When Shirley and Mpho tied the knot, relatives and friends thought their union in holy matrimony was a match made in Heaven.
But a few months into the marriage, the perfect picture of marital bliss they had painted before coming this far began to fade.
Glee dissipated, making way for quarrels that sounded like a funeral song; it was clear that love didn’t live there anymore!
What drove it out?
Well, Shirley was raking in more money from her job as a Chartered Accountant while James continued to sulk over the paltry earnings he received from his employer.
This is a story that confronts a growing number of Batswana couples today. Marriages are breaking down owing to glaring disparities between spouses’ take-home pay, especially when the wife is on top, financially speaking, of course.
We have all heard of couples that parted, all because of complications that stemmed from the wife’s salary being way above the man’s and domestic violence being the end result in some instances.
Sure enough, men are finding it difficult to cope with this era of cultural change where a woman can literally do what man can do.
The modern woman passionately seeks to develop.
She first lays the foundation for development through education or an idea of enterprise. The construction of her desired world then follows.
Bit by bit, she piles the blocks until success is attained. She does extremely well and believes “failure is not an option”.
Enter the man in marriage! Therein lies the problem.
Her earnings far surpass her husband’s, distablising a delicate marital equilibrium, which often spells disharmony.
Keabonye Ntsabane, GenderLinks’ Country Coordinator, says that the cases of domestic violence they handle mostly stem from this problem.
Ntsabane said its time men accepted the inevitable that women are becoming more empowered.
“Historically, women were always neglected and looked down upon, economically. However, the new laws and policies that are now in force accommodate them,” she said.
Ntsabane said domestic violence and divorce cases involving such couples were┬áprevalent, but could not readily give the statistics.
“Of late, we have noticed an increase in the number of domestic violence cases brought about by empowered women who are often abused by their husbands,” she said.
She urged women to give their husbands their place in the house and not manipulate them for the simple reason that they bring in more money than the husbands do.
These reversed roles between spouses have been cited as a major problem that precipitates tension in homes.
A man, it is said, is the leader, provider and protector of his family. The wife is the home’s pillar of support. It is the reversal of these feminine and masculine roles that breeds misery.
If the wife takes a position of leadership, the man might feel weakened, challenged and belittled ultimately pushing him to the brink of thinking that he is worthless.
In the end, domestic violence erupts or marriages collapse.
Successful women I have come across in blissful marriages say the secret lies in adhering to either person sticking to their responsibilities. They also acknowledge their husbands, instead of letting them slip into the background while they hog the limelight.
A woman, who declined to be identified, said it is the behaviour of a wife that determines happiness in the house.
“My strongest impression is that most of the problems would disappear if women changed one simple aspect of their behaviour: assuming the responsibilities of supporting a stay-at-home husband and the children while she’s off pursuing her career!” she said.
She added: “This simple change, which is within the capability of any high-earning woman, would allow them to enjoy both their family and career.”
Assistant Pastor Ezekiel of the Waters of Bethel Tabernacle says financial status should not cause marital problems.
“Whether the husband or wife earns more should not create problems in the home. However, judging by what we see happening now, people are moving away from the core reasons of marriage,” he said. “Money should not dictate what happens in a marriage; it should enhance the two who will already be in love anyway.”
Women,┬áwhether earning more than their husbands or less,┬áshould still be able to submit to their spouses.
“Their love should be the central part of the marriage as marriage cements love,” he said. “Married couples should be able to organise things together and that reflects a normal family. It should not be a subject of constant debate when the wife earns more than the husband.”
Ezekiel paused and then added: “The moment the wife changes because of a higher salary, she is simply in a marriage and not married. She becomes venomous by labelling herself ‘independent’.”