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October 16, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT

Does it Matter Who is the Breadwinner in the Family?

October 16, 2014 02:55 by Casey Truffo, LMFT

In today's world, as compared to 40 or 50 years ago, husbands are much more accepting of their wives being professionals and making money by working outside of the home.  Gone are the days when men believed their wives should be home raising the kids and taking care of the house.  Fast forward 30 to 40 years to the adult lives of those children who were at home with mom while dad was at work.  There are still some men who think they should be the breadwinner in their family and that their wives should be home raising their children or working only part-time hours!  These thoughts are due to the beliefs instilled into these men when they were young.  They were home with their mothers while their fathers were working.

2014's Man

Today's "society" men, however, are accustomed to women being in the working world, whether they work in construction, truck driving, the office, or the corporate world.  Today's men are even okay with the fact that many women out there make more money than they make; however, many of them admit they just don't want one of those women to be their wife!

Some men never even look at the household finances, so they have no idea about salaries.  Some only realize their wives make more money than they do when money issues arise at home or an unexpected expense arises, forcing them to sit down with their wives and figure out a plan to get back on track. 

Here are some general known facts.  The gender gap between men and women is still very real.  Women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men make.  However, the number of women breadwinners in the world is on the rise.  A little less than half of American breadwinners are mothers and wives, who make more than their husbands make. 

So, why is it that some men have a problem having a wife who makes more money? 

Some say it is because husbands have lower self-esteem, are set in their ways, are less motivated, or are less educated than their wives.  Others say it is just a male ego thing and men feel inadequate if they are not the breadwinners in the family.  It's true that many women are waiting to even consider having children until they have obtained their college degrees and have their careers in place.  Some women are choosing not to have children at all so that they can continue to climb in the corporate/professional ladder in their fields.

A lot of middle-aged women are on the rise to becoming breadwinner in their families.  This rise often causes much tension in their marriages.  This is especially true if earlier in life the husband was the breadwinner.  Many of these middle-aged couples end up in counseling because the wives' earning and promotion potential is causing stress and strain on their relationships.

So what can you do?

●     First, don't apologize for making the money you make.  Be proud of what you've accomplished in your professional life, and accept the fact that you are now the breadwinner in your family.

●     Be honest about your feelings about the situation.  You may feel that your husband should earn more money than you earn.  Accept your feelings, whatever they are, in order to stop resentment in your marriage.

 ●     Get to the bottom of your frustrations.  Do you think your husband is a slacker or needs to be doing more to make more money?  Do you think your husband is just fine where he is in the working world?  What exactly does your husband think you should do in addition to being the breadwinner?

 ●     Make yourself see things from your husband's point of view before sitting down for a conversation about the topic.  Doing this will allow you to see things from his view.

 ●     Set aside time to talk about your issues with your husband and convey a positive attitude.  The goal is to make money as a couple, as a team, not to worry about who makes more money.

 ●     Talk about your expectations of each other.  If your husband's income is lacking, maybe he could do more around the house or take care of your children.  There's more to a marriage than just financial issues.  The important thing is that the needs of families are met.

 ●     Remember to do fun things together that you enjoy as a couple.  This will ease tension as well.  Do not participate in arguments about this topic.

The bottom line is to not let money issues destroy your marriage. 

Instead, use the money ("the", not "your" or "his" or "her") for what is needed to support your family.  It doesn't matter where it came from and who earned it.  If something needs to be done, get it done without thought to whose money is paying for it or who made the money to pay for it.  The family money is yours and your spouse's money. 

Yes, it does happen.  Sometimes the wives who make more money let it go to their heads and start behaving differently, and acting as the alpha in the relationship.  Do not convert to this type of person.  Instead, try to keep things in balance.  Never let your job come before your family or your marital obligations.  If your husband is doing things to upset you, talk about the issues. 

Husbands should not feel insecure or resentful towards their breadwinner wives.  Some husbands are so insecure about their wives making more money they resort to accusations of extra-marital affairs or whenever the wives are a few minutes late arriving home, there's hell to pay.  If your wife is doing things to upset you, talk about the issues.  Don't make accusations because of your own jealousy.  Get through this by talking with your spouse or you will end up in divorce.  Nobody wants to be accused of things they are not doing.

Couples need to commit to talking about their feelings around this issue, as well as any other issue that may be causing heartburn in their marriage.  Talk, talk, talk, and talk some more.  Come up with a plan on how to get past the issues at hand and return to working as a team for the enrichment of your family.  The focus should always be on your marriage, loving and supporting each other through anything and everything that arises.  Getting caught up in your career is not just a man thing.  A lot of times people lose their identity to their career.  Remember, you are more than a person with a career.  You are a spouse, a mother or father, a son or daughter, a sister or brother, and so forth. 

The key to getting past the issue of who makes the most money is communication.  Talk about your finances.  Make a list of your earnings and your expenses, as a family; not separately.  Review this list as one or both of you receive raises, promotions, and/or bonuses.  Be sure that the household expenses, family expenses, are paid each month.  If salaries are close, split it down the middle.  If one of you makes about one-third of what the other makes, pay the respective percentage.  It isn't that hard to understand that you are a family, a unit, a oneness.  There is no more "I", "mine", or "yours" when it comes to money.

Men are typically embarrassed by the situation of making less money than their spouses.  Wives really could put their husbands at ease in this case.  Let him know you think nothing less of him.  Tell him you see it as combined income, for the needs and wants of your family.  Tell him you are fine with the situation.  Remind him that the tables were turned earlier in your marriage, if that is the case. 

If nothing else helps you see this issue differently, try this.  Look around you.  Look around the country.  Unemployment rates are skyrocketing, people are out of jobs or have completely lost their jobs.  You are being selfish and uncompassionate by complaining that your wife makes more money than you.  Who cares who makes the most money?  Seriously.  Have some compassion.  Be proud of your breadwinner wife.  She is being rewarded for being smart!  There are people all around you, in your state, your city, maybe even your neighborhood who are far less as fortunate as you.  Be thankful!  Be thankful that you and your wife both have jobs and make decent money.  Get over yourself! 

When all else fails, seek counseling.  You may not be able to get through these issues yourself without professional help.  You may be surprised at the benefit of you and your spouse talking to a trained professional about issues surrounding money.  Call the Relationship Center of Orange County today and schedule an appointment, or use our online tool to schedule an appointment.  Our counselors are trained professionals who can help you get through this difficult time.  It may be the best call you've ever made.

About the Author

OC Relationship Center OC Relationship Center, LMFT

You deserve to feel better - in your life and relationships. At OC Relationship Center we want to help you find more love, more joy, more peace...and less conflict and less stress. Our licensed and caring counselors can help if you are single, dating, married, divorced.

OC Relationship Center can be found at
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