How Being The Breadwinner Can Affect Your Relationship For Good AND Bad

Money is a weird thing to talk about, especially on the internet. For the most part, except when I took a small break from working to consult and stay home with my newborn, I’ve always made more money than my husband. I really hate the word “breadwinner,” because it implies some type of competition, but for the sake of this post, I’ll stick with it. I also hate that this is even a topic because of the outdated patriarchal connotations. It’s 2020, who cares if the female partner makes more than the male one? Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re fully progressed enough as a society to completely disregard these ingrained traditions, no matter how subconscious they are.

The truth is, the majority of the time, neither the wife nor the husband likes to admit when the wife is the breadwinner. Speaking strictly from an opposite-sex relationship, of course, men still seem to feel this strong pressure to be the family breadwinner. And trust me, my husband comes from a very old school and traditional family where the women were expected (and wanted to!) stay home and raise the children and tend to the household while the men went to work every day and “brought home the bacon.” Personally, I think Beyoncé said it best when she said “strong enough to bear the children…then get back to business.” Luckily for me, I married a man who is not only incredibly hardworking and supportive, but also very progressive when it comes to outdated traditional beliefs.

I don’t write this post to shame anyone for being a stay-at-home mom (I tried it, I literally could not hack it, you guys are my heroes), or for preferring traditional values. But for those of you who may be in a similar boat, I want to share some of the ways it can benefit your relationship, and some of the ways it can strain it, if not handled with care.

Bad: Creates discord in the marriage

My therapist works with a lot of couples as well as individuals, and she said the majority of couples who come to therapy do so because of money. Men can feel insecure, or women can lose respect for their husbands, if they are no longer the top earner in the household.

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If this is the case, you both have to shift your mindset and get over your egos. You are both vital to your marriage, and neither your marriage nor your partnership could survive without the role that both of you play in running a household and building a life together. 

Good: It sets good examples for younger generations

Change starts with us. We have to rewire ourselves in order for our children and younger generations to break the cycle. When the wife is the breadwinner in the household, and the husband is supportive and an equal partner in all things, your kids will see that and learn it as their own normal. I mean, come on men, it’s 2020! Men should embrace their natural capacity for love and humbleness. It is so liberating to be free of all social and cultural expectations and just be yourself. 

Bad: Creates underlying competition

For as long as it has been around, money has been associated with the belief that money = power. This, by default, means that whoever is the breadwinner holds more “power” and is thus more important in the relationship. Even if you think it doesn’t, there’s a chance your subconscious feels otherwise. This often leads to an underlying expectation than the person earning less money is responsible for everything else, such as childcare and household errands.

Just because an income inequality exists in your relationship and your partner earns less than you doesn’t mean they should be doing all the work around the house to “make up” for it. Salary does not equal value. Make a list of everything that needs to be done around the house and with the family and divide it up as equally as possible. The biggest thing to remember is that you’re a team. Don’t try to penny-pinch when it comes to money and hours worked; this will cause unnecessary stress between you and your partner. Scorekeeping never helped any relationship for the better. 

Good: It makes you open the lines of communication

When you have income inequality in a relationship, communication becomes key. Trust me, if you can talk about money honestly and openly with your partner, you can talk about anything. Have regular finance meetings so that you’re always on the same page regarding your budget, but expand those financial goals into other topics as well.

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Once the lines of communication open up, share your needs. If you feel that you need to have an equal amount of spending money, share that with your spouse. Or perhaps you need help or encouragement from your spouse in order to generate more income. Your spouse won’t always know what you need unless you clearly explain it.

Look beyond money and communicate about everything you’re feeling. What actual value are we bringing to one another? What support—emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, and, yes, financial—is the most valuable to each other at this time? 

When you are married, you are part of a team. A team works together, practices together, plans together, wins and loses together. At the end of the day, our relationship doesn’t live and die on the amount of money we bring in, but by the amount of time and energy we invest in all different areas of our partnership.

And just a friendly reminder that you’re a badass who deserves everything you earn, and you deserve a partner who celebrates you and isn’t threatened by your success. :)

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Author: Samantha Welker

Samantha Welker is the business manager at Glitter Guide. She has an Master's in Corporate Finance & Sustainability from Harvard Business School but prefers working in the creative industry. She also hosts a weekly business podcast for creative women called Pretty Okay Podcast. She loves spending time with her husband and her son, Rocky, in sunny San Diego. Follow along on Instagram