In this week’s New York magazine there is a gossipy article about Patricia Cohen , the ex-wife of hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen, and her accusations that Steve hid assets from her at the time of their divorce. This is the second piece in the past month about the ex-wives of Wall Streeters-see ” Lehman’s Desperate Housewives ” from the April issue of Vanity Fair . Now that the economy has tanked, these articles about the unhappy culture surrounding Wall Streeters are commonplace. What emerges from this particular pair of articles is an utterly predictable and unsettling portrait of what it’s like to be married to a high-powered executive. Which is to say: It’s not so good.
The Cohens divorced in large part because Steve’s work was his life. According to the New York article, “His moods would swing up and down with the Dow. ‘He used to come home beat-up, impatient, at the end of his wits,’ Patricia says, and then take it out on her. ‘He could be demanding, hypercritical, and a screamer; if he had a bad day, he’d explode.’ ” It goes without saying that his time spent with the kids was limited. And so it was with the “desperate housewives” of Lehman Bros. Karin Jack, wife of former Lehman C.O.O. Bradley Jack, tells this story:
“I knew the culture,” she says, “so I knew he couldn’t come home if there was an important meeting. I was in labor with our daughter and had to lie there without him & but I wouldn’t get mad at him-he had called the entire Hong Kong office in for a meeting. We knew that it would have been used against him. If you made a personal choice that hurt Lehman, it was over for you.”
This is the life that women sign on for when they marry men who have these sorts of jobs. The New York article notes that Steve Cohen’s new wife “takes care of her man. She doesn’t complain that he works too much; she lauds his devotion to their kids. If he has a bad day at work, she cooks his favorite meal, pasta with anchovies.” If you want an egalitarian companionate marriage, you can’t marry a CEO.
Photograph of women by Joe Raedle/Getty Images News.