He Can Have it All: How Equal Marriages Benefit Men


by Amy-Willard Cross

Shouldn’t men “have it all” too?  Why should women get all the “all”? The answer is both should get half of the all.  Having both partners, of whatever gender share more equally in home and working life might benefit every family. That’s the idea behind “Getting to 50/50” a book by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober.

Originally published in 2009, it was recently released in paperback-- with a forward by Sheryl Sandberg.  Sandberg, who is well known for her own 50/50 relationship, cited the book frequently in her best-seller, “Lean In”.  That book’s worldwide success has generated more support and interest in leading 50/50 lives, says Meers in an interview with VITAMIN W. She adds that the recession also convinced many families of the importance of two equally good incomes to weather financial storms.

We know that women benefit from working (financial security, life purpose, etc), but little has been said of the benefit men derive from a more equal relationship.  Until now.  Co-authors Strober and Meers have been able to find data (and anedcaotes) supporting the arguments that men might want to share more at home.

Firstly, it’s important to realize how alike men and women really are: Meers states that society overestimates how much men care about their careers and underestimates how much women do.  Indeed, these supposed gender differences are shrinking.  Recent Pew Research found that people under 30, want to both work and look after their kids—and toss out the old gender roles.  

When lecturing at Stanford Business school, someone asked Meers if she was ruining her husband’s career with her ambition. It was an OMG moment, “If  people think this, no wonder we have these problems.”  Men don’t have to lose their big lives, for women to make progress.  About her own husband, Meers says, “He is thriving, doing remarkably, and he’s thrilled to have an engagement with his children that his father didn’t know was possible.“  According to their research, his peers feel the same way.

So Meers and her friend Strober could see how much change needed to happen. Having spent time in Quaker schools made Meers feel she should contribute, “ We felt was necessary to start the conversation, make it fact-based and fun….Once you get rid of the guilt, there is no reason for it (outdated social roles) all social science shows it’s better when both parents work.”  She says 50/50 arrangements mean couples have more satisfying lives at work and at home. Because of their background in Fortune 500 companies -- Goldman Sachs and venture capital firms -- Meers and Strober made good evangelists about gender equality to corporations.

Having women such as  Sandberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in the public eye helps us see these newer marriage models.  Meers says, “The era of Mad Men is over.  It's not really necessary for one member to completeley subordinate themselves.”


Economic Security

Having two secure incomes releases men from the straight jacket of being a sole breadwinner, which is stressful.  It also gives them leeway to start a business, change careers or go back to school.

Improved Sex life

A study in 2006 showed that in households where men who did more household chores, there was more frequent sex.  A study by NICHD showed that when wives work longer hours and husbands do more childcare, wives report greater marital intimacy.  Nudge and wink, and obviously. 

Marriage Stability

More equal couples have a greater chance of staying together. A 50/50 marriage has a chance of divorce 48 percent lower than average.  Interestingly, when a wife earns 40 percent of the income and a husband does 40 percent of the house chores, the rate is even 3 percentage points lower—perhaps suggesting that some  people still find comfort in old roles.

Better kids

Fathering is just as important as mothering according to various studies cited in the book.  When dads ate, played, read and did homework with kids, the children had better academic results.  Involved dads are also linked with better behavior and social skills.

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