Whether we like to admit it or not, money plays a huge role in our relationships. Not that long ago I posted “8 Questions About Money and Relationships“. The focus of that post was mainly on actually discussing money within a relationship and how differing financial views or a partner struggling with debt could impact the future of that relationship.
A number of readers chimed in with their own thoughts, and the consensus seemed to be that for a relationship to be successful both parties involved needed to be somewhat on the same page financially. While most people said debt wasn’t a deal breaker, I don’t think there was a single respondent who said they would help pay off someone elses debt if they were only dating.
One thing that post didn’t touch on was income.
Guys, would you still feel like a “real man” if the woman in your life earned much more money than you?
Ladies, could you be happy in a relationship where you were the primary breadwinner? Would you think less of a man who couldn’t provide financial security?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that just about all of you would say that this wouldn’t be a big issue. We live in a modern, progressive society these days! Traditional male/female roles are a thing of the past!
It sounds good, but a recent study from The Hamilton Project (that I found by way of this article on The Atlantic) shows that who the primary breadwinner in a relationship is still goes a long way in determining how happy a marriage is, and the chance that a couple will get divorced.
Take a look at these two graphs:
The first graph shows the distribution of marriages according to what percentage of the household income the wife earns.
Notice that once we reach the point where the woman is bringing home 50% or more of the household income the rate of marriage drops significantly.
If income, and who the primary earner in a household was didn’t play a part in our marriage habits, we’d expect to see a much smoother distribution, such as in this second graph.
Women earn more than half of all Bachelor’s degrees these days so it makes sense that there would be an increasing number of marriages with a female earning the lions share of the income. I guess it just means we’re lying to ourselves about how all those traditional gender roles don’t affect our lives today.
So who is to blame for the lack of female dominant (from a financial perspective) marriages being formed? Do the men begin to resent their partner if she out earns them? Do women feel resentful towards a lesser earning man? Or do they even begin to feel guilty about earning more than their spouse?
Another team of economists performed a similar study tackling these issues and they found some very interesting trends.
1. As shown above, marriages with a female breadwinner are much rarer than you would otherwise expect.
2. These marriages were unhappier than most, and more often ended in divorce. The study went so far as to show that there is absolutely no correlation between income and divorce…until the wife’s income exceeds that of her husband.
3. Oh yeah, that thing about the woman feeling guilty about earning more than the man in the relationship? Well, they also found that at all income levels the more time a man or woman spends at work the less time they spend doing chores around the house. Makes sense, right? It does, until you enter a situation where the woman out earns the man, then the time she spends doing chores and taking care of the children rises once again!
So in relationships where a woman out earns the man, not only is she bringing home most of the money, but she is also doing most of the household chores on top of that!
So What Does It Mean?
Money is a huge factor in the success of relationships, we all knew that already. Arguments over money are one of the leading causes of divorce. These studies are just another way of illuminating those same issues.
Maybe men feel inferior in a relationship where the woman earns more money. Maybe women aren’t as attracted to a man who earns less than they do. In my opinion that’s not what’s important.
In order to keep any number of money issues from tearing apart your relationship it’s important to openly and honestly communicate with your partner about your finances. Even if you don’t have joint accounts, treat your finances as a single entity if you’re in a serious relationship. When you view yourself as a team working towards a common financial goal it will reduce the importance on what’s “mine”, “yours” or which one of us makes the most money.
Readers: Who is the primary earner in your relationship? Do you think your relationship would be just as successful if those roles were reversed? What are some of the things you do to make sure you’re not one of the many couples who find money ruining their relationship?