More than a man

When Women Earn More Than Men

Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board — By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. on May 17, 2016

Almost a third of working women nationwide now out-earn their husbands. It was inevitable, really. With more women than men going to college, with women taking less time out from careers to raise children, with more women choosing careers that only a few years ago were the province of men, better jobs and better money have become available to them.

There are no “rules” for managing this change. At the present time, every couple in which the woman is the primary wage earner is very much on its own, inventing a family life that is radically different from that which they knew growing up. Often, the partners are surprised to find that each clings to their “traditional” role, even when such roles are no longer practical or even humane; a woman who puts in a 13-hour day at the office simply can’t come home and do the laundry too.

And yet, redistributing roles and responsibilities in a family is not as simple as saying, “you take out the garbage, I’ll sweep the floor. ” It often gets down to people’s core beliefs about who they are and what they need to be doing to be a real grown-up man or woman. The reactions people have to such things are often distressingly irrational, even to themselves!

People who study relationships are, of course, studying this phenomenon as well. They are finding that, although men with working wives are taking on more housework than ever before, they still lag behind by five hours a week! In families where there are children, the gap is even wider, with women spending 17 more hours per week doing childcare and home chores.

It is only when a woman’s paycheck approaches an equal dollar amount to her husband’s that the husband pitches in more. Curiously, some researchers have found that once a wife’s income is actually greater than her husband’s, he tends to be less and less involved at home and that couples are more likely to reassert traditional roles if the balance between earning power is tipped too much toward the woman. Perhaps women still need to think that they can rely on men to take care of them. Perhaps men need to feel that they are still the “head of household” to feel like a man. The issue merits further study.

Whatever the reasons, if you are the first couple in your family’s history in which the woman out-earns the man, here are some tips to give you a hand:

  1. Remember that you are pioneers. Few people have been raised in families where Mom out-earned Dad or where Mom was a CEO while Dad stayed home with the kids. As a matter of fact, most people presently in the work force were raised in families where Dad not only made most of the money but also made most of the important decisions. It’s true that a man’s ability to single-handedly support his family was a point of pride a generation ago. It is also true that a perk that came with making the money was an assumption that the husband therefore had the right to a greater say in family life. However unhappy people were with the arrangement, there was a certain sense that Dad was supposed to be the head of the household and everyone else’s roles fell into line behind his.

    Not so today. Even the most entrenched traditionalist knows, on some level, that such rigid ideas about who does what have to be reconsidered when the woman is slugging it out in the workplace just like her spouse. As a culture, we’re still working this out.

  2. Keep in mind that the workload, not the players, is the problem. The most important attitude for a couple to maintain in this situation is that they are in it together. The problem is trying to manage the crushing load of two jobs, two kids, and a mountain of laundry. The problem is not who is making what salary. Work together to figure out what needs to get done each week to keep the children safe and happy and the household orderly and running smoothly. Get beyond what each of you thinks the other should be doing and focus on how you both will get everything done in a way that is fair to everyone.
  3. Keep money out of chore talk. Face it — it doesn’t matter if one partner is making $22,000 a year and the other is making $220,000. You are both working and you are both putting in 40-plus hours each week to get your paychecks. Hopefully, you are both doing something that matters to you. Probably neither one has more free time than the other.
  4. Keep talking! These problems don’t get solved in a single conversation. Nor can you assume that the distribution of household chores, money, and decision-making power will just work itself out on its own. These issues are fraught with emotion. Each partner is consciously dealing with old role models, their own and their parents’ expectations for what it means to be successful, and their own and generations’ worth of opinions about what it means to be a real man or a real woman. This isn’t easy stuff. And it often comes out in frankly weird ways. You may think you are only talking about who is going to stay home with Junior, who has the chickenpox. But if the discussion gets heated, it becomes a forum for who is the better parent, who cares more, who has the less important job, or who is indispensable at work. Take a deep breath and try to own up to those more complicated feelings. Partners need to be friends who provide comfort and support as they both explore such deep and emotional territory.
  5. Talk about financial decision-making. In prior generations, moneymaking dictated who would make financial decisions. Pioneering couples need to discuss how financial decisions will be made — preferably when there is no pressing decision on the table. Talk about how decisions were made in your own family of origin and the consequences of this approach. Take the time to outline some policy decisions about who has say about what kinds of decisions and about what kinds of dollar amounts. What money belongs to whom? What bank accounts do you need? Who has access to what funds? How are bills to be paid? What kinds of decisions are left up to the individual and which need to be discussed by the couple? Again, if the discussion gets emotional, know that you aren’t talking about finances anymore. You are talking about much deeper issues.
  6. Don’t hesitate to get professional help. It is indeed very sad when money issues erode what is otherwise a good relationship. Good relationships are certainly hard enough to find. Know that the issues around money and power are old and deep for most people. If you find yourselves getting into repeated and heated arguments about money, decisions, and household tasks, don’t leap to the conclusion that the problem is your partner (See Tip #2). You may need an objective counselor to help you sort out the feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that you each bring to the situation. A good therapist can help you get back on the same team.

Statistics Show Divorce is More Likely When a Woman Makes More Than a Man

There are several reasons married couples choose to divorce. Statistically, divorce is more likely if a woman earns more money than her husband. According to data from Pew Research Center,  60% of college graduates are women, and nearly half of them marry men without a college degree. Additionally, a study from the University of Chicago reveals that divorce rates rise 50% when the wife earns more than her husband, especially among younger married couples. For decades, husbands have been the primary or sole financial provider for families, and the swift change in this dynamic over the past 20 years has yet to see our social dynamic alter to compensate for this shift.

This reality does not have to be grim, though. Close to 50% of marriages in this demographic report being “happily married.” Being married to a woman breadwinner is not an automatic route toward divorce. Here are some tips for keeping a healthy marriage.

Communication is Key

Every marriage is unique; there are no cookie-cutter answers to navigate these shifting roles in today’s marriage climate. However, there are ways to ensure a marriage with a woman breadwinner does not lead to divorce. Communication, humility, emotional intelligence, and empathy are all fundamental aspects in building a solid foundation of any marriage but are vitally important when the traditional gender roles are swapped. Without these fundamentals, resentment on either side can grow and foster an unhealthy environment that could lead to divorce. As with everything in marriage, talk to your spouse, and understand their goals, needs, and desires.

Keep Your Business and Work Separate

Married couples will always be versed in their spouse’s work/business stressors; however, allowing those stressors to dictate the emotional tone of a marriage is detrimental to a healthy union. Keep your spouse informed, but do not let it become a focal point of the marriage.

Be Willing to Shift Roles

If the breadwinner of the household is the woman, then their traditional role cannot be the same as it was for previous generations. Men in these situations must be willing to adapt their role in a marriage to provide emotional and domestic stability. The days where this was solely the wife’s role are dwindling, and without establishing new roles between each other, your marriage is bound to be troublesome. Swapping these gender dynamics may be awkward, but maintaining respect and showing a willingness to strengthen your marriage will go a long way.

As a family law attorney for 25 years, I’ve seen the full gamut of marriages and divorces. These tips can be helpful in maintaining a healthy and happy marriage. However, sometimes a marriage becomes irreparable, and if that is the case, there are several ways, such as mediation, to amicably split without exacerbating damaged feelings or awkward circumstances. If you feel your marriage is nearing this breaking point, contact your family law attorney to gauge the best options available for your situation.

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How not to be afraid to earn more than a man

Previously, a man was perceived as the main earner in the family, and a woman as a fragile keeper of the hearth. But times are changing, and today we understand that roles and models in relationships can be different. Kate Dennis talked about how to overcome stereotypes and come to your real self.



Conscious Personal Growth Expert, Business Coach


Demotivating attitudes about money often accompany us from childhood. “A girl does not have to earn money on her own - the main thing is to get married successfully,” mothers tell their daughters. “You cannot claim the same salary as a man, he still has a family to support, and not just pantyhose,” we hear when we get our first job.

"Women's" career and "women's" money have been a taboo topic until recently. Recognition to your friends or parents that you dream of the success of Sheryl Sandberg, who is called the first person on Facebook (The social network is recognized as extremist and banned in the Russian Federation) after Mark Zuckerberg, or that you earn more than a partner, could cause a scale of comments from the category: " Yes, you are a man in a skirt.” nine0003

It's interesting, but for ten online trainings on "How to attract and keep a wealthy man" there is one on how to pump up your own financial capacity and build a career. This is understandable - in our cultural context, women still seem to be afraid of earning more than a man.

If we look at the statistics, in Russia approximately every fifth couple breaks up because the income of a woman is higher than that of a man. Why? Because a man should be more successful, taller and stronger than a woman. This is how it happened historically. So it's easier to understand. It's more familiar to society. The stereotype about the getter periodically strengthens or weakens, but in general does not change too much, and when asked who should kill and bring the mammoth to the fire, most answer: "Of course, a man." nine0003

Why is it so scary to make money on your own? And it's very scary! It’s scary to suddenly wake up and realize that you needed a man only to close financial issues, screw on a light bulb and have sex on Saturdays. And here the personal drama begins, because you need to find new points of contact with yourself and the man: interests, values ​​and the answer to the deep question: "Why do I really love him?".


The second fear is associated with the condemnation of society: “What will my mother say?”, “How will they look at me in a restaurant if I pay for dinner myself?”. One of my acquaintances earns significantly more than her husband, while she is still uncomfortable getting a credit card in a cafe under the inquiring gaze of a waiter, and she always passes it to her husband under the table. "Are you paying for two?" sounds like an accusation that you are not a woman.

And then it becomes unbearably scary to be different from everyone else, to be bad. The Good Girl Syndrome can be very detrimental to earnings growth—to some extent, it paralyzes action and the ability to make money. In other words, it blocks the financial flow. We seem to be giving it up in order to remain good. nine0003

I myself, or How to overcome fears

There is good news: this problem can be dealt with. Remember that fear is a normal psychological reaction of the body, the purpose of which is to reduce the risk of danger. In this way, we avoid innovation, leaving our comfort zone, and sometimes the opportunity to increase our income. To begin living your life in a new way, you can start with the following steps:

Step #1

Answer yourself honestly to the question: “What is money for me?”. Perhaps you associate finance with security or freedom, or perhaps you think that money is danger and anxiety. Just write down everything that comes to mind. This will give you an understanding of what exactly you are striving for and what exactly you are afraid of. Mindfulness is half the battle. nine0003

Step #2

Separate the social context of money from the personal one. What does the phrase “I myself” mean to you? What emotions and feelings do you experience when you say it out loud? Is there anger or joy? You can be a super business lady or a top manager as much as you like, but if this phrase does not make you proud, this may indicate a psychological block that is better to work out with a specialist. Only when we have self-reliance can we be truly in touch with money, our potential, and life in general. nine0003

Step #3

Dream big - as if you were already earning a lot. See what becomes valuable to you when the focus shifts from money. Try to expand your self-image and give yourself the opportunity to know yourself anew every day.

A woman ceases to be afraid to earn more than a man when money ceases to be the determining factor. When she is in contact with herself, her "female" money, and her partner. They say that behind every successful man there is a woman, and so, behind every successful woman, in my opinion, there is a man. As a couple, we are stronger. And when we shift the focus of attention from money to feelings, common interests, hobbies, then suddenly it ceases to be so important whose income is more - his or her. nine0003

Who should earn more: a woman or a man?

The concept of relationships is changing. Increasingly, gender roles are distributed in unusual ways. What should a man do if his wife becomes the breadwinner of the family?

One day the Collinses were invited to a dinner party. One of the guests was a respectable and elderly man who spoke directly and rather sharply about what "men's work" is. He stated that the main earner in the family should be a man. Surely he successfully copes with the role of the breadwinner. nine0003

Susie and Heath disagree with him. In their family, the situation is different. They have been married for over ten years, during which time Susie has always outnumbered her husband in terms of income. 18 months ago, Heath made the decision to step down from his job, ending a ten-year career in finance, to start working for his wife as chief operating officer at her company Susie Moore is a successful columnist and personal growth coach.

This situation will seem familiar to some, but non-standard to others. Heath himself believes that the traditional notion of gender roles leaves out several important points. nine0003

Women are more concerned about how their spouse feels about their earning more than the fact that their income is higher than that of their husband. Therefore, if this situation does not bother you and you are comfortable, then it will suit everyone

becomes less of a man. But belittling her merits, not providing proper support and not sharing the joy for her successes, in order to spare his ego, a man definitely turns into a representative of the weaker sex. nine0003

Suppose you make $100,000 a year and are married to a woman who makes $200,000. Then you get divorced, meet another woman who makes $50,000 or doesn't work at all, and marry her. Are you feeling better? Do you feel more like a man now than before? Of course not. Masculinity is not determined by income and does not depend on status. Especially in an unstable economic situation, when at any moment you can be out of work. Having or not having a job should not affect your personality. nine0003

2. Be bolder in your career

When both spouses are breadwinners, you are not solely responsible for family income. This means that one of the spouses can afford to take risky actions in the professional field. For example, start talking about a promotion, a new position, change a field, industry or company. Under such circumstances, you can afford to do what you really like, or not rush into a new job, but continue to search for a suitable option. nine3. Marriage is an equal union .

My colleagues made sure to regularly remind me of my wife's progress. Each time they celebrated and commented on her victories with the words "It's so great", "She's so good." Pressure from others on a man exposes him to economic stress. Emotions prevent a man from properly maintaining his wife's career. nine0003

I have always shared my wife's successes and rejoiced in her victories as if they were my own. How else? We go through life together, enjoy the material things we have, and keep a common budget. At the same time, we equally share important expenses, such as mortgage payments and other obligations. When we relax or go to a restaurant, I don't order dishes only from the lunch menu, but she has à la carte lobster.

4. If it suits you, so does everyone else

In my opinion, women are more concerned about how their spouse feels about the fact that they earn more than the fact that their income is higher than that of their husband. Therefore, if this situation does not bother you and you are comfortable, then it will suit everyone. Taking care of a loved one comes down to much more than just income.

Some men are intimidated by the new relationship paradigm. It goes against their worldview. Therefore, they try to hide behind the role of the earner, covering their complexes with the fact that they are very busy making money

Ken Blackman, relationship expert, says that a woman always hopes and strives to find a reliable provider in a man, but this approach has never been a guarantee of a long happy union.

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