Superiority Complex: Is this the State of the Marital Union?

September 14, 2009 | NeW Staff

Apparently, women are suffering from superiority complexes.  Author and self-proclaimed “superior wife,” Carin Rubenstein, has an interesting theory on the state of modern marriage, which she discusses in her new book, The Superior Wife Syndrome.  She describes women who do too much in a marriage as feeling disdainfully superior to their husbands, and as a result, marriages have become less bearable and more fragile.  Rubenstein defines a superior wife as a

“woman who does almost everything better than her husband—and not because she’s smarter or better or [edit]—but because it’s her default position.”

Her book is replete with smug accounts of wives who think they do it all, from doing household chores to managing finances to earning income to rearing children, and do it better than their husbands.  It’s no surprise that according to Rubenstein’s findings, the “superior wife syndrome” is more likely to afflict families in which both spouses work.  Working wives are taking on every task, complaining that their husbands don’t do enough, all while keeping score.  


Mercifully, the author encourages women to be “nonsuperior wives.”  Rubenstein found that two types of marriages avoid this superiority:  the truly traditional marriage and the extremely egalitarian marriage.  She goes as far as to say,

“The secret to non-superiority is for both partners to buy into the man-as-breadwinner, wife-as-homemaker plan, wholeheartedly and without reservation.”

Did she just champion the truly traditional marriage?  Not exactly.  Rubenstein goes on to argue for the egalitarian marriage, because she says, 

“[Traditional marriage] is not to a woman’s benefit, since it guarantees her a lifetime of subservience and inferiority.”

The author argues for a marriage where both spouses work, and share equally in household chores and child rearing.  This egalitarian arrangement, however, seems to be the reason why there is “superior wife syndrome.”  The modern marriage is a failed attempt at the egalitarian marriage.  Her preference for egalitarian marriages over traditional marriages is ultimately poorly supported. The author has no actual evidence or personal accounts of traditional marriages giving wives inferiority complexes.  On the contrary, the traditional marriages documented in her book are fulfilling, happy unions.  She has unintentionally declared the state of the modern marriage as faulty and failing, and the state of the traditional marriage as sound, strong, and satisfying. 

When I think of husband, I think of the unequivocal head of the family.  When I think of wife, I think of her as the husband’s helpmate and housekeeper and child-rearer.  As a conservative woman, I see marriage as a highly collaborative union, with each spouse having equally important but very different roles in the family.  I personally don’t want to think of my husband as my inferior or my equal, but as my collaborator in this life.  It is important to recognize that husbands and wives make different contributions and different sacrifices for the family.  And husband and wife should be grateful for those contributions and sacrifices, and not seek approbation for them.  I believe women will find that not only is virtue is its own reward, but also its own affirmation.                                           



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