This qualitative study explores the views of 43 ultrapoor women heads of household to highlight the significance of male guardianship in the context of legal ordinances and modernizing trends in Bangladesh. Widows described how the absence of a husband led to shaming and stigmatization while the presence of a non-provider husband as guardian, despite a drain on household resources, was seen as desirable. Abandoned and divorced wives revealed that the husband and his lineage severed all relationships with their children, a finding that scholars have yet to explore in the Bangladesh context. Norms, both legal and cultural, shape women's preference for a male guardian but their experiences also lead to their questioning of the guardian role. Future work should be directed at understanding why ultrapoor men walk away from traditional roles, while legal reforms and social policies are needed to address the vulnerabilities of abandoned women and children.