Must Husbands and Wives Have Equal Status?

Young couple looking at new cars

I ask this question in terms of what type of car they’re driving. At first mention, it may sound silly or juvenile, but hear me out.

I was with family during the Thanksgiving holiday and an interesting topic of equality in marriage arose. Let me give you some background information:

My cousin recently graduated law school and is studying to take the bar exam. She drives a 2008 Honda Civic, which she purchased brand new and is almost finished paying off.

Her husband works as a manager in the finance department of a Fortune 500 company. He recently (like in the last two years) got a brand new BMW. He previously owned a Honda Accord, but as it began to break down and his income began to increase, he told his wife that if he was going to have a car payment, it had to be “for something I really want.”

I can understand that. So, you may be asking, What’s the problem?

Well, apparently, like finances, disagreements and all other things that can be disruptive, this new car started to play a major (and unwanted) role in their marriage.

The BMW kind of went to the husband’s head (so my cousin says), causing him to act in a manner she felt was being superior. He’d say things like “my car” and wouldn’t allow her to drive it at first. He, like any man I’m sure, was very possessive, careful and proud of his “new baby.”

So now the wife (who was in law school at this time) begins to feel some sort of way about this new car and its negative imapact on her husband’s attitude. Here we have a law student who dramatically decreased her income to pursue her degree and is still driving around her hail-damaged Honda Civic. And her husband who’s now making enough money to swap his Honda for beamer. She thought the car had opened his eyes to some sorta’ false sense of success and status, but soon enough, she realized he wasn’t the only one.

Not too long after having the BMW, people began to bring the fact that she didn’t have a BMW or “equal type of car” to her attention.

Case in point:
When meeting her husband at his job for lunch one day, the VP of Finance (and her hubby’s boss) approached her in the parking lot.

“Is this your car?” he asked. My cousin nodded yes.
“Aren’t you a princess?” he questioned. “Shouldn’t you be driving a car worthy of a princess?” And he pointed to one of the many luxury cars lining the parking lot. My cousin said she laughed it off, telling him one day after law school she would upgrade.

But secretly, this, along with so many other comments, was subconsciously eating away at her. Now everywhere she went she’d notice how wives had “equal” cars to their husbands. The “level” of her friends’ cars paralleled their husbands just like all the women’s in her neighborhood. When her husband met with the owner of the new house they were about to rent, he noticed the BMW and commented, “Oh, very nice car. So, your wife must have C-Class coupe, right?”

My cousins are on the verge of welcoming a new addition to their family. And as family and friends talked about her needing a larger car now for the children, even I noticed that everyone automatically assumed that her husband would be getting her a Lexus LX or a BMW X3.

As a matter of fact, each time one of her law buddies visits, she asks my cousin’s husband when is he getting her a luxury car—automatically assuming that now that he’s “riding in luxury,” my cousin should be as well.

The entire wife-husband equality concept is very interesting to me. I had to ask my cousin, “Is the kind of car you drive in relation to your husband’s really that big of a deal?”

She admitted that she initially wouldn’t have thought so if people and circumstances didn’t constantly make a mountain out of that ‘car-hill’. But she also explained how this has opened her eyes to equality in marriage.

“You predominantly see this equality among wealthy white couples,” she explained. In the “upper echelon” of society, if a white man is driving a Mercedes Benz, his wife is pushing the same—just in a different color. Or his wife is driving a car that reflects the “status” of her husband’s. Their vehicles show an equal, united front. The husband is not on a certain “level” driving a Benz while the wife rolls around in a Ford Focus.

And more than “oh, look at my fancy cars and my wealth,” ensuring that the wife has an equal-status vehicle demonstrates how the husband views his wife. If driving a Range Rover equates luxury and class to him, he wants to make sure his wife has (and represents) the same.


My cousin has always said she’s grateful for her car, despite its seemingly “lower” status. And to remind us that one man’s trash is always another man’s treasure, she told me how once she stopped in Taco Bell and the cashier was overcome with joy, telling her how my cousin’s hail-damaged, 5-year-old Honda civic was her dream car.

Sure, she could’ve easily used that situation as another reason why people view the status of her car unequally compared to her husband’s, but she instead chose to be humbled.

Is this equal-cars-in-marriage notion too deep, sistas? Are cars just cars, and it doesn’t matter what you and the hubby drive, just as long as you’re mobile? Or can it truly signify more than that, especially the higher up you go in income?
I’m curious to see if other women have dealt with this issue, because although at first mention it seemed ridiculous to me, as time has passed I can really see how this theory coupled with others’ “not equal” reinforcements can play on a woman’s psyche.
Service is her passion, writing is her platform, uplifting women and the Black Community is her purpose. Shala Marks is a writer, editor and soon-to-be author. Through her work, Marks aspires to demonstrate “The Craft of Writing, and the Art of Efficacy.” She has a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Connect with her at:


  1. Your cousin needs to realize that she is on the “come up” and will get her’s in due time. Her husband is already there. She should be proud of her man not try and find a way to compete. This is so stupid to worry about. Men are crazy when it comes to their ride your cousin is being very materialistic and it’s a waste of energy to focus on. If you want equally then work hard and get it yourself. Her husband may enjoy the fact that she did not fold and to get a vehicle she could not afford. Don’t compare your situation to pampered white women who probably gave up all independence to be taken care of.

  2. Don’t worry. We are all learning to be blessed and stay in our own lane. It is a process. They might have the fancy stuff but the debt to go along with it. Many are living off credit cards or have a fancy house but not one sofa to sit on. Save your money. If your hubby gets laid off then what? You live in your means. Both of you should be able to hand all bills if the other gets laid off. Just careful and SAVE.

  3. Good essay Shala!

    The issue here and with many people all together is the concern of visual “status” and the material things we feel we need to have in order to impress society. Your cousin is working to achieve her goal and that is what’s important. Let’s say when she finalizes her law degree, starts making the big dollars, and she wants to just buy a new Honda because that’s what she likes. Does that still make her “status” less than her husband’s?? People must realize trying to “Keep up with the Jones” has a hell of a price and can limit you in doing the things you are passionate about. People tease me all the time because my kids and I live in a small condo and say I should be in a bigger house. But my kids and I love to travel and attend various sporting events, Broadway plays, etc, etc. Within the past 20 months we have attended Wrestlemania 28, SummerSlam 2012 & 13′, an NBA Finals game, World Series game, 2 UFC events in Vegas, and various other events. Many of the same folks who tease me turned around and asked “How can you afford to take them to all those events?” I tell them “It’s simple, I can afford it because I’m not putting all my money into a big house, fancy cars, and a bunch of designer clothes and materials like you are” My point is equality doesn’t equate to what you spend and trying to impress others. In your cousin’s case she needs to focus on making her $$$$$, do what makes her happy, and get what she wants instead of worrying about what others think/say. It’s just unfortunate her hubby is all into that BS.

  4. I can empathize with your cousin- I think when we read about a situation it’s easy to criticize, but the fact is we are all human, and have our ego and pride.

    I think that the talk of ‘status’ is a red herring here- the issue is that she probably doesn’t feel as valued, or a valuable asset in the relationship with her being in school, and he making the money.

    She doesn’t ‘need’ a new car, but maybe her husband should do something to show how much he appreciates her. I think that when women (and men!) feel appreciated for what they are doing they tend to not have insecurity issues.

    Just my 2 cents.

    OLDPOPEYESALT- You guys have it going on !! Don’t listen to the naysyers!

  5. Wait a minute @COCOEL “a fancy house and not one sofa to sit on ” LMFAO that is so true. Don’t know how many times I’ve gone to someone ‘so house and been like mmmhhh.

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