Watching train wrecks

Admit it. Everyone – including you – has a morbid fascination with some type of (perhaps metaphorical) train wreck. Personally, I like the financial kind. Whether it’s someone spending half a month’s salary on a wallet chain, or a $100 billion dollar hedge fund going up in smoke, I’m so there.

So along these lines, a recent theme that has caught my attention is the purported epidemic of male inferiority complex when it comes to making less money than their girlfriend/fiancée/wife. For example:

  1. A recent article in Jasmine magazine (it’s not my subscription, I swear!) deals with this very subject. Since they don’t post articles online, here’s a transcribed copy.
  2. Back when my employer was just a bunch of guys in a lab at the university, there was a gap between two rounds of funding. As a result, they had to cut our paycheques for a while. One of the guys panicked and quickly calculated whether he was still making more money than his girlfriend. Much to his relief, he was.
  3. Sufu lamented last year that as a doctor in training, her pool of eligible bachelors was much smaller than others; it would be limited to other professionals and those secure enough in their masculinity to not be intimidated by her job.
  4. A (supposed) non-fiction book I’m reading, Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl is written in diary-like format, and has this entry on the subject. Out of all things for the boyfriend of a whore to be jealous about, it’s the money. Really, no joke.

My take on all of this is that I have a simple “acid test”. It’ll work as long as both parties in the relationship are significantly ahead of the game together versus on their own. It doesn’t have to be all monetary contribution, but any intangibles have to be clearly recognized and valued similarly by both parties. If one person would be roughly the same or even better off by themselves, then the other person is really just a leech, and no one wants (or wants to be) that.


  1. S5 says:

    As the person in example (2) let me explain the general reasoning behind this reaction. Consider any couple whose circumstances change in such a manner as to require one member to forgo work for an extended (even indefinite) period (pregnancy is perhaps the most obvious example[1]).

    Normally, the reasoning process in deciding who “stays home” involves some function that includes societal norms and economic reality. In these liberal and enlightened days it is should be completely acceptable for either party to “stay home”, so that just leaves economic considerations as the deciding factor. In short, it makes rational sense for the person who earns more to continue going to work.

    Now, if you happen to be the sort of person who doesn’t relish the idea of spending every waking hour entertaining someone with, quite literally, the IQ of a three-month-old then it makes perfect sense for you to maximize your economic contribution to the relationship.

    Intangibles are nice and all, but economics rule the day.


    PS. An interesting side-effect of this economic reality is that, historically, men have tended to “marry down” and women to “marry up”. This created a self-justifying system wherein women were expected to stay home and raise the kids, and this was manifestly rational given the economics of it all. But recently the trend has been shifting: educated women have started “marrying down” as well — hence the not-so-uncommon-anymore phenomenon of the “stay at home husband”.

    PPS. Great blog, btw.

    [1] I’m leaving out any discussion of daycare here for the sake of simplicity.

  2. Dave says:

    But dude, you didn’t have a three-month-old in 2002! Or did you?…

  3. S5 says:

    No, but the “threat” is always there (insert witty reference to the Sword of Damocles here).