An Ideal (House-)Husband

This past week, the New York Times Online posted two debates on the same subject as my column in the Review’s last issue.

Excitement!

In the first, Gail Collins and David Brooks discuss the new role of men in marriage (as “househusbands,” apparently).

[![](http://blog.stanfordreview.org/content/images/2010/02/betty-150x150.jpg)](http://blog.stanfordreview.org/content/images/2010/02/betty.jpg)
Oh, Betty Draper.
In the [second](http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/for-women-redefining-marriage-material/), the *Times* asks a range of academics how demographic shifts will affect marital dynamics.

Both pieces speak to something I’d wanted to cover in my column but never got around to – namely, that there’s at least one good thing that could come from all this: a new kind of husband.

After all, it used to be that the best husbands and fathers were simply those that provided for their families. Putting food on the table, a roof over their children’s heads, and clothes on their backs – that was all that society expected of them.

Real men, however, don’t just bring home the bacon, and women have always wanted more. Our ideal husband is also our best friend, our partner, a confidant and lover.

And now that we don’t need men to provide for us, we’re in a more powerful position to demand these qualities in our spouses. According to Stephanie Coontz, a historian at Evergreen State College (whose comments appear in the second *Times *piece):

[M]ost women now say that having a husband who is capable of intimacy and who shares housework and childcare is more important than having a partner who earns more money.

Such a change, Coontz points out, may be a “win-win recipe for marriage” :

The best predictors of a man’s marital satisfaction are how much sex he gets and how little criticism he gets. And numerous studies show that women feel more intimacy and more sexual attraction toward – and are less critical of – husbands who participate in childcare and housework.

If she’s right, then the new economics of marriage might not be so bad after all.

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