Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Rich wife – Poor husband: Can this marriage ever work in Kenya?

Can the rich wife – poor husband marriage work? Nowadays, not too many rich women or alpha women in good careers want to marry down or get into hypogamous relationships.

According to the research paper Mismatches in the Marriage Market, the modern, ambitious career woman is unwilling to marry down even though she is struggling to find men with earning power, intelligence and academic qualifications similar to hers.

The qualities and characteristics career women want in their ideal man are not widely available in the actual men. This has created a gap in the marriage market.

In the US for instance, the research shows that unmarried women are on average looking for a man who has an income that is about 66 per cent higher than theirs. These women also want men who ask them out to at least have a college degree.

This is compounded by the high number of women who are earning degrees and masters in contrast to men. 55 per cent of women are enrolling for higher academic programs in comparison to 43 per cent of men.

The paper that is the research work of sociology researchers at Cornell University and Brigham University also shows that this new phenomenon may be here to stay. This is largely because women are outpacing men in the race for higher academic qualifications.

Globally, it is estimated that every year, more women than men are becoming college educated, with the median sex ratio being higher for women in colleges and universities.

A 2019 research study by Belgium’s Ghent University on women looking for love on the dating app, Tinder, found out that women now prefer highly educated men, even though this pool of men is not adequate.

In Kenya, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics also shows that in some sectors such as education, there are more women employees than men. In this sector, more women are also going for undergraduate, masters and PhD degrees which is boosting their chances of upgrading to higher job groups with better salaries.

Interestingly, the number of women in high salary cadres is also rising. By 2018, a study by Brighter Monday showed that Kenyan men only occupy a slightly greater percentage of the higher salary brackets, with 55 per cent of men earning Sh. 251,000 and above and 45 per cent of women earning the same amount and above.

This rise of the modern career woman is also being embraced by corporate employers. In 2019, Safaricom became the first listed company in Kenya to achieve 50 per cent share of female employees on its payroll.

The desire for alpha women to date or marry men who are doing as well or better than them is not so far-fetched. The old fairytale of a rich girl living happily ever after with a poor boy is nowadays nothing more than folklore.

According to Dr. Chris Hart, a psychologist and the author of Single & Searching, there are practical considerations that a well-paid career woman must consider if she wants compatibility and longevity in her marriage. You must be in the same phase of your lives.

You must be thinking the same way, interested in the same things, and with the same outlook in life. It might appear easy for a successful career woman to get herself a date, especially in an age where a rise number of men have no qualms playing toy boy.

Ironically though, whereas the high earning career woman is incredibly desirable, her dating will tend to be awful. “Powerful, smart and ambitious women have very high expectations, and that is the main reason why their relationships fail,” says Dr. Hart.

The relationship of an alpha woman who chooses to date or marry down will not mainly fail because the man is intimidated by her big career or salary. The problems will start to pile when she grows disappointed in her man.

“Once she loses respect for her partner, intimacy slowly fades away because desire is based on respect and admiration. Women need to be able to admire their partner for their relationships or marriages to stay successful and passionate,” says Dr. Hart.

Millicent Ngari, who is a 30-year-old banker in Nakuru says that she would find it hard to respect a man who earns less than her or who is less educated than she is.

“I leave home at around 6.30am in order to avoid morning traffic jams and get to my workstation a few minutes to 8am. Some days I get a heavy work schedule on my desk that I leave the bank late in the evening.

Over the weekends I am at the university pursuing my masters. I cannot then imagine a man who is earning less than me lazing around on the couch at home as he waits for me to return home and prepare a meal, or wash his underwear,” she says.

According to sociologist Johnstone Miriti, some career women have fear that men who have pulled themselves from poverty to riches are arrogant, condescending and stingy, despite earning big salaries and looking like ideal mates. This was the experience of Trizah Chebet.

Two years ago, Chebet got into a relationship with Moses Kibe. On the surface, Kibe was every woman’s dream mate.

“He had an inspirational story. He had risen from the slums of Mukuru kwa Njenga to the position of a chief finance officer at a local communications firm,” says Chebet, who earns a six figure salary as a director at a non-governmental organization in Nairobi.

Chebet gave Kibe a chance even though she had never dated someone from a poor background before. “I quickly realized how arrogant and condemning he was. He would throw words such as ‘Your family is rich and can get you a richer husband! You can’t go to a government hospital because you’re used to expensive private hospitals! Your rich family doesn’t need my dowry!’” she says. In February 2020, she terminated the relationship.

According to Miriti, the marriage market could also be skewed against career women with men who earn less or who hold less academic qualifications preferring to marry down themselves.

This implies that men like Kibe are more comfortable marrying women who earn less or who have weaker careers. “This category of men wants to dominate their mates. They target and choose women they can conquer, women who will be at their beck and call. The high earning career woman doesn’t fit their bill,” he says.

This is echoed by sociologist Dennis Malanda. He says that most men feel uneasy when dating a successful woman because of the social expectation and pressure to be providers.

“Even though the financial, job, and economic dynamics are changing rapidly, the traditional male mindset of provision is still deeply ingrained in many men,” he says. Many men would rather be the top earners.

“I would not be very comfortable dating or marrying a six-figure financial career woman working from the corner office at KCB Ambassador while I am whistling and shouting myself hoarse for passengers at the Ambassador Bus Terminal,” says Matthew Otieno, a 36-year-old bus conductor at the Ambassador area in Nairobi.

He says that in such a relationship, there would always be power fights over who should provide and what each partner’s money should do.

“As a man, I would end up being cut down to size. My friends would mock me. My manhood would be demeaned. I am better off dating and marrying a mama mboga in Kawangware,” he says.

I earn Sh. 225,000 but almost all goes to loans. Should I sell my house to pay them off?

Most men who date successful, rich career women are forced to constantly defend their intentions. Over the last one year, Guardian has had to refute claims that he is with Musila for her money.

“I don’t care what Esther has. It is only that I attracted someone who has money. If I was after her money, she could have dumped me already,” he has often said.

“Money is not everything. As a man, all I want is peace.”

Not every relationship in which women have the upper hand in career and wealth fail. Take the relationship between Jean-Pierre Meyers and Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers. Ms. Bettencourt-Meyers is one of the richest women in the world.

Forbes has estimated her net worth to be around USD. 91.9 billion. Her husband is nowhere near this amount of wealth. He is the managing director of the Tethys SAS, a community-based business insights company. Their relationship and marriage has lasted for 37 years.

In March 2021, MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, found love and married a teacher known as Dan Jewett. As of June 2021, Ms. Scott was worth an estimated USD 57.4 billion.

While most women say it would be good if a man earns more, there are those who are willing to overlook finances in favour of companionship.

“I think the modern career woman is paying too much allegiance to financial and academic endowment. But there are other factors that are equally or more essential,” says Nancy Adhiambo, 38. “I would not reject a proposal from a man who earns less or has a college diploma while I have masters, if he is good at managing money, investing and multiplying wealth,” she says.

Although money and career may be a top priority for some women, nearly all women want grooming to be included as a dessert. How a man grooms is enough to turn women away regardless of the weight of his wallet or academic papers.

“It is not all about finances and intelligence. He can be wealthy but filthy,” says Janet Waithera. Three years ago, Janet was in a relationship with a financially well off man whom she ended up breaking up with due to his poor hygiene.

“He had good money, a fleet of matatus and was in the lucrative large scale wheat farming business in Narok,” says Janet, 32. But then there was this bad whizz of smell that hovered around him.

“Today it would be stinky socks, tomorrow sweaty, unshaved armpits, and the day after recycled shirts,” she says. “He also had these long nails on his pinkie fingers which literally pissed me off.”

Whenever Janet prodded him to get his act clean, he would always tell her that he didn’t have the time. “He’d say he was too busy chasing money. He would claim mwanaume ni kajasho. How can you be so busy making money that you hardly have the time to take a shower? I just couldn’t stand it and ended up rejecting his marriage proposal,” she says.

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