We are in unchartered waters. Have entered undiscovered territory. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 40% of U.S. working wives out-earn their husbands. This is a drastic change from the not too distant past where men were the primary breadwinners in most homes. If women did work, and most did not, they rarely received a living wage. Now fast forward to the present. Women are shattering glass ceilings and represented in countless areas that were once restricted. And not only that. Women are entering undergraduate and postgraduate schools at higher rates, so are emerging as the more educated group. The dating pool has shifted with male suitors not keeping up with the growing achievements for the objects of their affection.
So what does this mean? Glad you asked. It means that as a successful woman in a relationship at this particular juncture, the likelihood of you out-earning your partner is very high. You are not alone. Many women have responded by dating or marrying someone with a lower wage and earning potential. They see benefits in their mate outside of building wealth such as having a companion, a positive role model for their children, and being with someone with similar interests or values.
But this shift in the financial pendulum, however, has brought some complications in the dynamics of relationships even when other compatibilities align. If the woman is now the higher wage earner in the household, what does that mean for the undertakings that were traditionally considered the female’s role? Does the male then take on those duties? And if so, how do you prevent power struggles in these areas?
To avoid a financial disparity becoming a bigger issue within your relationship, you have to lay all of your cards on the table from the beginning. Open communication regarding the ideals and expectations of each partner will prevent the occurrence of subconscious frustrations causing a rift in your relationship. Here are some tips for how to navigate out earning your partner:
- Identification of longstanding beliefs on financial gender roles
It is very common for someone to have never defined their beliefs on gender roles upon entering a relationship. We learn that pink is for girls and blue is for boys early in childhood, but the rest you pick up subconsciously from your upbringing and societal messages. The first step in navigating a relationship where the female outearns the male is to identify your personal belief surrounding this situation. Do you feel that women should be financially taken care of? Do you think that a man that earns less than his partner is weak? Or do you feel that either sex can be the breadwinner? Be introspective and identify what you believe.
- A reevaluation of ideals regarding gender roles
After identifying your beliefs, you then need to evaluate your ability to step outside of your comfort zone. You may be dating an amazing man, but are reluctant to progress the relationship due to his finances. Is this because you are worried about what others will think? Or maybe you never pictured yourself as the breadwinner? Just because things look a little different than you imagined, or a lot different, it does not mean it is a dead end. It is time to examine your ideals and see where you stand. Your priorities may look a little different than you think. There are pros and cons to any partner being the primary breadwinner, so figure out what works best for you.
- Delegation of domestic duties, including childrearing tasks
Domestic tasks are often a source of contention in relationships, and can be a larger issue in one where the female is the breadwinner. As the primary earner, a woman often resents when she is relegated to traditional domestic tasks. Studies confirm that in two-career couples, men and women spend equal amounts of time working, but women still spend more time on housework. But do not let this get you down. Recent studies show that men are more open to participating in daily chores and childrearing tasks than ever before. The days of men being hunters and gatherers while women are barefoot and pregnant may be coming to an end! So ladies instead of assuming responsibility for domestic and childrearing tasks, sit down with your mate and assess his willingness to pitch in. You may not have known that he doesn’t mind vacuuming and would love to pick the kiddos up from school. Or that he was the dishwasher in his family or even an amazing baker. Delegation of tasks between partners and working together as a team often lessens the intensity of power struggles that arise when these duties are not defined.
- Expectations surrounding financial responsibilities
Another area where open discussion prevents issues in in determining the fiscal responsibilities of each partner. Whether early in dating, living together, or married there are many financial scenarios that may require communication. Who will pick up the tab when going out to eat? Who will be responsible for the bulk of the bills? I know, it is not the most comfortable topic to talk about, but it is necessary when there is a difference in finances. Some women feel that no matter how much they earn, their man has to pay for dates. And that may be fine if your partner agrees, but you will never know if you do not chat about these topics.
When out earning your partner it is important that you do not make any assumptions regarding roles. Open discussion regarding your expectations surrounding financial responsibilities, domestic duties, and childrearing may prove fruitful. What is important is that you are honest with yourself and your mate regarding what you can both tolerate within the relationship. So sit down with your partner and discuss these matters up front so you can get back to the business of enjoying your relationship!