The Very Modern Puzzle of the Breadwinning Wife – And the Emasculated Husband

20 Jun

The research into female breadwinners is varied and insightful, but how does it come into play in some of the most successful echelons of society?

Happy couple came to an agreement with their insurance agent in the office. Focus is on woman shaking hands with an agent.

Debates on the gender roles engendered by society are nothing new, such as female breadwinners, but the way that they can rear their heads unexpectedly in the modern world can nevertheless be surprising.

Today, I’d like to discuss something I’ve recently become fascinated with. As a matchmaker at an elite international matchmaking consultancy, I work with some of the world’s most successful singletons, male and female. The research into female breadwinners is varied and insightful, but how does it come into play in some of the most successful echelons of society?

What the research tell us

study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics concluded that entrenched gender norms ‘induce an aversion’ to female breadwinners. According to 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29% of women in heterosexual marriages in the US earn more than their husbands. Two decades previously it had been only 18%. Despite major strides in gender equality in recent times, the idea that the husband should be the primary breadwinner in a heterosexual family has actually gained ground among young men. In 1994, only 17% adhered to this way of thinking. In 2014, this had risen to 45%.

Despite the myriad changes in women’s rights in the past few decades, it would seem there remains a pervasive cultural expectation that women tend to the home while men go out to work. A Pew Research Center survey found that 71% of adults believed it ‘very important’ for men to be able to support their families financially in order to be considered good partners. Only 32% thought the same of women.

So what does this all mean? Men may attempt to live up to these expectations even when it doesn’t make financial sense. For example, childcare can be a great expense for a family. If a woman earned more than her husband and it made sense for him to stay home with the kids, the social stigma may nevertheless interrupt this logic and see him make the uneconomic decision to keep working in a lesser-paid job, all the while forking out for expensive childcare.

Why would this be? One study by the American Psychological Association found that a heterosexual man’s self-esteem will take a hit if his partner outperforms him – in general. Women, by contrast, are unaffected by such an occurrence. It may be that this tension correlates with relationship issues. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that married couples whereby wives are the female breadwinners, were reportedly ‘less satisfying’ and likelier to end in divorce. Gaps in incomes can also result in tensions when it comes to everyday – and longer-term – financial decisions: who’s paying for groceries today? How are we splitting the bills this month? How are we allotting our funds to our healthcare, our pensions?

This all begs the question: how to have a successful marriage when wives are female breadwinners?

The 4 ways to make it work

1) Husbands – focus on a goal. Men may feel like they’re making more of a contribution if they choose a savings goal and set aside part of their earnings till they reach it. They can aim for something the couple will use and enjoy frequently and together, perhaps a room remodeling, a new car, even a hot tub. A tangible goal can pay the couple great dividends and the positive effects will manifest clearly within the marriage.

2) Learn to communicate. In all relationships, issues must be dealt with head-on – otherwise they will continue to bubble away beneath the surface and threaten to blow up. Women mustn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable if they are the breadwinner. Men mustn’t take out any underlying frustration – or masculinity issues – on their wives. Both parties must seek to understand the other’s viewpoint. They will become a stronger couple as a result.

3) Husbands – contribute in other ways. study published in the journal Organization Science showed that marriages with wives as female breadwinners end in divorce less often if the husband picks up the slack and contributes more towards housework. Being a good husband doesn’t have to equal being the one bringing home the bigger paycheck. Providing physical, emotional and domestic support can go a massive way towards maintaining a harmonious relationship.

4) Men – get over it. An issue is an issue only when someone decides to label it as such. The ‘issue’ of the breadwinning wife is inextricably grounded in deep-rooted societal norms that engender specific roles to the husband and to the wife – but just because you and your spouse have a different setup, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong or somehow lesser. In fact, overcoming such stereotypes may well make for a stronger, healthier, more respectful marriage, characterised by understanding, communication and affection. As long as you want to make a life with one another because you love them as a person unconditionally then nothing else matters – certainly not how many zeroes are to be found on the end of their salary.

So what next?

Here at The Vida Consultancy, we know precisely the struggles of being a strong, high-earning, successful woman when it comes to world of dating – and trust us, we know what the male perspective is too! Every single one of our members have one thing in common, they all are looking for one thing above all others: true love.

If you’re looking for love and tired of the same old idle bar chat, the tiresome games of uncommitted city-goers, then why not give us a call? Get in touch today – fall in love tomorrow.

by Rachel Vida MacLynn

Founder & CEO

Rachel Vida MacLynn is reputed as being a world-leading matchmaking and dating expert. Registered as a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, Rachel advocates a professional matchmaking approach based on psychological principles and professional consultation. Rachel also sits on the Board of Advisors for the Matchmaking Institute.More by this author

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