THE fact that more women are now calling the shots in the boardroom is nothing new, but research is showing that the success of high-earning women is also shaping relations in the bedroom, where the husbands of some of these breadwinning women are turning to drugs and alcohol to stave off erectile dysfunction caused from bruised egos.
A recent study coming out of Denmark, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, has shown that men who are out-earned by their wives are more likely to take drugs for impotence and erectile dysfunction than those men who are the main providers for their families.
The study, In Sickness and in Wealth: Psychological and Sexual Costs of Income Comparison in Marriage, said as the percentage of wives out-earning their husbands grows, the traditional social norm of the male breadwinner is challenged.
"The upward income comparison of the husband may cause psychological distress that affects partners' mental and physical health in ways that affect decisions on marriage, divorce, and careers," the study said.
Using salary and medical data from Denmark, the researchers — from Denmark and the United States — showed that "that men who out-earned by their wives are more likely to use erectile dysfunction medication than their male breadwinner counterparts, even when this inequality is small."
"Even small differences in relative income are associated with large changes in erectile dysfunction medication usage when they shift the marriage from a male to a female breadwinner," the researchers noted.
Many men have also turned to alcohol as a means of dealing with their issues.
"We expect this problem to be considerably larger in countries with stronger patriarchal norms... [and] many women never pursue high-paying careers due to social pressure for them to either work in the home or serve as secondary earners," the researchers said.
While he does not have empirical evidence to say what obtains here in Jamaica as it relates to how men deal with higher-earning wives, Baptist minister Reverend Karl Johnson believes that men generally have a hard time dealing with women who are more financially stable than they are. This is because men are traditionally considered to be the providers in relationships.
"If you start to lose your own sense of place in a relationship, if you start to doubt your sense of worth, then it must affect your sexual performance, because remember that sex is more than just a physical activity, it's mental [and] it's psychological," he said.
He said, however, that the relationship does not have to suffer if both partners agree from courtship that their earning power would not define the nature of their relationship.
Noted psychologist and founder of The JobBank, Dr Leahcim Semaj, said that, while some Jamaican men shun financially independent women, there is no empirical data locally to suggest that those who enter into relationships with these women suffer from sexual problems.
"Many men are intimated here by women who are earning more than them. Some men avoid such women, because there is a threat to their egos," he said.
"A lot of men have not quite adjusted to the fact that many women will earn more money than they do. It is almost a new phenomenon for some Jamaican men to come to grips with. So you do have some men who are a bit intimidated by it," he asserted.
On the other hand, he said some men are highly attracted to these women, because they don't mind being provided for.
"There is a full spectrum — it's not really a one-type situation — as there are significant numbers who are intimidated by it, and they don't find such women attractive anymore, and they lose their interest in them. And then there are those who enjoy it and believe it is their turn now to enjoy some of the privileges that women had in the past," he said.
Dr Semaj believes the situation is easier to accept if the couple started off the relationship with both of them earning in the same region and then the woman's salary increases, because they would have already been used to the idea of working as a team. He said it is important that both partners are comfortable with the fact that the woman earns more money than the man does.
And based on what obtains today in the educational system, the psychologist believes that more couples will be forced to deal with the issue of women being the breadwinners.
"Because of the demographics we may face with, if you look at for the last 20 years in Jamaica, women have outnumbered men at the tertiary level. So you will find that women in that category [are] earning more money and have a smaller pool to draw from in terms of males," he said.
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