by Nick Baez
Relationships can be complicated, and thanks to the work of fellow colleagues Adriana Villavicencio and Arlene Olivencia, perhaps those of you who read our articles have gained further insight and clarity into your own relationships. Since most of us never wind up marrying our first loves, we tend to have the opportunity to experience many relationships, and hence, we learn the many characteristics that lead to greater compatibility (or lack thereof).
But there is one potential relationship characteristic that is often overlooked until we experience it firsthand, particularly with respect to marriages: when the woman in the relationship is the “breadwinner” of the family. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that in 2007, 22 percent of husbands reported that their wives’ income was higher than their own, a number that was over three times greater than what had been reported in 1970. Additionally in 2007, among households in which there was an educational disparity between partners, a significantly greater number of these households were characterized by the wife having achieved a greater degree of educational attainment (a direct correlate of earned income).
This educational disparity between men and women is even more pronounced in the Latino community, in that Latino males are significantly less likely to attend and graduate from college compared to Latina females. This plays a huge role in lessening a Latino male’s lifetime earning potential, compared to his female counterparts. And in marriages that involve Latinos and Latinas, this can be a salient source of marital strife and interpersonal conflict, given cultural expectations of what constitutes “true manhood.”
I remember during a previous long-term relationship of mine, when all signs pointed to marriage as the eventual outcome (thankfully, this was not the case), my mother, who I consider to be a fairly socially liberated female, reminded me about the importance of getting my Doctorate, because “the man is supposed to take care of his woman and provide for the family.” Many Latinos reading this article have probably heard a similar message at some point in their lives.
Therefore, when Latinos find themselves in marriages where they make less money than their wives, tension can often result. Drawing on my experiences administering relationship counseling in my line of work, I have found that it is important to note that this tension is not always a direct result of resentment. Rather, many Latinos can begin to feel a great deal of internalized shame, guilt, worthlessness, and regret. They report feelings of “letting their family down,” or feelings of “being less than a man.”
Ironically, these feelings also arise even when their household is doing well financially. Therefore, it is the cultural perception of “manhood” that drives these mindsets. And as is the case with any relationship, when one partner is experiencing deep feelings of insecurity or worthlessness, the entire relationship suffers. This is certainly not an indictment against Latino cultures, which are beautifully rich with respect and love. However, this is a complex dynamic that we must all be aware of, especially with respect to how we raise our young boys.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.