Alpha Women, Beta Men Wives are increasingly outearning their husbands, but their new financial muscle is causing havoc in the home. Lego After dropping off their children at their East Side private school one morning, Betsy and another mother shared a secret. And perhaps a little relieved. Betsy thought she was the only mother in their grade supporting a stay-at-home husband—especially one who refused to polish the surfaces.
In , for example, wives earned more than their spouses in almost a third of married households where the wife worked. Yet this proud professional achievement often seems to have unhappy consequences at home.
From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Alias to Kill Bill, the culture has for some time been awash in fantasies of powerful women. As the wives grow more powerful and confident, their husbands often seem to diminish in direct proportion to their success. Neither the newly liberated alpha women nor their shell-shocked beta spouses seem comfortable with the role reversal. For women, the shift in economic power gives them new choices, not least among them the ability to reappraise their partner.
According to psychologists and divorce lawyers who see couples struggling with such changes, many relationships follow the same pattern. First, the wife starts to lose respect for her husband, then he begins to feel emasculated, and then sex dwindles to a full stop. Anna, a public-relations executive, saw her relationship with her Web-designer husband collapse as she became more and more successful and he floundered. He was in denial, and I was sort of protecting him.
He was running up credit-card debt to make it appear he had more money. And our relationship initially had been very sexual, at the expense of other things. In the end, it felt like I had three children. It was totally parental. I am much more testosteronic. Neither of them saw it coming—nor do they welcome it. The question is, how secure does the guy feel?