Besides sex, money is the number one subject couples argue about. But it’s become an even more contentious issue in recent years.
If you were watching MSNBC last week, you may have seen the segment on “Breadwinner Wives”. Wives who earn more money than their husbands is fast becoming one of the new causes of divorce among African-Americans.
Until recently, most husbands made more money than their wives. That’s no longer the case. With more woman going to college — and graduate school, they’re also landing higher paying jobs. As a result, women aren’t as concerned about having their husbands support them and are more interested in being successful in the world.
For some couples, having the woman make more money than the man creates huge problems. Some men feel emasculated if their wives are the primary breadwinners and they are asked to take on more household chores and additional childcare responsibilities. And some women feel resentful if they not only shoulder most of the household’s financial obligations, but also are expected to handle domestic responsibilities. This reversal of roles is causing the divorce rate to rise!
Black women have long been told that men are intimidated by more successful women, but that’s not necessarily true. Deep down a lot of men and women still feel uncomfortable with this “role reversal.” Many men feel that they should be the “protector and provider.” For them, supporting the household fulfills that role. And many women believe that the man’s role is to be the breadwinner. These women hold on to the belief that having a man support them makes them more feminine. They look down on their husbands if they don’t earn more money, and even treat them as though they are less than men.
If you’re making more than your man and you’re having disagreements over this issue, then it’s time to have an open and honest discussion about gender roles. It may be that either you or your mate needs some reassurance. You may need to feel more “feminine.” Or he may want to be considered more “masculine” in your relationship. If that’s the case, then you have to figure out ways to make each other feel comfortable in your gender roles without involving finances. If he builds and fixes things around the house and you make the dinners, you can still have traditional male-female roles.
In our society, money is frequently associated with power. In a couple, the partner who makes more money tends to feel more powerful. To prevent this from throwing your relationship out of balance, you need to discuss your finances with each other. If you make more money than your partner, that’s your contribution to support your household. He, in turn, may contribute his skills to fix or maintain your home.
The key, as always, is communication. Divide responsibilities so that no one is unfairly burdened. Don’t take on everything yourself and be a martyr, blaming him for everything that may go wrong. The goal is to stop being “me” and “he” and be a “we.”
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