Is Sandra and Jesse's Saga a Sign of Our Times?
I am haunted by the Sandra Bullock-Jesse James scandal, and I sincerely hope that it's a ridiculous rumor spread by desperate publicity seeker "Bombshell McGee." I'm afraid it does not bode well for us wives who are more successful than our husbands, and with the economy the way it is, our numbers are increasing.
Since this tattoo model started blabbing her painfully personal story to the tabloids (what kind of woman does that?) all sorts of speculation has been popping up about the "Oscar Curse," in which so many Best Actress winners split with their romantic partners within a year or two of receiving the award. The numbers are chilling: Eight of the last 12, including last year's Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe, Hillary Swank and Chad Lowe, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck, Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt, Halle Barry and Eric Benet and Helen Hunt and Hank Azaria.
Maybe that's just Hollywood talking. Maybe not. It's no secret that men have been hit harder than women by the recession. More men are staying at home while their wives go to work. In 2009, men lost about 4.75 million jobs, while women lost 1.66 million. One reason for this is that male-dominated sectors like manufacturing and construction were the hardest hit, while female-dominated sectors like health care and education were not as drastically affected. That means more and more men are having to sit idly by while their wives become the successful breadwinners in the family. Can their fragile egos take it?
I chatted with Sandra for a few minutes in January, and we talked about her happiness in the relationship. Seems we have a mutual family friend who can't say enough positive things about the couple and their genuine and down-to earth lifestyle. Until recently, when his personal Facebook page was removed, I was friends with Jesse, and was surprised at how personable and gracious he was online--never even remotely inappropriate with anyone. But then again, most of his Facebook friends don't have bodies that look like a cross between a coloring book and a mountain range.
I can't help but look at my own marriage. During the past two years of this recession, I've made substantially more money than my husband. I've published two successful books, and I've received a great deal of worldwide media attention. My husband, on the other hand, is a small business owner who has not been unscathed by the economic downturn. When profits are down, he docks his own salary rather than those of his employees, and he wouldn't dream of laying anyone off. As a matter of fact, there were a few months when he brought home nothing and had to dip into his own retirement savings in order to meet payroll. (Think about that, all you executive haters who believe all CEO's are evil and heedless of the plight of the humble employee.) Fortunately, the tide has turned in the last couple of months, and his business has become profitable again. How is he using those profits? To create more jobs for those those who have been harder hit.
I like to think we're lucky. My husband is a secure and conscientious man who is aware that much of my own success is dependent on his creative and moral support, and he takes great pride in my work. I'm always quick to acknowledge the fact that very little of what I've achieved would have been possible without him. Still, Sandra Bullock also acknowledged the support of her husband, and in very public ways. It's troubling.
As women, must we sacrifice our own success in order to keep our partners happy and faithful? Do we have to sacrifice a successful career for a successful marriage, and if so, why?
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Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want. Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets. Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.