Whether a Husband Identifies as a Breadwinner Depends on Whether He Respects His Wife’s Career — Not on How Much She Earns

Professional careers are notorious for demanding that people be single-mindedly devoted to work. It’s a demand that is often especially acute for men, who face rigid expectations that being a successful man requires having a successful career, and that “success” means power and money.

Men have traditionally satisfied these expectations by taking on the role of a work-devoted breadwinner, supported by a wife who does not work or who places his career first. But many heterosexual men today are married to women who pursue demanding careers of their own; moreover, many women expect that their husbands will support their careers and be more engaged in family life than previous generations of men have been.

The contradiction between the traditional image of the successful man and the reality of men’s lives creates a conundrum: How do men make sense of who they are in relation to their work, given their wives’ careers?

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