Joel Eisenberg
When a Spouse Asks For “Stability” It Is a Responsibility


Not to quibble, but stability is a requirement of both parties, whether a spouse asks or not. I use the word “responsibility,” above, as it may be the more actionable of the two.

I have a few confessions to make. First, this piece was originally entitled, “When a Wife Asks For ‘Stability,’ It Is a Responsibility, Not a Chore.” Then, I contemplated that this slant may not be in my best interests. I suspected I was inadvertently displaying an old, stereotypical straight male mindset with the earlier title and downgrading not only the woman’s role in a conventional marriage, but also those of other spouses whose gender identities are not necessarily considered aligned with the majority.

I came to believe I had an opportunity with this piece and needed to cast a larger net, and so I simply changed the title.

Then, I could not find a lead-in image for the article that would meet everyone’s standards. I elected to land on the one above that appeared to portray a conventional marriage between a man and a woman, which can nonetheless be read in several different ways:

  • The short groom makes the money;
  • The tall bride makes the money;
  • He’s actually taller, and the lift is visually misleading;
  • They are both earners, regardless of height.

For the sake of this piece, let’s settle on the last.

There is another meaning, though. Another perception, actually:

  • The images are what? Ceramic? They’re not real. Who’s to say they portray a man and a woman at all?

Finally … I was going to change “stability” to “security.” It’s the same thing for the thesis of this article, so let’s leave it at that.

Regarding the above comments, a logical next question may be, “Is the writer playing this up for a reaction, or is he really that neurotic?”

Both.

Because, as the Patty Smyth and Don Henley song says, “Sometimes love just ain’t enough.” I’m punctuating that fact with some comments designed to give the reader pause but not worth the effort to mull over. Let’s say I personally can only speak as a sometimes neurotic male married to a fine woman, but I believe the abject need for stability should resonate with any married couple of any sexuality or gender. That’s my perspective.

A Spouse’s Needs

According to most statistics, including a recent study by Marriage.com, infidelity, financial issues, and lack of communication are the three primary causes of divorce in the U.S. today, a measure that has remained consistent for decades.

Stability is an absolute requirement for any marriage to succeed.

For my part, I am certainly not an expert on women. I do not believe any guy is, despite egotistical statements to the contrary or any number of personally-held doctoral theses. It took me 36 long years before I found a woman who could put up with a writer-spouse who works many hours, seven days a week. On the most general basis, I find women to be beautiful, complex creatures who have set needs, like men, when it comes to finding a significant other. Whether those needs also involve sex, looks, humor and/or intelligence, stability (or security) is typically, per my research for this article at least, at or near the very top of the list.

Regarding requirements of gay partners, trans partners, bisexual partners and those of any other gender identifications when it regards relationship matters, I have found that the needs are very much the same across the board.

I was recently told something by a gay friend that resonated: “Many of us have been more promiscuous than most of our straight friends before finally settling down. If there’s not enough money to pay the bills, what’s the point on faking a future together?”

Talking point: If a spouse is self-sufficient with well-earned and saved finances of their own, this does not mitigate a counterpart from meeting their own financial responsibilities. A sense of equality is key. This does not mean one spouse has to earn more than another, but it is imperative one does not take advantage of the other due to the other’s higher financial standing.

Height Matters

I use “height” here metaphorically. Specifically, the (more) financially stable spouse is the taller of the two.

  • Marriage brings with it an entire new set of responsibilities, and also potential benefits. Marriage is also not for everyone, as the responsibilities of a legal couple are generally more stringent and too some just aren’t of the head to be legally married, but see this “Forbes” article for the benefits: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateashford/2014/09/26/deciding-not-to-get-married/#2ac055d1edf3
  • Height, as I refer to it here, really does matter. But what happens if the stable partner loses his or her job, or his or her business goes under? This would spell “crisis” in the most loving of households.
  • It is far too easy for the shorter of the two spouses to become overly comfortable knowing that their partner will always be there to save them. In time, being so content can lead to laziness. Resentment frequently builds on the part of the other spouse, who works diligently to keep food on the table and a roof over a family’s heads.

Stability vs. Security

There is no difference. Onward.

  • Financial stability leads to emotional stability, including lack of resentment on the part of one partner to another.
  • Statistically, a spouse who “supports” another will most likely reach a breaking point if the other does not eventually get their own financial affairs in order. There is a caveat: What some would call more “traditional” marriages where a husband supports a wife and family is fine, as it would be with a spouse in an untraditional marriage (again, outside of straight conventions), so long as each spouse agrees and understands possible repercussions. See here for 2018 Pew Research statistics: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/20/americans-see-men-as-the-financial-providers-even-as-womens-contributions-grow/ . 2019 Pew Research stats are as yet unavailable.
  • My parents used to tell me, “We had no money. We had family, and made good with what we had.” My response is they absolutely did, and they raised my two younger brothers and me better than we could have have hoped. My dad has since passed, but my mom and her three boys are as close as ever. I attribute this to honest communication among my parents, which is a lesson for everyone. Once more, there are always caveats to any argument. The one here is as long as communication is strong, and two spouses work together for common goals, you just may have a shot despite financial instability. My dad worked full-time to support us, and my mom went back to work once the kids were old enough to fend for themselves. My parents were happily married for nearly 50 years.
  • If a married couple owns a home, a car or other assets, and the loans are under both of their names, if one’s credit score deceases over a lack of payment, the other’s will as well.
  • On repeat, if stability disappears, what happens next? What will either spouse do to contain the damage? Finding a well-paying job, especially for older people, is never easy.

In Conclusion

There is no moral judgement to my words. I spent the past two weeks interviewing, both over the email and in-person, men and women individually, of various pasts and persuasions, married and not, about the concept of stability. This was not a scientific study. I simply reached out to friends and associates who I knew would give me honest responses.

I did not, as a note, reach out to anyone engaged in a polygamous marriage. My sample group was monogamous across the board. A followup may include those engaged in polygamy and other lifestyle choices.

For now, my single friends said they would not marry their significant other if there was no promise of stability. Some said, under the condition of anonymity, they would not stay in their marriage if financial circumstances did not improve.

They all agreed as to the concept’s abject importance.

Some I interviewed said they’ve come to prefer being alone, and that’s fine. If you believe you are not yet ready for marriage … do not take the leap. There is another person involved, and that person is vested.

Thank you, as ever, for reading.

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