Women: Does your recent raise or job change mean that you now earn more money than your male spouse? Is your spouse working part-time to finish school or participate in child care because your career is on more stable ground and more financially viable than his?
If so, your chance of a divorce just climbed up by 33%. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, however, the blame for the breakdown in relationships over income disparity when a male spouse earns less than his wife can’t be attributed only to the way men react. American women also have a hard time handling the imbalance.
Among heterosexual couples, there’s a longstanding cultural expectation in America that men should be the primary “breadwinner” even when the wife works. Her income is usually seen as supplemental — even though two-job families are the norm in America today. It seems like neither gender quite knows how to handle the fact that women are increasingly earning as much or more than their male spouses.
The financial landscape for women in the workplace is changing — and it’s outpacing cultural attitudes about what’s “normal” in a family. Men are largely evaluated by others by how well they provide for their families — so they may feel like a failure even when the family is economically stable if their wives earn more. Sometimes, the wives don’t handle the disparity well, either, and behave as if their income allows them to set all of the rules for the household — which leaves their husbands feeling extraneous.
There is one major shift in cultural attitudes, however. People in all generations are increasingly looking for financial stability in their romantic partners. Whatever the gender of the spouse, couples tend to feel like it’s important for both parties to be bringing in an income — the more equal, the better.
Is your marriage floundering because of financial pressures or other problems? If you’re considering divorce, it is wise to consult an attorney sooner rather than later.