New Trend: The Demise of the Trophy Wife

This is the latest dispatch from a battlefield where casualties are counted in the millions each year.

Most wars, including -- it's hoped -- the one in Iraq, end eventually. But this conflict thunders on and on and on throughout the centuries. The only things that change are the weapons, the tactics and the cost of losing a battle. It's the war of the sexes. And it has just taken another fascinating twist.

According to a newly published British-based economics study, the trophy wife -- that controversial symbol of success and prowess for men with money, also known as the domestic goddess -- could soon become a thing of the past.

David Blackaby, a professor of economics at Swansea University in South Wales, United Kingdom, told ABC News: "What we are seeing now is assorted mating, which is 'like' marrying 'like.' For example, get-up-and-go men are more inclined these days to marry get-up-and-go women. People are also marrying people from the same skill groups."

That means more and more men are marrying women with whom they have something basic, something postmodern, in common. They both earn salaries. So, according to the study, the gender pay gap is closing.

In the 1970s, according to the study, for every 1,000 hours worked, men were paid 45 percent more than women were. By the year 2002 women had narrowed the gap and men were, on average, making 25 percent more then their female counterparts. Also, by the 1980s, 50 percent of married women held salaried jobs, and by the mid '90s, 70 percent of married women had careers outside the home.

A Shift in the Balance

The study suggests there are fewer and fewer stay-at-home wives, and the ranks of those so-called trophy wives are getting thinner and thinner. The possible reasons for this may tell us something about the current state of the war of the sexes.

Blackaby told ABC News: "The reason for the change from the '80s is that women are taking advantage of less discrimination in the workplace. Family size has reduced, so women don't need as much time off for childbearing. And those who work continuously know that they can achieve pay equality if they don't take time off. Nannies are being employed, and the children are being sent to private schools."

ABC News spoke to Dan Church, 32, from Surrey, England. He co-founded the headhunter firm Hydrogen Group, and is married to Olivia Stockdale, who runs Iberian International, a property consultancy.

"When we both decided we were going to marry," said Church, "we were both headstrong in our careers, both independent. We both had our own lives. I think the key to our marriage is that we still have that independence. My wife and I can encourage each other and still have our own stuff to do outside the marriage. Because we both work, we also have a better lifestyle."

Both spouses working is also better for the economy, according to the study's lead researcher, Paul Carlin, a professor at Purdue University in Indiana. "The introduction of more women into the labor force has accounted for the productivity surge in the economy," he told ABC News. "Power couples have also resulted in more productivity in overall economic terms."

Better and more equitable job opportunities for women, and a higher family income, are some of the major reasons trophy wives are becoming scarce. There are other views on the decline of the trophy wife too, even if they are rooted more in emotion than statistics.

Watching Soaps, Eating Bonbons

Enter the toxic wife. It's a term used by Tara Winter Wilson, a freelance writer for the Daily Telegraph in London, who sides with men on an issue tailor-made to stir up emotions, righteousness and indignation on both sides.

Winter Wilson summed up her hypothesis: "Rich men … have finally cottoned on to the sinister side of the stay-at-home wife. Unless you marry an equal who's going to pay her own way, you will end up with a lazy, indulgent, overpampered slug, for the transition from trophy wife to toxic wife is as fast as the end result is furious."

Winter Wilson said she knew "many men of my age and acquaintance [who] have become deeply bitter and disappointed about how their wives have changed since they hung up their work clothes.

She spoke with one man who complained, "My wife … gives over the whole of the weekend to pursuing what she calls 'me time.' She goes to retreats, yoga mini-breaks, a spa, a health farm, even art classes … all of which I pay for, of course. What do I get back in return? Nothing."

So, going on testimony from Winter Wilson's male friends, fear of ending up with a toxic wife may also motivate some men to seek out self-supporting spouses these days. No statistics prove or disprove that thesis.

So how does it feel to be married to your equal, or perhaps your more than equal?

"Fantastic! It brings in a lot of money. It's wonderful," David Rosenblatt, a 44-year-old businessman from Liverpool, England, told ABC News. His wife, Carole, runs a spa. What's the secret to their marriage success? "It's a give and take," he said. "We are both busy, and it's important to find time for each other and for the family."

In any event, if, as the new study suggests, husbands and wives are getting closer and closer to equality at work and equality in their financial responsibilities, could the long running war of the sexes be nearing a ceasefire? Maybe. But don't hold your breath.

Additional reporting by Laura Westmacott, Laura, Roger Kaplinsky-Dwarika, Fabiola Antezana and Benjamin Barnier.