Last night, I stayed up late and Martin, one of my favorite shows from the 90s, was on. In this particular episode, Martin discovered that Gina made substantially more money than he did. And he was far from happy, to say the least.
In fact, when he found out that Gina made more money than he did, he sulked in his chair and asked to leave his apartment so he could be alone because his ego was bruised.
The interesting thing about this episode was that Gina did not flaunt the income gap that existed between the two of them. In fact, close to the end of the episode, she convinced Martin that he in fact made more money than she did if they were to look at their wages from an hourly perspective.
Even though I laughed throughout the whole episode, I was reminded that the existence of female breadwinners could create conflict in a committed relationship or marriage, and not just for men, but for both sides.
For the female breadwinner, especially if she is African-American, she may feel resentful. She may feel that in addition to having to do all of the traditional female roles like cooking and cleaning, she is also taking on the traditional male role by financially providing for the family. She may feel, “Why, then, did I get married if I am shouldering all of the responsibilities of being married, but not enjoying any of the benefits of marriage?”
On the other hand, the man married to the female breadwinner may feel like his manhood and position as a leader in the marriage is threatened because his financial contributions are not the largest.
If you find that you and your spouse are feeling disconnected because of the income gap in your marriage, think about the following.
You are on the same team. If you chose your spouse to be your “ride-or-die,” then what difference does it matter that one brings in more than the other? What should only matter is that the income is coming in. As a team with common goals and dreams, the more income you bring in will ensure that your family wins in the savings game, the investment game, and the homeownership game.
Different industries pay differently. Some female breadwinners may look down on their husbands because they equate their lower salary to laziness and lack of work ethic. This, however, is not true. Some industries and jobs have different starting salaries and different salary ceilings. Wouldn’t it be unfair for a female investment banker wife to get mad at her high school teacher husband about his pay size?
Get a second job. If the earning power of your wife is making you feel in some kind of way, consider getting another job. It may allay some of your anxiety around leadership and your masculinity.
Make each other feel good about what they contribute. Financial situations change. Your wife may be breadwinner now, but there may be a downturn in the field or a decision to stay home to take care of children. When financial roles reverse, it is important that each of you supported one another throughout your respective career curves and turns. If she was the breadwinner, a husband should be her cheerleader and best fan. Likewise, the female breadwinner should be thankful and appreciative of the fact that her husband goes to work every day. In short, make each other feel important and valued in how they contribute to the home.
Redefine traditional roles: It is common thinking that men are supposed to be providers. But what does that mean? Is providing only financial support? If your wife makes more money than it is obvious that she will not need that type of provision. But maybe she needs emotional and spiritual support.
Frugal Feministas—What are your thoughts about the impact of female breadwinning in a marriage?
Saving your money and budgeting correctly are two of the foundational tasks needed to take control of your finances. If you need additional support, I invite you to check out my budgeting course and my savings course.