Want to keep your man faithful? Just earn 25pc less than he does
Deirdre Reynolds on why house husbands may be taking on a lot more than the cooking and cleaning
Published 07/09/2010 | 05:00
Back in 1983, they were first portrayed as bumbling buffoons who couldn't tell one end of a baby from the other in the comedy Mr Mom.
Almost three decades on, they may have figured out the mechanics of a nappy, but now Ireland's house husbands face a fresh attack on their masculinity.
If, like us, you're still baffled at how tattooed ape Jesse James could cheat on superstar Sandra Bullock or why non-entity Eric Benet did the dirt on Halle Berry, a new study could provide the answer.
It suggests men who earn less than their other halves are more likely to cheat than those who earn more or the same amount as their missus.
And financially dependent house hubbies who earn nothing at all are five times more liable to play away from home, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association recently.
Their male pride wounded by a wife or girlfriend who's more successful kept men embarking on affairs to self-medicate their inner caveman, the study suggests.
"Having multiple sexual partners may be an attempt to restore gender identity in response to these threats," explains Cornell University sociology graduate Christin Munsch, who conducted the study.
"In other words, for men, sex [outside their relationship] may be an attempt to compensate for feelings of inadequacy with respect to gender identity."
The research is just the latest kick in the goolies for stay-at-home dads (SAHDs) here, who've up to now have been represented by the media as either totally emasculated or egomaniacal; incompetent or cads.
But Ireland's SAHDs aren't taking the latest blitzkrieg on their honour lying down.
"In all my research on the topic of fatherhood, I've never come across such a bizarre claim," says David Caren of Dad.ie, Ireland's only site for fathers and dads-to-be.
"I fail to see the correlation between house husbandry and infidelity."
Surrounded by yummy mummies as their own wife works all hours, however, Munsch argues that some lonely dads may find the temptation too much.
"I know of cases where stay-at-home dads have become friendly with mothers on the school run," admits David, "but mostly the relationship revolves around play dates for the kids, not the adults!"
With almost a third of Irish women now assuming the role of breadwinner in the home, the report could make for a frosty atmosphere at dinner tables across the country.
But like that aforementioned John Hughes flick which saw Michael Keaton go into meltdown at the first whiff of a soiled nappy, are we really to believe that the modern homosapien would rather be shackled to a desk than fully embrace fatherhood?
"In Ireland, there seems to be a fascination with SAHDs," reckons David, who works from home. "In other countries around the world, it's a much more accepted part of family life.
"At the end of the day, you do what's best for your family; and if that means that mammy has a bigger salary and stays out working while dad tends to the house, so be it."
But the damning news for working girls is that even if their husband is rolling in it, he may still have a roving eye.
The study, which examined the relationships and salaries of a group of 18-28-year-olds married or cohabitating for more than a year over a six-year period, also found that women should be wary of a partner whose pay packet is fatter than theirs.
"At one end of the spectrum, making less money than a female partner may threaten men's gender identity by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners," says sociologist Munsch.
"At the other end, men who make a lot more money than their partners may be in jobs that offer more opportunities for cheating like long work hours, travel and higher incomes that make it easier to conceal."
And calculators at the ready, ladies; suspicious-minded Munsch even came up with a formula for keeping your man faithful -- the key is to earn 25pc less than he does, apparently.
Conversely, the research showed that women who were financially dependent on their spouse were less likely to stray than those who made equal or more.
"Of all the clients I've seen, the men who strayed were usually professionals working outside the home," argues Sinead Warren of the Sinead Warren Centre of Psychotherapy & Counselling
"In Ireland, I would argue that male 'breadwinners' are more likely to have an affair than stay-at-home dads. High-earners are more likely to operate on their ego, which is the part that gets tangled up in affairs.
'If anything, house husbands often have a greater sense of who they are and their role within a relationship.
"But house husband or not, I don't think that staying at home is an acceptable excuse for cheating -- women have done it for years."
Even the knuckle-dragging study was forced to concede that there's more to infidelity than finances -- with relationship satisfaction, religion, education and race all cited too.
"Marital problems, such as when a person's emotional or sexual needs are not being met, are much more likely to lead a person to have an affair than their pay packet," adds Kildare-based therapist Sinead.
And if your mates still slag you off when you finally get a reprieve to go to the pub, there are more effective ways to prove your liaroidi aren't, in fact, stashed in a bell jar under the kitchen sink than cheating, says David Caren of Dad.ie.
"I know quite a few dads who enter Ironman competitions -- surely they deserve to keep the Tarzan mantle," he jokes.
"Regarding the term 'house husband', I reckon 'Man of the House' would be a more fitting title.
In the words of the manliest of men, John Wayne: 'A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do'!"