Today, one in four women in marriages bring in more income than their husbands, which is up from six percent in the 1960s. Whether you are a man or woman, the pressure to bring home the bacon can be overwhelming. As our society shifts, having more women breadwinners can lead to resentment and failed relationships if the couple isn’t able to adapt to the new normal, says Farnoosh Torabi, author of “When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women.”
“Women have expressed to me that they felt resentful, stressed out, a little helpless and alone without the support they need,” Torabi says. During her research, Torabi noticed that both women and men found it difficult to adapt to the reversal of the stereotypical breadwinner role. She surveyed over 1,000 women across the country to discuss the complexity of the situation and document how successful couples make it work. Her advice for women, when she makes more, includes the following tips:
1. Constant communication
Women under 30 are beginning to out earn their male counterparts in many major metropolitan areas, so it’s likely that more and more young women will date or marry men who earn less, according to Torabi. As women are encouraged to “lean in” to their careers and focus on their skills, the emphasis on independence can hinder their ability to lean on others.
“You can’t go it alone … when you’re in a relationship, a partnership, a marriage, there’s two of you,” Torabi says. Each person won’t be able to anticipate the other’s needs or feelings about the situation, so it’s essential that you talk through them and discuss solutions.
“It might not be politically correct–what you are feeling–but do discuss it and be open about it because that’s what lets you reconcile,” Torabi recommends.
It is important to recognize when you need help and communicate those feelings to your husband. For men, it’s essential that you talk it out if you are feeling emasculated or put down by your wife. She won’t know until you tell her and vice versa.
2. Each person needs relationship responsibilities
When she makes more, she also needs to let her partner take control of some important aspects of the relationship.
“Men still want to provide in a very big way: they want to be the most important person to you,” Torabi says.
She recommends handing over something equally important to your partner to manage such as the finances, food management or childcare. For example, rather than help with dinner from time to time, he can be completely in charge of nutrition and food, which means he is responsible for stocking the fridge and pantries, planning meals and packing lunches.
“There are a lot of advantages for you and your household if you actually do love your career,” Torabi says, “but your husband has to be accountable for some big things in your relationship.”
In one study by Cornell University, men who were more dependent on their spouse for financial support were also more likely to be unfaithful. Women who risk taking on the breadwinner role as well as finances, childcare and household management are more likely to burn out, according to Torabi.
3. Adapt to change & focus on your goals
The most successful couples in the survey were those who were adaptable and looking toward their goals.
“It’s easiest when both partners come to table with the notion that gender expectations don’t matter,” Torabi says. That means that both partners know their role in the relationship might change but that won’t change their value to the other person.
“It’s a great opportunity to reinvent what it means to be in a relationship and how you are going to take care of each other.” She recommends mapping out your goal as a couple and focusing on what’s important for both of you to achieve together. Family budget meetings can help facilitate planning your financial goals.
“There’s a lot of momentum for women in the career space but let’s not forget that our relationships are important too … and that you need to lean in to your relationships just as much,” Torabi says.
WSB Radio’s Ilyce Glink Show – July 13, 2014
Thanks for listening.