By: Marwa Rakha
With more women going to college, with more women taking less time out from careers to raise children, with more women choosing careers that only a few years ago were the province of men, better jobs and better money have become available to them, and now we reached a time where women can be on equal financial footing with their partners, and can even out-earn them.
There are no “rules” for managing this change. At the present time, every couple in which the woman is the primary wage earner is very much on its own, inventing a family life that is radically different from that which they knew growing up. Therefore, such couples must have countless challenges coming their way.
We reached out to our Relationships Expert, Marwa Rakha, to figure out how should a couple deal with such challenges.
Why is it still hard to swallow a scenario where in a relationship the woman out-earns the man?
Let us think of men, women, and relationships as though they were on a continuum; on the one end of the continuum, we have typical male/female roles. The man is the sole breadwinner and the woman has absolutely no other source of income. She is totally dependent on her husband and he is fully in control.
On the other end, we have the exact opposite type of relationship; the roles are reversed. The woman has the career, the money, and the control, and her husband is dependent on her.
In both extreme relationship types, let us exclude kids out of the equation. We are not discussing who takes care of the kids and does chores; we are focusing on who puts food on the table at the end of the day.
In between the two extremes, there are many variations of the man-woman-money relationship. How acceptable, or unacceptable, a variation is depends on many factors – societal norms is the most important.
How men and women are raised in a certain society determines how likely they are to accept or reject a scenario where the woman earns more money than her husband. To be more specific, Egyptians, boys and girls, are raised in a society that preaches the superiority of males because they are financially responsible of their families.
Real life happens, and those boys and girls grow up. If the girls get the same education opportunities as the boys, many excel; they complete their studies at school, go to college, and get a job. Some invest in taking courses, attending workshops, and in developing themselves. Others pursue post graduate studies and earn various professional diplomas in their field of work.
These women manage to land jobs that are quite fulfilling and well-paying. They savor the sweet taste of financial independence and their self-awareness blossoms. Then they are faced with reality.
No one wants to get married to them because they are intimidating. Someone wants to marry them for their money. Someone wants to marry them, but they do not earn as much money. Someone who has a high-paying job wants to marry them, but he wants them to choose a less demanding career or to stay at home.
A successful woman, who wants to get married, might choose a man who fulfills her on many levels, and accepts to be the financial helm in the relationship. Depending on the level of her self-awareness and her need to get married and stay married, she will make peace with the fact that she earns more than her husband.
The husband, on the other hand, might accept that he is not that financially capable and would try to shoulder other responsibilities to even out the equation. For example, he might help out with chores, kids, extended family, or errands, or provide great emotional support and good sex.
Redistributing roles in a family is not as simple as saying, “You take out the garbage, I’ll sweep the floor.” What should a couple do to figure out a fair way to distribute household chores, money, and decision-making power?
Respect is the key word. Assume we have a couple, the woman earns way more the man, they are in love, they want to get married, or are married, and they want to make this work regardless of what “society” has to say about the roles of a man or a woman – they need to answer these questions:
– What needs to be done so that I can respect myself in this relationship, knowing that I am paying for everything?
– What needs to be done so that I can respect myself in this relationship, knowing that I am not the breadwinner?
– What needs to be done so that I can respect my wife and not get angry at her for bringing in more money?
– What needs to be done so that I can respect my husband and not resent him for not bringing in enough money?
What are the red flags that a partner won’t get over the fact that his ‘traditional role’ no longer exists? How could you know he won’t be supportive in the future and is not worth you trying and investing in him?
There is no guaranteed way to ensure that this relationship would work. Deep down, in the depths of the human psyche, things are always brewing. The woman resenting the man and feeling that he is a burden, the man resenting the woman for making him feel less-of-a-man, or the woman resenting herself for not having the courage to end this relationship, or the man resenting himself for marrying “out of his league” – resentment brews down there.
Nonetheless, there are some signs that could warn you:
– The man asks you to give him money so he can pay – He has issues with “what will people say if you pay?”
– He is depressed, sad, gloomy, and you are always trying to cheer him up.
– He is guilting you for being successful and radiant.
– He is aggressive, rude, and insolent.
– He is damaging your self-esteem.
– He is cheating on you – he wants to feel like a man with someone else.
– He interferes in your wardrobe and makeup – he is trying to dominate you in the name of love or jealousy.
Worse than a man who cannot shake off “traditional roles” is the man who comfortably abuses you and your money. This man does not mind it at all. You have simply replaced his parents.