LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XV. PLATE TWO: BEING A BREADWINNER (PRODUCING SOCIO-ECONOMIC VIABILITY/CAREERS)
The marker event for this second plate is sometimes the opening of a joint checking account, the establishment of credit (via purchase of a major item over time), the first invitation (as a couple) to a major social event, or the marriage ceremony itself. Two developmental plates can share the same marker event. The purchase of a new home may signal the emerging importance of both the first and second plate, as might the marriage ceremony. Spec ‘tic marker events are particularly important (and often stressful) precisely because they initiate a host of developmental tasks from two or more plates.
With the occurrence of social or economic marker events comes the public recognition that this union is the real thing. Whereas the forming of the couple in the first developmental plate is based on the intimate needs of the two partners, forming in this second plate is based primarily on externally-based needs and, demands Institutions, in particular, tend to view two people as a couple primarily for social and economic reasons, and require that two partners act as a couple, rather than as two distinct, autonomous individuals. These external constraints often help to bind a couple’s relationship. The expectations of other people often sustain a couple through difficult times when the more personal needs of the first developmental plate are no longer being met. The external demands of this second plate, unfortunately, will also hold a couple together in a destructive relationship long after divorce or separation should have taken place.
Forming: When Do We Pool Our Financial Resources?
When a couple get “serious” about their relationship, there is usually some addressing of the issue of breadwinning. Which of us will be expected to work outside the home in order to raising money and support part or all of the relationship? For many years in most Western (and many Eastern) cultures, this decision was almost automatic for middle-class, heterosexual couples. The husband worked outside the home, while his wife remained inside the home and didn’t hold down an outside job. More recently, this automatic decision has been rescinded in many relationships. Frequently, both partners work and both men and women are “allowed” to stay at home if they prefer and if their life style and sources of revenues allow for single-income financing. Though the househusband is still more likely to be a topic of Hollywood comedies and talk-shows than a widely accepted practice, it is becoming a viable option. Young couples must now make difficult decisions about breadwinning that reflect their priorities, life styles and ways in which they wish to find meaning in life.