I make more money than my husband. And according to 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, I’m not alone. Almost 40 percent of U.S. working wives are out-earning their husbands.But what happens to the dynamics in a marriage when a wife makes more money than her husband?
For years, it’s been assumed and expected that men would make more money than their wives. They still have salary on their side, with women earning only 77 cents to every dollar men earn annually. So obviously women must be working harder, and climbing the corporate ladder at an unprecedented rate.
In my own marriage, we’ve been struggling with the changing dynamics. While I have always out-earned my marriage in the two years we’ve been married, there were certain things I was willing to do and let go at the beginning of our marriage that I’m not willing to let go anymore. For example, although I was the bigger breadwinner, typical everyday housework still fell on my shoulders.
At first, I was glad to do these tasks, such as grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, and general tidying. But as the honeymoon phases ended and the reality of our situation sunk in, I realized I was getting the short end of the stick.
I am not a housewife. I work a full-time job in addition to taking on several freelance opportunities to make money on the side. I didn’t understand why I was spending so much of my time being busy, busy, busy just trying to keep our household running.
At the same time, I partially blamed myself for this discrepancy. I created an environment that allowed my husband to cruise by. Why should he put in any extra effort when I was doing everything on my own?
I recently put an end to the cruise control button. When we moved into our new place, I separated our laundry. Every weekend, I would spend my free time doing our laundry. While he was able to use his days off to relax. Yeah, that was not flying with me.
While I still manage the grocery shopping, I make sure that I don’t clean up the house as often as I used to. If he has a series of days off, he’s in charge of cleaning particular sections of the house.
During a recent heated argument regarding our finances, I suggested separate checking accounts. I had really gotten tired of seeing our money disappear without the ability to pay our bills.
How could my husband know how much he was spending when I always managed the finances on my own? While we’ve only been doing it for two weeks, we now budget together. I no longer touch our budget without him present–even though it has been really hard for me, it has also completely opened his eyes to how quickly minimal purchases add up.
I think we still struggle with changing cultural perceptions that men should be supporting their wives, but we’re managing day to day and figuring out what works for us. Stereotypical gender roles have been around for centuries, it’s unreal to assume they’ll shift in one generation.
So we take each day as it comes, figuring out a balance that works for our own unique relationship. Because at the end, it’s not what he earns or what I earn, it’s about our marriage and realizing that we both play for the same team.