Welcome back to guest blogger Maureen Kelley! Maureen is a passionate advocate for empowering and engaging women to have healthy relationships with money. For more information visit: www.madreandfamily.com. We pick up from last week’s article about managing couples managing their relationship when the female is the primary breadwinner.
Women have been outpacing men in earned Bachelor and Master Degrees since 1982, and Doctorates since the mid-2000s. A secondary reshaping is underway with more 25-32 year-old women attending college than men. The gender-income gap is closer than ever with young women today earn 93% of the average hourly wage of men and approximately 29% of women are earning more than their husbands.
Why then, if women are having career and financial success are they so dissatisfied at home?
A 2013 study by Marilyn Bertrand at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business of 4,000 married American couples found that regardless of amount, once a woman earns more in a marriage, the divorce rates increased. The conflict typically arises from the discussion around money, which are often more intense and take longer to recover from than other arguments. Studies also reveal that gaps in housework actually widen when a woman is the primary breadwinner, leading men to do less childcare and work around the house. Some suggest this results from a perceived threat to male masculinity, so women overcompensate by doing more.
Some couples are able to navigate this new financial model successfully, but it takes work and mutual understanding. One couple expressed a willingness to adapt by co-creating a family model that employs flexibility in childcare above earned income, without casting one spouse or the other into traditional gender roles. The husband remarked, “my identity is not tied to a job – it’s everything outside of that” and, “her opportunities were just too good for me to intervene.” The couple have naturally created a working agreement on financial matters based on shared values of family, financial security, work flexibility, support and mutual respect.
Millennials, a generation heavily impacted by the increase of women in the workforce, are taking notice of the trend. A self-described serial dater, 32-year-old Jenn is now ready for a serious relationship. Having earned an MBA, she has a very successful career in finance. But since she’s become involved with a man whose vocation is carpentry, she has begun to face the reality is that they are and will continue to be fiscally unequal. This imbalance has caused a lot of deep reflection and candid dialogue. Jenn describes her uncertainty as to whether this is a deal-breaker in a long-term relationship. Knowing she would be the major earner, she is realistic about the implications of a financial future together. “This is going to require a great deal of soul searching for me. “
Jay Hughes, retired estate attorney and subject matter expert on fiscal unequals posits that “the critical question is whether couples in such relationships can courageously accept their new situation and balance the powerful role of women and their wealth with the issues of male self-esteem. Just as new roles are being forged for women, so must new roles be forged for men.”
Couples need to work together to evaluate who and where they are. Disagreements about money are normal, but they can be difficult to navigate when couples have different expectations for their futures together. The role of the financial therapist is to help couples work through money-related issues, so that in the end the couple may find a way to modernize and honor their shared set of values.