cow money bankAre there any men out there that are happy for their girlfriend/wife to earn more than they do? I am a firm believer that most men are not wholly, truly happy and comfortable with their female partner earning more than them, and certainly not being the only breadwinner. It hasn’t bypassed me that it’s supposed to be the year 2006 but I really don’t think that the sexes have evolved that much. I know that there is a lot of noise about ‘new men’ and equal women, but there are a lot of wolves in sheeps clothing out there who don’t object to women earning lots of money per se….just as long as they don’t earn more than them and make them feel inferior about what they bring to the table.

I’ve come across a lot of women that find themselves in the grey area of being the provider or significant earner. On many levels they are comfortable with it because it satisfies something in them, and these emotions don’t necessarily come from a positive place. Often there is a deep rooted need to play the Financial Florence Nightingale and there is an element of control, even if they don’t know it yet. In almost every single situation there were problems in the relationship that stemmed from the financial imbalance.

I often read and hear about women in power, with financial clout who are resented by their male counterparts and who despite yearning for the 2.4 children and the wedding, struggle to get a guy that can ‘cope’ with them. I don’t see why there should be a difference, after all, many a woman has been ‘kept’ by a man or had him earn more than her. However, I’m inclined to think that it’s a combination of social programming that has been going on for hundreds of years that make this an uncomfortable scenario for most men involved in this type of situation.

My suggestions:

If you’re a woman that has a history of dating men that earn less and who end up resenting you, I’d sit down and ask what you are contributing to this situation to bring about the same issue. It’s not to take away from the responsibility of their behaviour, but you’re only in control of your own. Are you inadvertently making him feel small?

You could also just stop dating men that earn significantly less.

Or don’t shower them with gifts or money to show your generosity. That ‘It’s OURS not MINE’ line doesn’t seem to help in this situation. Trust me when I say it will get thrown back in your face when the rot sets in.

Look out for signs of irresponsibility. The type of guy that will resent you is the type that is irresponsible anyway. If he shirks paying bills, isn’t too fussed about getting or having a job, hits you up for cash like an ATM but doesn’t contribute to the relationship emotionally, has a hissy fit even when you don’t actually say or do anything to make him feel small about the financial balance, run like the wind. Bad enough you’re a human wallet but you don’t need a whiny kid!

If you’re a guy:

Ask yourself why you continue to keep the status quo when you’re so unhappy with the situation. I doubt she’s gonna jack in her job anytime soon so either suck it up and get on with things, get a better job, or get out. If you truly love her, it shouldn’t matter that she earns more.

Remember that men don’t like women that they think of as golddiggers or who are focused on how much a man earns. Remember this the next time you want to maker her feel bad for about what she earns.

Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter – @baggagereclaim .

Natalie (NML) – who has written posts on Baggage Reclaim by Natalie Lue.

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3 Responses to When a man earns less than a woman in a relationship

  1. Brad K. says:

    “Are there any men out there that are happy for their girlfriend/wife to earn more than he does?”

    Schools, businesses, in-laws and parents all teach us that ‘the best’ people are easy to spot, they make the most money. Guys and ladies, too, strive for advances and pay raises sometimes for that extra $20 or $100 per week, but always because it means they are ‘better’ than they were last week, that they are better than others that don’t get as much of a raise, and better than new kids that don’t make as much money. Money is a firmly established measure of self-image and social worth, regardless of gender. Why do you think the empty rationalizations about women have kept men’s wages higher? I think everyone, men and women, try to protect their own salary from falling behind anyone else’s. Right now there are just more men protecting their individual position.

    (All right, there are lots of men that feel superior, and wage is only one way they try to have their own way with women in their life. Pigs, all of us.)

    My point is that discomfort about the woman making more money isn’t just about man-woman bias. The assumption boys are brought up with is that they are responsible for basic goal planning, with input from their bride. Once his finances drop below hers, the tendency to drop back to a kid/mommy relationship is pretty powerful — mothers are great at instilling that role into our brains. And we don’t have many good models of women taking the control many Christians believe are ordained to the man.

    While not compelling for every American, most of us are influenced by Christian teachings, which introduce another ‘dimension’ (to use’s word) of confusion. Does couple still hold the man as primary authority, is authority shared, or does she become the leader? Many girls still concentrate on being ornaments as they grow (prom queen, homecoming queen, cheerleaders, pretty clothes, beauty contests and high value of appearance in their image of self-worth). Boys work at war games (sports, scouts, hunting and fishing), at dominance, and at ‘catching’ the ‘prettiest’ girl — the winner somehow being ‘better’.

    I haven’t heard (or noticed) that kids today have changed all that much from the father as head of house roles of our grandparents. There are exceptions, but there are still few social roles widely available for guiding us when roles change.

    I like your comment about gifts. Gifts are seen by most as part of a social transaction. Buy dinner, get a bed partner. Give jewelry get more bed partner. Give car, residence, or spend time with them, get loyalty, see their appreciation for you and your largesse, possible receive a deeper affection.

    One danger of gifting is defining roles in a relationship that turn out to be unhealthy. Some gifts, such as time, paying attention, sharing breaths and activities, will never wear out, don’t imply specific roles that will chafe in the future, or have morbid connotations (is this a date or entrance fee at the brothel?!). Most of us enjoy receiving nice things. Some of us enjoy pleasing others. The problem here is that uneven gifting creates expectations that harm the relationship, placing things on a financial or contractual basis, instead of true bonding.

    In my opinion.

    I suspect the answer is for women that make more to live frugally, especially with respect to dates and life partners. As a gift of freedom to their partner. Handle jealousy of money or other assest just like any other jealousy or greed. With maturity, respect, and responsible choices.

  2. NML says:

    Brad this was an excellent comment – This is a post in itself! I thought this line “The problem here is that uneven gifting creates expectations that harm the relationship, placing things on a financial or contractual basis, instead of true bonding.” was the line that resonated most with me. I think when it comes to gifting or being free with the money, we think about things from our perspective such as how we’re just being nice and we’re just being generous and just sharing and we don’t truly think about the recipients feelings or ours or their expectations, because somewhere along the line, there are some. It’s human nature. When there is more of balance and this can strive from a variety of things that don’t have to be monetary per se (both parties need to feel that they’re contributing and that it’s a win win), there is less room for the imbalance and negativity that can be generated otherwise.
    But you are also right about how to treat jealousy and the entrenched values and perceptions for both sexes. In some respects, trying to get people to adopt their attitudes is like trying to revolutionalise the wheel ;-)

  3. Jean says:

    Buying a meal and getting a bed partner or buying jewelry and getting a bed partner really does reduce sex to a commodity and women to objects to be bought.

    I find it difficult as it will be the case that most men I could date will make less than I do.

    The ones that are at my level are looking for the trophy on their arm not their financial equal.

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