Who’s Holding the Purse Strings Anyway?

So there I was, merrily working away in the office when this landed in my ‘Inbox’. We’ve all seen this sort of discussion aired in one way or another on talk shows, in magazines and through any other medium that attracts women. You all can probably guess why I posted it here: are the same dynamics at work in BW/WM interracial relationships?  I would think that since a lot of black women in this group met their husbands at work, then there is a chance that she was his supervisor, or was in a higher income bracket than he. 

It certainly was not the case with me and Hubby, I assure you.  Once while we were still dating, he inadvertently put me to shame. He told me what he had saved that year — as in banked, put away, stashed, etc. — and the figure represented more than my gross earnings in the same year!  Now I knew I either had to:

a) leave my line of work

b) shake down The Man for a raise

c) change jobs 

This press release certainly does not apply to me, but I want to hear from the sisters out there with bank. Discreetly, of course. Do you out earn your guy? Did your high salary somehow act as a turnoff to the brothers? This informative piece comes from the women at BettyConfidential.


PALO ALTO, CA, May 20, 2008.  It’s what women have strived for since that sweltering July day in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and four of her girlfriends gathered over tea to plan the first Women’s Rights Convention, held just one week later. And it’s what women had in mind when they started burning their bras and stopped shaving their armpits in the 1960s.

We’re talking about the title of Primary Breadwinner. Okay, maybe “equivalent breadwinner” was more the goal, but while much has been reported on the increasing number of women in the breadwinner role, little light has been shed on the accompanying social impact – particularly amongst women who hold the title and how it’s affected the state of their unions. Until now. A survey conducted last month by BettyConfidential.com revealed that most women in this role are simultaneously proud of themselves and resentful of their husbands.

“Perhaps because of what we’ve witnessed in popular culture – with couples like Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe – I think people suspect that a woman outearning her husband is a catalyst for tension in the marriage,” said BettyConfidential.com editor, Nicole Christie. “Our survey reveals that outearning one’s husband is a blessing – less financial worries, a sense of pride – but also a curse, creating a greater pull of work versus family and a gap between husband and wife that’s difficult to bridge.”

As of 2005 (when data was last compiled), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that roughly one-third of women have gone above and beyond by outearning their husbands. This figure is up 28.2 percent from a decade earlier – and has even resulted in a growing trend of women paying alimony to their ex-husbands (“Men Receiving Alimony Want a Little Respect,” Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2008).

A 43-year-old investment banker sees both sides of the woman-as-breadwinner coin in her marriage. “I have financial independence that my mother never had,” she says. “But I do resent my husband because there are so many household chores, community events, and school events that the ‘woman of the house’ is expected to do.” She finds it helpful that her husband works full-time as opposed to staying home, yet says workmen at the house won’t discuss repairs with her and that financial consultants defer to her husband, assuming he is the breadwinner and household decision-maker.
The survey also found that, indeed, marriages sometimes can’t withstand the pressure of a woman in the top earner spot. A 40-year-old marketing strategist from Monterey, California says her marriage crumbled as a result of her breadwinner status – not for monetary reasons, but because of the discrepancy in life approaches. While her ex-husband is an Ivy League-educated Wall Street attorney, she found him lacking as a partner in their marriage.

“He came from a very well-off family who put him through college and law school, while my parents forced me to pay my way,” she explains. “I think this is what allowed me to achieve great success and become the primary breadwinner. But while my ex-husband is intelligent and talented, he lacks ambition and always looks for the easiest route – opting for the shallows while I conquer Level IV rapids. He’s also surprisingly bad with money and didn’t support me logistically or financially through my pregnancies, when I was exhausted from running several businesses. Ultimately, our differences just couldn’t co-exist under one roof.”

At the same time that a woman’s primary breadwinner role tugs at the seams of her marriage, her ability to care for herself and her family affords a freedom not known by previous generations. “You have total independence and can want to be in a relationship rather than need to be,” says Maria Ricca, a 53-year-old program manager. Adds theMonterey marketing strategist, “I think all women need to at least prepare to be the primary breadwinner. The unhappiest women I know are those who rely on their husbands to completely supply and manage their financial lives. Why chance it?”


2 thoughts on “Who’s Holding the Purse Strings Anyway?

  1. The ideal, would be that he is earning more than you, however you have your own money!, so that you don’t feel disadvantaged/

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