When the Wife Earns More than the Husband

I heard this morning on the Today show about a book that sounds interesting, Bringing Home the Bacon: Making Marriage Work When She Makes More Money. I haven’t read the book, so I’m writing based strictly on the little information I have about it from the interview. The authors quote research indicating that wives out-earn husbands in about 1/3 of marriages. That’s a tad higher than I would have guessed from my anecdotal observation of couples in my office, but only a tad higher.

Power flows from money in marriages just like in other aspects of life. For generations, men have been accustomed to having the power in marriage. He earns the money (or most of it), and she does the home duties (or most of them). How do husbands and wives adjust when her economic power exceeds his? Do they shift roles, or does she continue exercising all the traditional duties of a wife and mother while maintaining her high powered career? These are subtle questions of power, role, and equality, of course, but they are also questions of what it means to be masculine, what it means to be feminine.

In this morning’s interview, one of the authors, Harriet Pappenheim, described the role of a typical working mother. She takes her cell phone to work and has it by her side, even during important meetings. In the middle of a conference or critical assignment, she gets a call from the school telling her that her child is sick, so she breaks away from work, leaving her work responsibilities unfulfilled. She rushes to the school, calling potential babysitters (including her husband) on the way to see who can take care of her child once she gets him home.

Once he’s secured at home, she rushes back to work, feeling guilty for leaving her sick child and guilty for dropping the ball on her work assignments. She stays late to make up for the time she was away from the office, and then drags home. Dad walks in and asks, “How can I help?” and is bewildered when she bursts into tears.

As Pappenheim describes it, Dad is clueless. He’s failing to understand that she doesn’t need a helper; she needs a partner. She doesn’t need simply a person who will perform assigned tasks on her direction. She needs someone who will lift from her and discharge some of her responsibilities.

Sounds like interesting reading.

2 comments

  1. Deb says:

    Boy does this hit home! My husband works occasionally and I work fulltime and more but does he ever take our child to doctor’s appts? NO. I take our son to school & pick him up. He’s home when I leave & home before me and can’t bring himself to put dishes in the dishwasher. What a bum

  2. Ann says:

    Males are given love, honor, support, respect, care, etc. only on the condition of sufficient achievement, money, power, etc. This is what makes Males very competitive; they are competing for feelings of self-worth as reflected upon them by society if they have sufficiency of those things. When they are doing anything they are being weighed and given only the amount of love, honor, respect, and support commensurate with those achievements. Those Males who do not have sufficiency are not only given less of those good things, they are given more aggression by society. This creates a lot more pressure on Males to either succeed in academics, which is good; and if they cannot, then they will search out a more protected and supported area in which they will have some feeling of love, honor, and respect from their peer group.

    Since our society is still following even in the information age, the belief Males should be strong, it still allows much aggression upon Males to make them tough. It also holds that Males should not be given mental/emotional/social/academic love, kindness, care and support for fear of coddling the Male from day one. This is so the Male can become a good little soldier to defend family and country. The problem with this is that it creates high average stress that impedes learning and creates along it more tension that leads more activity in Males and attention to mental/emotional development. This is why girls appear to mature faster, for Males are not given the same supports. This higher average stress and lack of support accumulate to create a large deficit in learning for Males and in turn not able to compete as well in the information age.

    Now in the information age, Males are now competing with Females who have been well supported from day one and Males are beginning fall behind big time, especially from women in their 20’s and early 30’s.

    Men are not only losing earnings, they are losing out on feelings of self-worth or love, honor, and respect from society. It is plainly spelled out in the media that when Males appear weak, it is okay to give them more verbal aggression, more abuse, and more neglect. Since Men have brainwashed to believe they are better (perhaps deserving of more harsh treatment and neglect) they are now finding out that in real life such treatment is somehow helping women to succeed above them. Given the horrible myth of fixed intelligences taught in our society or simply working harder, many men are falsely believing they are less intelligent and/or not working hard enough. Given this false information, they truly feel threatened by those women who are succeeding and they are not. Society itself and its media is now working against the Male to place Male’s into perceived positions of being more suitable for menial labor and for Females to be placed into more white collar, management positions. The Male is now facing much more abuse on the job. Many low paid jobs are also riddled with much abuse, intimidation, and constant berating by managers over them. In more cases, women managers are the ones doing this. Yes, in society men who take jobs in lower more menial positions are given more abuse. It seems women working those jobs are somewhat more protected by society from this abuse. Many men are opting out of the workforce to protect their mental/emotional health, which they feel is more important to them than a paycheck.

    Many men today are losing their feelings of self-worth that women receive simply for being women. His wife could not understand his dilemma. because like many other women, she was reflecting her love, honor, respect, and protection in society upon him, not realizing his world was very different and much more unforgiving for signs of weakness. You see society’s primary antidote for perceived weaknesses in Males is to provide more aggression and neglect to make him strong, and not to support him when he is down. So, although his wife supports him with love, society will take him down for being weak. After years of brainwashing, he and others like him believe it to be true and deserving of punishment. This is why so many Males have a short life and so many more Male suicides. Yes, Males do feel threatened for they feel the scales are tilted very much against them.
    Complete learning theory to all on request by e-mail at mayfieldga@bellsouth.net

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