Why women are told not to outshine their husbands

A couple arguing. (Courtesy/iStock)

A few years ago when I was still a teenager, I recounted to an older woman the things I wanted to do with my life before I got married. I was roughly 17 at the time and I remember saying that I wanted to have a car, to travel the world and to have a degree before I eventually settled into the family life of having a husband and potentially children.

It was a nice dream in my head but this woman said I would never find a husband if I scaled up to those heights before I found a husband. It was a very strange thing to hear at the time. I didn’t understand what it was about having a car or traveling that would diminish someone’s worth as a woman. Everyone around me, boys and girls alike, wanted the same big things. I didn’t imagine there was anything extraordinary about the things I wanted.

I have grown up now and what I notice with most men is that they have to be above their wives in terms of career, education, and material success. You can never outshine them. Masculinity crumbles into dust when it is not the dominant party in a relationship.

In one of the political thrillers I watch on Netflix called Borgen, the marriage of Denmark’s first female prime minister ends because of her job as the leader. Her fictional husband gets tired of taking care of the house and the children and shortly after, he starts cheating on her to feel better about himself. Men in power do not struggle with marriage in that sense. Their wives always know their place and they are often grateful to be in that place in a way men are never.

In this fictional world of political thrillers that is so similar to the real world, had the man been the prime minister and the woman the stay at home parent, the marriage would have probably worked. Men are socialised to be leaders and winners in life. They are not socialised to be stay at home parents or subservient partners. That is our forte as women. It is us, women, who are always supposed to diminish ourselves for the sake of the relationship.

A while back a friend of mine told me that her relationship started failing when she finished her degree and got employed. Every time she raised an issue with the man, he would start taunting her, asking if it was the small money she had started earning that was making her head swell with audacity.

Men stubbornly claim that women leave them when they lose their jobs but the truth is men become insufferable when they are not achieving. Their egos become threatened and most of the time, they start abusing you because they feel the need to cut you down to size.

While we say that financial independence curbs domestic violence and intimate partner violence, being financially independent can invite abuse into your life too. If you marry an egocentric underachiever there will be emotional, financial, and even physical abuse because he will try to invent ways to keep you in your place each time you succeed in the things you do.

For instance, you will get a promotion and he will abuse you verbally to diminish your self esteem because he can’t measure up. You will be successful at work but he will make sure you live a life where you walk on eggshells in what is supposed to be your home. I have heard of educated women who are beaten up because they were degrading the man by speaking too much English. English is never the problem. The problem is always a man who is out to establish his dominance in a situation that is robbing him of it.

An overly educated man never has to worry about how he speaks even when he is married to a woman who has never gone to school because women are taught to cheer for their husbands success. The quote is, “Behind every successful man there is a woman,” and not vice versa and that should tell you that the world never imagined women as anything more than cheerleaders.

The Bible itself calls a woman the helper, and the man the head. It is probably why we must never be better than the men we marry. Achieve but do not achieve what can threaten your husband’s ego. Be good but do not be better than him. Have money but make sure it is less than his.



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