Unhitched in the NY Times
The column manages to avoid stating the obvious even though it documents it. Their marriage fell apart because she made a lot more money than he did. She became a neurologist, a high-paying medical specialty which probably paid her a salary well over $200K per year and possibly more than $300K per year. His career completely failed to launch.
Women are very good at spending their husbands’ money, but they lose all respect for any man who needs her financial support. At least upper-middle-class white women are like that. Black women are much more feminist than white women; they often support their unemployed husbands.
He wasn’t alpha enough to please a woman who earned a lot more money. “He proposed, though he hadn’t given it much thought, because he was afraid of losing her.” That sounds like very beta reason to propose to a woman.
Apparently he was so embarrassed about his lack of financial contribution to the marriage that he agreed to keep their finances separate and private, he racked up $30,000 of credit card debt trying to keep up with his wife (which was really her debt as well because they were married), and when they got divorced he foolishly did not press for the palimony he was probably entitled to under New York law.
I think the story is sad because they loved each other and got along very well before she started making a lot of money.
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I apologize for having to disagree with this reader comment:
Ah yes, one of those “I’m the DREAMER. She’s the PRACTICAL ONE” marriages.
This is a perfect example of how brides are led astray by our cultural notions of which displays of solvency are “cool” and which are taboo. His debt binge and lack of net worth likely predated the marriage, yet in America we are expected to look at people’s CONSUMPTION as a proxy for solvency, while discussing assets and income makes you look creepy.
I don’t think that’s what happened.
I think that before they got married, when she was a medical student, they were both in a comparable financial situation and therefore money wasn’t much of an issue.
It’s notable that they got married when she was 33, which would be the age when I suspect that she was still a resident but about to transition into making serious money. He asked her to marry her “because he was afraid of losing her” but the reason he was afraid was because he knew that her earnings were shortly going to outstrip his.
I suspect that he began getting into a debt situation after they got married, because they maintained independent bank accounts and finances, and after the marriage their spending increased because her income and expectations for spending increased a lot, and they had a child, and don’t forget they lived in Manhattan the most expensive place to live in the United States.
$30,000 isn’t really a lot of money under those circumstances. It was probably accumulated over a few years because he was embarrassed or ashamed to tell his wife that he needed to spend her money. Credit card debt can easily snowball because of the high interest rates, which means that each month an increasing percentage of his income went to paying interest on his debt and then he needed to increasingly rely on increasing his debt in order to maintain his spending.
He didn’t spend any money that they, as a married couple, couldn’t afford. There’s no indication that she had any problem paying off his debt. The problem was psychological. She lost all sexual attraction for a man who couldn’t pay his own way.
Had their situations been reversed, he the successful neurologist and she the self-actualizing but low-paid wife, there wouldn’t have been anything out of the ordinary with the wife spending his money. They would have had joint banking/checking/credit card accounts and she would have just spent it.
Also, don’t assume he was a complete financial loser. He may very well have been making around $50,000/year which is the median income for a middle-aged man, but being merely middle-class doesn’t cut it in Manhattan when your wife makes five times as much money, and he would have been saddled with her higher federal tax rate plus New York state/city taxes on top of that.