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | October 1, 2007 2:14 PM

I haven't read all the responses to today's post but I opened the links which Leslie had provided and I felt that this could have been written about me, only 20 years ago. I went to an elite university (partially scholarship, partially student loans) and was very career oriented first generation American. My first year out of college I roomed with a nurse. I was working for Citibank. After a while, based on our mutual social experiences, I started hiding the fact that I was on a management track. I started to minimize the fact that I can afford nice vacations to Europe instead of sharing a Dewey Beach house with 15 other people. I tried dating older (late 20's, early 30's) men but the age gap was just too wide. I was very miserable. Lucky for me I met a nice professional guy from Europe who is perfectly fine with me earning more money (though I no longer do) or having an important title, in fact he was proud of me and would brag about my career to his friends and family.

Posted by: tsm | October 1, 2007 2:17 PM

I've never earned significantly more than anyone I've seriously dated (casually, yes, but not seriously...wonder if that means anything). I've been more educated than some boyfriends, but earned less than or equal to them.

Current BF made twice what I made when I was working. I don't work now because I'm in school, but when I am done I'll make significantly more than he does. It will be offset by the debt I have (he has none and actually will own property by the time I graduate). Eventually, my assets will equal his and my earning capacity will still be higher than his, but it won't matter to me. His value to me will still be the same, if not more. If we have children, he will be the one cutting his hours, coaching Little League, and joining the PTA, which is valuable to me because I don't want to have to do those things. If we don't have a family, he'll still be as valuable to me because there are things he has done (in the form of money paid, money loaned and advice given) that helped me get into law school and will help me finish. So his earnings, while they might help us get a bigger house and a fatter nest egg, won't change how I see him. The fact that he will someday earn less than me doesn't change the fact that he is very intelligent, professional, hard-working, diligent and meticulous. I don't think it SHOULD make a difference. Just because someone earns less doesn't mean they work less or are less intelligent.

I find I am alone in my confusion over why women don't want to "date down" (I hate this term. It is impossibly classist, as someone else has pointed out). A friend of mine concluded that I just "think more like a guy" than most girls. But at least I am not alone on this board; a lot of you seem to be scratching your heads on this one. :-)

Posted by: Monagatuna | October 1, 2007 2:27 PM

Maryland Mother and atlmom, yes, you're both right *sigh*. At least he's away so I don't have him right in front of me to nag all the time.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 2:28 PM

"I've seen some posts that suggest that the spouse who earns less should "make up" for it by doing more around the house. But I don't think that is a very loving way to treat someone. If each spouse is working 40 hours per week, it's just mean to insist that the one who earns less has to do 5 more hours of chores, for example. Just because your spouse's 40 hours is not as well paid as your 40 hours doesn't mean that it doesn't take him or her as much energy to do the work."

BF used to think this. It made me more determined than ever to out-earn him. Luckily his best girl friend called him a caveman and got him to see things in a more egalitarian manner. To his credit, he did say he'd do more housework if I earned more, but I won't expect him to, if we work the same hours. We won't work the same hours, but if we did, that's all that would matter to me as far as divvying up housework. I agree with you on this.

Posted by: Monagatuna | October 1, 2007 2:33 PM

educmom_615: Trying to divine where you're talking about. VT is an awesome school that feels like a small town no matter how big it is. However, if you're talking about UVA, well, no one really likes a Wahoo.

My friend's little sister was thinking of doing something similar that would have taken her across the country for a boy. Luckily, she decided the bf was annoying sometime after Christmas and it all came to nothing. Lots of stuff can happen in a year (he gets a new gf, she gets a new bf, she doesn't get into said school). I would just see if you can get him to wait out the transfer process another semester or until summer.

Posted by: mamadden | October 1, 2007 2:38 PM

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Leslie,

I'm looking at your wedding announcement (to Perry) in the NY Times. Your photo is quite blurred, but you appear to be "hot".

On the same page is the wedding announcement of Nancy Kerrigan and Jerry Solomon!!

Posted by: chittybangbang | October 1, 2007 2:41 PM

mamadden,
He's currently at a small school in Virginia, but 'the One' wants to go a college in Ohio (not OSU). If he was interested in the school for reasons that had to do with is own needs/wants, and not missing 'the One' I would feel better about it. He does at least plan to finish freshman year where he is, and I'm counting on things changing a lot in that year.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 3:04 PM

I earn more than my wife but wouldn't care if the situation was reversed with one caveat: I would not want to marry a workaholic who needed to spend longer hours at work to justify that higher salary. I'm glad to be a new Dad and have the time to come home and help out with my family and spend time with my wife and son. I don't like the idea of being with someone who can't make the same committment (some extra hours are always there but I couldn't be with someone who's constantly at work at least 12 hours a day).

Posted by: bobh1967 | October 1, 2007 3:06 PM

educmom, if it helps at all, I moved across the country to go to school with a BF. After my freshman year, we had broken up and I transferred away.

However, I would not give up the experience for the world. Sure I transferred a couple times, and it did affect my transcripts. But you're only young once, and the experiences I had were the best!

After all, you can get good grades at any school. And it's only undergrad! It's not like you're talking about med school or law school.

Posted by: Meesh | October 1, 2007 3:23 PM

Meesh,
I know, I know...he will do well or poorly wherever he is, and he can flunk out of any school in the country if he wants to. I think I'm so irritated because, well, I thought this was all settled! If he was so adamant, why not do this last year? And why can't SHE follow HIM? After all, he's already IN college! She doesn't graduate from HS until May! Or, if he really wants to give up football and transfer, why can't they BOTH go to one of the beach schools he liked (but would not attend because he could not play there for one reason or another)? How about some SHARED sacrifice?! Ugh! Good thing I can vent here, because I can't vent this to him.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 3:42 PM

Like the much earlier poster, I'm the lawyer, he teaches high school. He's always felt like he got the best possible deal -- doing the work that he loves but living in the house and taking the vacations my compensation makes possible. That he's a 53 year old boomer makes this all the more wonderful.

Yes, I do have more "authority" in some ways in our relationship. I chose who holds and invests our money, I hired the income tax accountant, etc. (Heck, to be honest usually I sign his name to the tax return, since he tends to forget details like that, even after I ask him to do so every day for a week!) I also have more day to day responsiblity for our kids -- like today, I'm the one figuring out how to fit in an emergency orthodontist appointment for my 10 year old. So be it.

There are millions of ways to make relationships work, just like there are millions of ways to raise good kids. I agree with the early poster who commented that that's the whole point of dating -- to find someone with the baggage that most closely matches your own.

Posted by: rdaszkiewicz | October 1, 2007 3:46 PM

"And why can't SHE follow HIM? After all, he's already IN college! She doesn't graduate from HS until May!"


Because she doesn't want to. That's her privilege. If you were her mother, you'd be thrilled, LOL. You can hold your head high that you have handled and are handling this well (where it counts, LOL - to his face), and that he won't stick with a lousy decision for any longer than it takes him to label it a "lousy decision" in order to avoid hearing you say, "I told you so." You are a champ.

mamadden, As one or another wise women have said from time to time here, Bite me.

Posted by: Megans_Neighbor | October 1, 2007 3:49 PM

educmom, Is there an upside to all this? Do you think your son has decided that beach proximity, small enrollment and playing football aren't such important aspects of the college experience as he'd anticipated? You say that the inland school has a good engineering program -- is that you son's major? A large state university can offer a wider variety of courses and experiences, whereas a small school can feel parochial and limiting. And if money is an issue (as it is in many families), perhaps he has ulterior motives besides the girlfriend for attending a less-expensive college.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 3:53 PM

Posted by: Megans_Neighbor | October 1, 2007 03:49 PM

Thanks! Yeah, I won't be saying "I told you so" until at least 10 years after this blows up or blows over. And who knows -- maybe she really is 'the One' and I'll be laughing about how I flipped out over all this!

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 3:55 PM

This topic is really relevant for me. I am a lawyer and my boyfriend works for a nonprofit. I earn more than three times what he does. This does not bother me at all - I joke about his job balancing out the karma in our relationship. It might bother me if the income disparity were due to a lack of ambition, but that is certainly not the case. We both have advanced degrees and he works extremely hard at his job - frequently much harder than I do. It really doesn't bother me that I am usually the one to pay for dates, because it makes sense if I want to go somewhere expensive. If it bothers him, he doesn't let on. We once had a conversation about stay at home parents and he surprised me when he said that he wouldn't be interested in staying at home because he didn't want to give up his career. I guess I had thought that he might be willing to do so since it would make more sense financially. But then I realized that I was being unfair - I wouldn't want to give up my career to stay home, so why should he?

Posted by: agf3n | October 1, 2007 3:59 PM

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 03:53 PM

I think you have it right on some counts (academically, he needs a school that isn't too large and impersonal, because of some minor LDs, and he wants to live near the beach after college, so I'm guessing a beach school would still be acceptable). I know he wants to major in math or engineering or something along those lines. He worked for a land surveing company this summer and loved it, so he may be looking for someplace that will provide a foundation for that career.

And, since I have not been able to write that guest blog on maintaining balance after winning the lottery, money is a bit of an issue. Her parents have told her she must attend college in-state, most likely for financial reasons.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 4:02 PM

educmom, Nowadays even the largest state universities have accomodation policies for students with a wide range and depth of learning disabilities. Typically, the student must register at the school's student affairs office, and provide documentation from the appropriate professional.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 4:10 PM

Yes, and he has his psych-ed testing results going back years, and he has his medication. But...if it was not for 'the One' he would be perfectly happy where he is. He has managed to have a lot of fun already -- there is a large 'party' school 5 miles up the road - JMU - and he has already experienced some of the, um, social activity available there.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 4:18 PM

Chitty -- Why, thank you! For the hottie compliment and for taking the time/effort to look up my NYT wedding announcement. We did get married the same day as Nancy Kerrigan and her manager. AND my sister got married the same day as Britney Spears. Happy to say SHE is still married (to a lovely guy and neither one earns hardly any money so they don't have today's issue percolating!).

Although there is always lots of honesty on this blog, it is especially so here today. I know it sounds strange because this is a blog and we are all here in cyberspace, but the candor is very, very comforting to me. Some of you will puke over this, but it does make me feel not so all alone.

And Barfster, loved what you wrote (and your name).


Pepperjade and AtlMom -- saved the most intense for last. I am thinking a lot about what you shared. It's hard to know who to feel worse for -- someone in an abusive relationship, or the relatives and friends on the sidelines.

All I know from my experiences in abusive relationships: it's kind of like an alcoholic who needs to reach "bottom" in order to seek help and change their lives. You can help some people get out of abusive relationships and others need to do it on their own.

My experience, which I don't recommend and wouldn't wish on anyone, is that I stayed with my abusive ex until one time when he really and truly came close to killing me. It scared the bejesus out of me in a profound, karmic way. I will never, ever in this lifetime or any other tolerate anyone who is abusive, no matter how much I love them. My current husband wouldn't hit me if you held a gun to his head. It's that simple. I am very, very lucky (which doesn't stop me from b*ching about him sometimes as you all know!)

The project I'm working on now (when not on this totally addictive blog) is writing a book about that first marriage. It's due to the publisher December 1st. It's a difficult story to tell but I would love to see what you think, Pepperjade and AltMom and anyone else who is interested.

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 4:28 PM

"He has managed to have a lot of fun already -- there is a large 'party' school 5 miles up the road - JMU - and he has already experienced some of the, um, social activity available there."

Do you think he wants more academically?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 4:29 PM

Leslie:

Thank you for sharing, and yes, I would definitely be interested.
What I rarely mention is my other sister, who, at this point, seems to me to be abusive to her kids and husband. It's very sad to me, as her DH is a WONDERFUL guy who we love very much (as well as thinking her kids are the best).

BUT Leslie, you ALWAYS do this: My nick is ATLmom (as in, I live in Atlanta, and I'm a mom!), rather than altmom - as in, I would guess, you think I'm an 'alternative' mom. interesting idea (and, clearly, everyone knows what you mean, I would suppose), but not me...at least, I don't think.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 4:37 PM

Oh, sorry, Leslie, one more question: I guess my thought was, what were your friends and family doing at the time? Did they know anything was going on? Did they see anything?
Did you ignore what all your friends and family were telling you? Did you think they did not have your best interest at heart?

Like, with my sister, her husband is horrible to her in front of everyone, he will SCREAM at her at the top of his lungs about how stupid she is, etc, when they are at others houses (well, not so much anymore, as they aren't invited over much - which makes them much more isolated, which is good for him, as that is what abusers do...).

And, they were at my other sister's house, and the 'abused' sister's kid was bumped by other sister's kid, by accident, and the husband starts egging on HIS kid saying things like: hit him, harder, kick the s*** out of him.

they are no longer welcome at that sister's house...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 4:41 PM

And, Leslie, thank you very much for being so candid. I know it can't be easy to relive. But the fact that you own it probably shows that you are willing to admit that things weren't perfect, and that you did something to make sure you became healthy, and you live with all the facts, not denying them. That takes a lot of courage, BTW.

On the other hand, any time of day or night, if you ask my sister, she is always 'fine.' Always.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 4:46 PM

Atlmom, Any hunches as to why one sister (you) is in a non-abusive marriage, while another is abused by her spouse and the third may be the spouse-abuser?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 4:53 PM

Leslie:
Hopefully your book will raise awareness that domestic abuse crosses all socio-economic lines. Most people have an image of domestic abuse occurring in trailer parks and low income housing. Perhaps your book will jump start that conversation. And yeah, these are not easy topics to re-live or discuss.

Posted by: pepperjade | October 1, 2007 4:54 PM

Do you think he wants more academically?

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 04:29 PM

*snorting tea out my nose*

HA! LOL! ROTFL! As if!!

You mean Spicoli (really, he worked at a restaurant in HS as a busboy, and so many people called him Spicoli half the employees didn't even know his name -- and not because he indulged in Spicoli's substance of choice)?

Sunshine (the 'dude' from CA in Remember the Titans, with the hair and the it's-all-cool attitude)?

The kid who got 720 on the math SAT and even his best friend was shocked?

The boy who has more preening products than a gaggle of 13-year-old girls and who takes a longer shower than I do?

He may be smart, and he may want to major in a brainiac field of study, but oh lordy, don't TELL anyone!!

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 4:54 PM

Do you think he wants more academically?

Actually, educmom, I've known a number of college students who transferred to more demanding schools because they felt academically under-challenged at the "safe" or "party" schools where they started college (especially if they realized they might like to attend a top post-graduate program someday).

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 4:58 PM

He may be smart, and he may want to major in a brainiac field of study, but oh lordy, don't TELL anyone!!

Hmm, do you suppose he's using the girlfriend partly as an excuse to transfer to the more demanding school? A 720 SAT math score is nothing to sneeze at, and maybe he's intellectually bored where he is. Please don't underestimate your kid!

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 5:00 PM

mehitabel: I think part of it has to do with me being away, moving away getting away. It was a physical move, but it ended up being a psychological move. Both sisters went to the same state school 2 hrs away from home. I chose a school further away (would have gone even further, but parents couldn't afford it, I wasn't smart enough to figure out scholarships, etc at the time, thought I needed to rely more on parents, etc).
Being the youngest, I lived through my parents 'separation' in our house - i.e., my mom lived upstairs, dad was downstairs (I think he has some sort of mental illness - he literally sat on the couch in his underwear watching tv during my high school years - no he wasn't working, for various reasons).
I went far away to school, ensured I went on a semester abroad, when I graduated, I decided to go to grad school - again, far away (and further away than before, cause now it was on my own dime), then settled somewhere OTHER than near my hometown region (in fact, quite far away). I think all of this separation enabled me to see things differently and maybe more clearly? I don't know.

I sometimes feel as if maybe I'm just being arrogant and looking my nose down, and maybe my situation really sucks to others, but no one ever said anything to me? I don't know - I'm pretty happy in my own skin, have the best DH in the world, who is so wonderful, I couldn't even tell you how much - and two wonderful sons.

I definitely think it is the separation that has given me the perspective - and the growing up I had to do being in a new city by 'myself.' Dunno.

I said to my dad one day: well, you're just looking at two very unhappy people who found each other, and he said: yeah, you're right. I mean, he was so arrogant and all at my wedding, about how wonderful it was that his three daughters found three jewish men to marry. And it was horrible. NOW he talks about how horrible my bro in law is, how he wants to hurt him, etc. It's very interesting...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 5:01 PM

hey: educmom: tell him to major in math! IT's the best subject out there! ;)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 5:02 PM

Atlmom, you were wise beyond your years to have seized the opportunity to get away. My DH was able to do the same thing when he applied to grad schools (and chose the one farthest from home), because he finally realized he couldn't fix the problems on the homefront no matter how hard he tried, but if he stayed nearby they'd drag him back and down to their level. This proved to be his first and best opportunity in life to escape and save himself, and he did.

(If your marriage were in fact horrible you'd probably realize it, so I'm guessing it's not. Few people are that out-of-touch with reality).

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 5:07 PM

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 05:00 PM

Well, no. I understand, you don't know him and it may seem like I'm underestimating him. The gf's proposed school is actually less challenging than the school he's in (he's not at JMU, fwiw, just a school close to it).My dad tried to persuade him to apply to Hopkins (his alma mater) but son wasn't having it. And they're D-3 football to boot! To him, college is where you 1) have lots of fun and 2) figure out what you can do to earn money later on, and learn to do it. And the less work you have to do while you're there, the better. I'M the one nagging him about the importance of education! Maybe he's smart enough to already be seeking balance...

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 5:09 PM

atlmom, that's his declared major right now! His math courses in HS (the only B was in fall precalc in his junior year because the exam for that and statistics were on the same day) pulled his GPA all the way up to 2.9.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 5:13 PM

educmom, my DH had a frat bro who made a big production of all his dates, golf and sailing outings, etc., while claiming he hardly broke a sweat getting his great grades. But they guy's roommate confided to us that the supposed party-guy would stay up studying till 4 most mornings in order to snag those top grades, but he thought that knowledge of that would harm his carefully cultivated image.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 5:22 PM

mehitabel, if he does that it will certainly be a change from his high school work ethic!

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 5:29 PM

educmom: Hope springs eternal!

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 5:31 PM

Thank you mehitabel. Actually, at the time I was doing it, I had no idea that I was 'running away' or that I really couldn't fix others or whatever. Really, there wasn't much thought that went into it. It was more of a wanderlust and wanting to meet new types of people, and see different things, etc.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 5:50 PM

(well, it's coming from a math major...).

Let me tell you, none of those classes were easy - and i took AP calc (the harder class, BC).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 5:51 PM

Atlmom, don't sell yourself short. At minimum, you had great survivor instincts.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 5:52 PM

Atlmom -

Friends: were afraid for me, didn't know what to say or do. Awkward spot. One friend of my ex talked to me about it. Very brave guy. I told my best friend and she was worried sick but it helped me SO MUCH that at least one person knew.

Family: Did not like my ex but had hated every boyfriend I'd every had so they didn't have much credibility. I wanted to turn to them many times, but they had their own problems. My parents were divorcing and it was an ugly time in my family overall. Once I left him my mother was incredibly supportive. Couldn't have got through the divorce without her. No so for my father, who had kind of moved on to his next life by that point.

Some extended family members took my ex-husband's side afterwards (!!!!!) and that ended our relationship. Very weird and hard for me to fathom even now.

The tricky thing to know is that often an abused women's self-esteem is so low that she thinks you are judging or blaming her because she stays with him. If you know someone who is being abused, the best thing to do is to be candid about what you think is going on, and to offer your support and sympathy (which is different from pity) on an open-ended basis. For instance: I had a friend who confessed that her husband got violent when drunk. She never said "he hits me" but I was pretty certain. They lived far away in a city where she knew no one (pretty common situation since the abuser often tries to isolate the victim.) I helped her put together a plan for "next time" (she stashed a credit card in a coat pocket so she could run out to a local motel). I also gave her the number for a couple of hot lines and support groups in her area. She did leave him eventually.

Posted by: leslie4 | October 1, 2007 6:00 PM

It's amazing when my oldest sister tells me how when she graduated from college (middle sister was in college, I was home), how things were just different (not better or worse, just different) when I was in high school than when she was - um, yah, dad was a viable human being when *you* were in high school, not so much, when *I* was.

It really was as if we grew up in different houses.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 1, 2007 6:01 PM

Atlmom, Maybe the years when you were the only child at home after your older sisters were at college made a difference somehow.

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 6:34 PM

Posted by: mehitabel | October 1, 2007 06:34 PM

Wow, that's so insightful...I watched STBX really slide downhill after son #1 left and son #2 was the last one home. He has recently started therapy (and outpatient treatment, and occasional AA meetings) and he has talked rationally recently. He said he felt like he was no longer useful, because the kids were basically grown and so nobody needed him anymore. So I think that atlmom being the only child home probably made a difference for whatever reason.

Posted by: educmom_615 | October 1, 2007 7:16 PM

Fred's Quote of the Day to: Leslie

For this and her other comments she made today on what hell her first marriage was and how she is attempting to educate others via her forthcoming book about this "marriage."

"...The tricky thing to know is that often an abused women's self-esteem is so low that she thinks you are judging or blaming her because she stays with him. If you know someone who is being abused, the best thing to do is to be candid about what you think is going on, and to offer your support and sympathy (which is different from pity) on an open-ended basis."

Second Place (and by all means, a terrific conversation but on a different subject) mehitabel and educmom for their comments on college problems.

The Creepy Van is now working (after crawling under it for several hours Saturday.) So, come on down!

Posted by: Fred | October 1, 2007 7:57 PM

You can marry a millionaire and still marry down. Money is not stick with which I measure wether I am down or up. I make more than my husband. I marry equally.I could have married a jerk who makes 20,000 more than I do and he could have brought my soul 'down'.

Posted by: mikal.roc | October 3, 2007 12:50 PM

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