Years ago, it was just about impossible for a wife to earn more than her husband, but times have changed. In fact, some estimates show that nearly one-third of wives earn more than their husbands.
There are many reasons for this, including more women attending college while fewer men are enrolling in college. Additionally, women are taking less time off work to raise children. Finally, jobs that were often filled by men are now opening up to women, and these jobs often pay more too. Over the past three decades, we’ve seen this shift.
#1 This is a fairly new phenomenon
While many people feel more comfortable with the “traditional” role of the husband being the main breadwinner, how people view these roles is beginning to change. For more traditional couples, the idea of the wife making more money than the husband can be awkward or distressing. Less traditional couples are embracing this role change and learning how to adjust to it.
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Regardless, women making more money than men is fairly new, so don’t be surprised if people don’t quite know how to handle it if your husband makes less money than you do. Realize that changes in thinking and expectations take time, so be patient in the process.
#2 Realize that some men can feel less of a man if they earn less
It’s not uncommon for a couple to struggle a bit relationally if the wife earns more than her husband. Traditional roles of the wife taking care of the children and household are challenged if she’s working outside the home and doing very well or better than her husband. Husbands can feel frustrated that they aren’t making more and perhaps even feel a bit resentful toward their wives.
Some men can feel threatened by their wives’ growing earning power; they can feel as though they are no longer the heads of their households and that they are less of a man because they’re earning less than their wives. This is something wives need to be aware of and couples need to work through. At the same time, men may need to “check their egos at the door” and just let it go, realizing that how much they make doesn’t define them.
On the other hand, some men feel a sense of relief and less pressure to make the big bucks when their wives are earning so well. Husbands may genuinely feel proud of their wives for being so successful.
Either way, each person needs to be honest about his or her own feelings. Couples need to be aware of the possible tension or strain in their relationship due to the woman earning more than the man, and they shouldn’t wait too long before seeking professional help to deal with their feelings about it. After all, this is becoming more and more common, so it’s not unusual when a couple needs help dealing with the feelings, expectations, and challenges this situation brings.
And remember, having fun is a great way to handle friction in a relationship. Instead of focusing on what’s causing stress in the relationship, take time to enjoy and appreciate each other.
#3 Communication is the key
Stay connected and set aside time to talk together. Without judgment, listen to how your partner feels and acknowledge those feelings. If your husband had an unexpected job loss, he’ll need your understanding and patience as he looks for a new job.
It’s not unusual for men to connect their value and self-worth with their job or financial success.
If your husband feels like he’s failing as a man because you’re earning more than he is, recognize his struggle and empathize with him. Don’t tell him he’s wrong for feeling that way.
If your husband prefers a less stressful job that pays less because you’re earning more, hear him out and discuss the details of what that would mean for your family’s finances. Take the time to communicate about your hopes, dreams, and struggles openly so you can make a plan together.
If your husband works fewer hours than you do, it may be time to talk about reassigning traditional household and childcare duties. Typically, the wife carries much of the household load, but if she’s working more hours or her career is more demanding, then talk about the husband stepping up and contributing more at home. Remember, you’re in this together; it doesn’t matter who does what as long as it gets done.
#4 Work together on your finances
It’s important to have a mind-set of teamwork when it comes to the family finances. Remember that you’re on the same team, and you’re working together to support and take care of the family. Does it really matter if the wife makes more than the husband or vice versa? Does it really matter who has better benefits? No.
What matters is that you make financial decisions together with your family’s best interests in mind.
No one wants to feel like what they do doesn’t matter, but that’s how husbands can feel when their wives earn more than they do. So make sure that when you sit down to plan out your budget that the husband can see how his income is contributing to the family’s needs. Consider designating portions of the husband’s income toward vacations or a renovation project so that he can enjoy the fruit of his labor, so to speak.
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#5 Divide and conquer
Instead of seeing it as a bad thing that you make more money than your husband, see it as a way to help your family get ahead. Divide and conquer by living off one income while saving for retirement, travel, or investments with the other income. For example, if you make $150,000 per year and your husband makes $40,000 per year, after taxes (assuming 25%), you would have $30,000 of your husband’s income left over. If you live off your income and save your husband’s income, in 10 years you would have $300,000 saved!
As you can see, this would require some discipline to save one entire income, but if you work as a team and work smart, you can really set yourselves up for a great financial future, no matter who’s making more money.