We are in unchartered waters.
Almost 40% of U.S. working wives earn more than their husbands, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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.
Fast forward to the present, and women are shattering glass ceilings. They’re represented in countless areas that were once restricted. Women are also entering undergraduate and postgraduate schools at higher rates, becoming more educated than the men they date.
So what does this mean?
Glad you asked!
It means that you may very well end up with a man who earns less than you.
You won’t be alone. Many women are dating or have married 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 has brought with it some complications.
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 man then take on those duties?
If so, how do you prevent power struggles in these areas?
The solution is simple:
Talk about it.
To avoid any financial disparity becoming a bigger issue within your relationship, you have to lay all of your cards on the table from the beginning.
Being open about your ideals and expectations—and his, too—will keep subconscious frustrations from causing a rift between you.
Here are some tips for how to navigate that discussion.
1. Identify Beliefs about Financial Gender Roles
Many of us go into relationships having never really thought about gender roles.
We learn that pink is for girls and blue is for boys early in childhood, but the rest we pick up subconsciously from our upbringing and societal messages.
So talk about gender roles together. 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?
Getting your expectations out into the open can help you understand one another better.
2. Re-Evaluate Your Ideals
You now know what you believe about gender roles. Can you step outside of your comfort zone and try a different arrangement?
For example, you may be dating an amazing man, but are reluctant to take it further due to his finances.
Is this because you are worried about what others will think? Or is it because you never pictured yourself as the breadwinner?
Just because things look a little different—or a LOT different—than you imagined doesn’t mean it is a dead end. Your priorities may not quite be what you think.
There are pros and cons to any partner being the primary breadwinner. Talk it through and entertain different possibilities.
3. Discuss Delegation of Domestic Duties, Including Childrearing
Domestic tasks are often a source of contention in relationships, especially when the woman is the breadwinner.
As the primary earner, she can resent it when she has to come home and pick up the bulk of the chores after spending all day at work.
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 don’t 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 the hunters 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.
You’re a team. Draw up a list of tasks, delegate, and get to work. Knowing what your jobs are keeps you from fighting about it.
4. Discuss Expectations Surrounding Financial Responsibilities
Having an open honest conversation can also help you from having issues about who’s financially responsible for what.
Whether early in dating, living together, or marriage, there are many financial scenarios that 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’s not the most comfortable topic to talk about! But it’s vital 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’ll never know if you don’t talk about it.
When you earn more than he does, it’s important that you don’t make any assumptions regarding roles. You need to talk the whole thing through: financial responsibilities, domestic duties, and childrearing.
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!
For More from Dr. Ayo
Watch Dr. Ayo’s interview with YBTV, where she discusses her “bad girl” philosophy on love.
Read more articles by Dr. Ayo.