Stage I to Stage II: How Successful. Men Freed Women. (But Forgot to Free Themselves)
From role mate to soul mate
For thousands of years, most marriages were in Stage I – survival-focused. After World War II, marriages increasingly flirted with Stage II – a self- fulfillment focus. In Stage I, most couples were role mates: the woman raised the children and the man raised the money. In Stage II, couples increasingly desired to be soul mates. Why? As couples met their survival needs, they upped the ante and redefined love.
In Stage I, a woman called it love if she found a man who was a good provider and protector; he called it love if she was beautiful and could take care of a home and children. Love meant a division of labor which led to a division of female and male interests. In Stage II, love means common interests and common values Love s definition is in transition.
Even before World War II, some parents began to redefine love. But they could usually afford to do that only after their last child was married off, as with Tevye and Golde of Fiddler on the Roof.1
Tevye: Golde … Do you love me?
Golde: Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes,
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house,
Given you children, milked the cow.
After twenty-five years, why talk about Love right now?. . .
Tevye: But my father and my mother Said we d learn to love each other. . .
Do you love me?
Golde: For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him Fought with him, starved with him Twenty-five years my bed is his.
If that’s not love, what is?
The people with the most freedom to redefine love were women who had married the most successful men. These women began asking Stage II questions, such as "Why should I be married to a man who can show me his
wallet but not show me his love?"; "Why am I called Mrs. John Doe – who am П" "Why am / always serving him, deferring to his opinions?"; "When the children are grown, will my life have meaning?" She feared her own husband didn’t really respect her; then she chastised herself for being so preoccupied with what he thought, anyway. She expressed her concerns aloud. Her concerns were institutionalized: the women’s liberation movement.
His concerns were repressed. He kept to himself his hurt that his wife seemed more interested in the children, in shopping, and in herself than in him. That he felt criticized for working late rather than appreciated for working late. To him. his wife seemed to define communication as her expressing her negative feelings but not him expressing his. She seemed to avoid sex more than enjoy it. He felt hurt that soon after marriage his wife paid less attention to keeping weight off and started dressing sloppily unless she was meeting other people.
Turned off and unappreciated, he rumbled internally, "What am / getting from this marriage? Restaurants cook food better and give me a whole menu to choose from, housekeepers don’t ask for half of my income; and my secretary is more attractive, has more respect for me, and is more in tune with my work. And besides, selling Product X is hardly what / call identity.’" Unlike her, though, he failed to express his concerns. His concerns became ulcers, heart attacks, cancer, and alcoholism.
When he did express his concerns, they were dismissed as his male midlife crisis. Essentially, though, women’s liberation and the male midlife crisis were the same search – for personal fulfillment, common values, mutual respect, love. But while women’s liberation was thought of as promoting identity, the male midlife crisis was thought of as an identity crisis. Similarly, women’s liberation was called insight, self-discovery, and self-improvement – akin to maturity; the male midlife crisis was called “playboy time” and selfishness – akin to immaturity. His crisis got the bad rap.