When the husband makes significantly less money than his wife


#1

...does it cause a problem in the marriage?

A related question: if a man feels called to a career where the annual salary is barely enough to support himself, is that a sign that maybe he isn't called to marriage?


#2

From personal experience, no. My husband used to make significantly less than I did. He was proud of my accomplishments and would boast them to other people. In recent years, that has changed because I decided to become a stay at home mom and he moved up in position where he is employed and because our marriage is solid, we slid into the new roles with no problem.


#3

Of course not.

Only if he has ego issues.

Seriously, if a guy decides to be a teacher and he falls in love with a doctor, they're somehow not compatible?

Just because not everyone falls into traditional gender roles does not make them bad Catholics or their marriages invalid.


#4

A strong sense of humor is important in every marriage.

Differences in earnings could create a wonderful opportunity to employ humor.


#5

Well said, An extremly intelligent response, Your 111% Right, it is the EGO, don’t
let it get in the way, If true love is there it does not matter what the salary range is.


#6

Speaking as a husband who used to make more than his wife (me computer tech support, she university professor) who then lost his job, I can say that it is hard on the ego but that is it. I love my wife and how much I make and how much she makes does not make a difference. There is a slim to none chance that when I do get a job that I will make more than her. Does it bother me? Yes it bothers me a little but that is only due to my ego. Has it caused a problem in the marriage, no.


#7

The man's ego is not the only issue though, it's also the woman's state of mind. My fiancee makes more than I do, and she had to get over some issues because of it. She felt uneasy with the idea of shouldering most of the financial burden. She would like to be a stay at home mom one day, but might not be able to if I don't make enough money to support a family.

This has all been resolved by now...but I just wanted to share the other side of the coin as well. It can be an obstacle sometimes, but not such an obstacle that a strong relationship can't overcome.


#8

[quote="Neithan, post:1, topic:226240"]
...does it cause a problem in the marriage?

A related question: if a man feels called to a career where the annual salary is barely enough to support himself, is that a sign that maybe he isn't called to marriage?

[/quote]

Hmm... right now my fiance and I are dealing with this. He works almost full-time at a retail store and brings in about half of what I make as a third-year teacher. He can cover his half of the bills, but when it comes to paying for anything else I end up having to cover the costs.

This is very different than how I was raised in my family--- husband takes care of the wife, who stays home and makes it really a home: cleans, cooks, organizes, takes care of the kids, assists husband with activities.

I know my marriage will be different than how I grew up and I resented that for a long time. My anger caused strife between my fiance and I and we ended up at a point where we were going to break up for awhile.

We then started working on the details and now I feel better about things. We have a plan to pay off our debts, we're eating out less and shopping less (which means I'm spending less money), and he is making attempts to finish his college education so that he too can become a teacher.

What helped us was communicating our feelings-- getting the emotions out there-- and then making a plan. I will help him, using my God-given skills, to organize our lives and help pay off our debts (credit card and school loans) and when it comes time to have children, he'll hopefully be able to take over as the money maker while I can be a stay-at-home Mom. I'm still working through my emotions that I may not be able to stay at home with my children and that is very tough, but I know we'll have to wait until we get to that point before we can finally make a decision.

So yes that type of situation can work, sometimes it takes more effort in a relationship than other relationships, but love, open communication, prayer, and a plan can allow it to turn out just fine.


#9

[quote="Garyjohn2, post:7, topic:226240"]
The man's ego is not the only issue though, it's also the woman's state of mind. My fiancee makes more than I do, and she had to get over some issues because of it. She felt uneasy with the idea of shouldering most of the financial burden. She would like to be a stay at home mom one day, but might not be able to if I don't make enough money to support a family.

This has all been resolved by now...but I just wanted to share the other side of the coin as well. It can be an obstacle sometimes, but not such an obstacle that a strong relationship can't overcome.

[/quote]

Yes, that's more of where I sit. When we took our FOCUS test, one of the questions was whether it would bother him if I made more money than him. It was never asked if I was bothered which I think shows the bias of the test. I put yes because I felt it would bother both of us, not because I thought it would be a problem we were unwilling to go through. Anyway, when we were going over our results with that "red flag" I clarified "well heck, I'd be bothered by it." The woman was completely shocked that it bothered me. We also had a bit of a discussion about my insistance on striving to understand what being submissive to my husband meant. She didn't want to focus on the Ephesians passage at all.

In my prospective, women naturally have a lot on their plates already. There are simply responsibilities that only the woman can take on. Its actually far easier for a woman to take on men's roles than for the man to take on her roles. I think frequent pregnancies will always hold a woman back in her career and will create periods where she needs to take a leave of absense unpaid. To go through that period where her income is the primary income you rely upon I see as being extreemly difficult and especially during this pregnancy I have come to a more complete realization as to why the cornerstone of the feminist movement stands on "reproductive rights."

More and more especially during this pregnancy, I get angry at the feminist movement. I mean, its nice to have the option to work, to have a choice, but that choice really relies on having the ability to choose not to work. Unforunately we now live in a type of economy where both parents are pretty much forced to work. And I think in all honesty because we really can't pass the responsibility of pregnancy and delivery onto the man (not to mention that I feel like I go against my maternal nature to not be the primary care-giver to my child), we end up with taking on far more responsibilities than our husbands. I think traditional roles come from simply a more practical way of living our lives.

I mean I think its horrible that women were thought to be inferior to men and incapable of doing man's work, but I'd feel a lot more supported if my husband were able to be the primary breadwinner. Hopefully we'll be able to navigate our lives so that we can find ways to support our family in a manner that allows me to stay at home once our family is much larger.


#10

Statistics show that when men make significantly less than the women, they're much more likely to cheat. But, is that because there are a significant amount of men who are gold-digger's looking for women they don't love to support them? IDK

But statistics represent trends in groups, not individuals. So if you aren't the kind of guy who would cheat, I don't think that you would just because you married someone making more.

However, yes it can cause problems as folks noted above. Mainly, because marriage is about being a team. And while dating you need to sort out whether you can work as a team, and what that means in your individual relationship. Which brings us to your second question:

"A related question: if a man feels called to a career where the annual salary is barely enough to support himself, is that a sign that maybe he isn't called to marriage?"

I believe everyone should follow their passion, I believe if you're going to make a lot of money, that's how you'll do it. If you don't, at least you'll have no regrets on your deathbed for having pursued your passion. Now, did you know the biggest disparity in income in our country (US) isn't between men and women? It's between single men and married men for just the reason you allude to- single men don't have to make anywhere near as much. Roof over our heads and beer in the fridge, and we're satisfied. It's when we have to support families that we're driven to bring in more. (Generality, but explored in George Guilder's 'Men and Marriage'.

But marriage is a team. Say you find an understanding woman, and as a team you bring in enough so you each can pursue your passions with her bringing in the most. But circumstances change, kids, job loss, whatever. Now, the team needs more income and you can provide it by changing occupations. If you're willing to sacrifice to do what's necessary to support the team, than no, being called to a low paying career isn't an impediment to matrimony.


#11

[quote="Neithan, post:1, topic:226240"]
...does it cause a problem in the marriage?

A related question: if a man feels called to a career where the annual salary is barely enough to support himself, is that a sign that maybe he isn't called to marriage?

[/quote]

It could cause a problem in the marriage, depending upon how the couples works together to meet their mutual financial responsibilities and obligations. Some couples sit down together and pay the bills, some couples maintain separate bank accounts after they get married to have some money to use just for their own spending habits. It would really depend upon how each in the marraige views money and agree with how to manage it. If the couple can not freely discuss their money issues, regardless of whom makes more, than they have a huge problem. That's the part I would have worried about when I first got married. I have been the one with the higher salary from time to time in our marriage, but it was more important to me that we trusted each other with what both of us earned and pooled our resources together to have a healthy financial future. It was also important to me that my husband love what he was doing when he earned less than I did. I would gladly be the bigger paycheck if it means my husband is free to pursue what he loves. I think it would be worse if he was the one bringing home the bigger paycheck but was in a job that he despised.

The related question, that seems to already assume that the man has to be the one with the bigger paycheck. What if it was a woman that felt called to a career where the annual salary is barely enough to support herself? Should she take that as an indicator that she isn't called to marriage? I don't think so.


#12

Most of the men on the planet and throughout history have lived and supported their families on subsistence wages. I don't think it occurred to many of those who were (and are) able-bodied that poor men with limited prospects don't have a vocation to marriage. St. John Chrysostom did not have to chide men to avoid being too proud to take a wife who brought substantial wealth into the family, but rather had to warn them not to choose a wife for her money instead of for her virtue.

These are things to consider when you have an actual person you want to marry. Talk to her about it.


#13

It all depends on the two people involved. And the difference in income. A man earning $5000/year less than his wife is actually for the purpose of my argument earning the same thing

And this is where the whole forum is probably going to gang up on me again but here it goes.

I would be VERY uncomfortable starting a marriage with a man who earns less than me. If he became disabled or the economy changed and there was no longer a demand for his chosen field, marriage is for better or for worse and I would pray to be the most supportive wife on the planet.

However, when I was a teenager in the 80s, the saying was 'Women have to choose between a career or family, men can have it all'. So if I chose career and a man can have it all, he really has no excuse to earn significantly less. I am a human being and will be influenced by society's messages

Also, I was told 'women can not do math'. I have a degree in Math. So if I can accomplish something when as a woman, I have all the strikes against me, what possible excuse can a man have?

Now these are my personal thoughts and my personal opinion. If other women have a totally different opinion and see things totally differently, I respect their choices and believe as long as God is the center of the marriage they can be happy.

Also, I strongly believe ALL men deserve a woman who sees him go to work every day and the wife has great admiration for what he does. In my situation, I would not be able to give that to a man who earns significantly less than me.

So, is it a deal breaker? No, it means you are to marry the woman who could not care less. And if it is God's will for you to marry, then He will put that woman in your path

CM


#14

[quote="cmscms, post:13, topic:226240"]

However, when I was a teenager in the 80s, the saying was 'Women have to choose between a career or family, men can have it all'. So if I chose career and a man can have it all, he really has no excuse to earn significantly less. I am a human being and will be influenced by society's messages

Also, I was told 'women can not do math'. I have a degree in Math. So if I can accomplish something when as a woman, I have all the strikes against me, what possible excuse can a man have?

CM

[/quote]

I was fine with your personal opinion up until this, which assumes that every career has the same pay. A man can "have it all", but if he wants to be a teacher, he can't help making $40,000. There is an excuse for his salary; it's what the district will pay him. It's not like we can choose completely what to make (although we can make demands within reason).

Case in point: I'll be a doctor in a year; my boyfriend (and eventual husband) is in retail. He makes about 1/6 of what I will make. He can't help it; if he went in to his employer to ask for a 600% raise to be on par with me, he'd be laughed at.

I guess what I'm saying is that passion and abilities come first; we can't expect everyone to have high paying jobs. My passion is medicine, and I'm lucky that it comes with a hefty salary (although it also comes with a half million in student loans). My bf doesn't like medicine and isn't motivated academically, and loves his job to boot, so why should he try to seek out a job just to compete with my salary? Is that not a good enough "excuse"?

He's admitted that it's weird, but he's never said that he would be emasculated or anything. He has also admitted, however, that if we ever adopt kids, he wouldn't feel comfortable being a stay-at-home dad. Conflicting ideas of social norms, whoda thunk?:shrug:


#15

You have a very good brain. Obviously, you have the brains to see by now that society is out to lunch in its message more often than not. You probably have the brains to make a lot more money than you do now. What would you say to someone who asked for your excuse? I hope you’d tell them to go fly a kite.

The strikes against you? They were mostly a lie, weren’t they? I got a degree in chemistry, and it was all wive’s tales. There really wasn’t anything substantial about being a woman that was in the way of my success, excepting a few backward people who still believed the lies. You have to know that as well as I do. You may as well say that all whites ought to have advanced degrees, because it is so much easier for whites to get them. Hogwash.

They say that a lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. I think society’s messages are levying a tax on your ability to be content with a husband who is virtuous but not rich. In that sense, the advertisers who have found it in their interest to put those messages out, the messages that urge us to find self worth in what we own, have found a way to own a bit of you.

Honest work has dignity, regardless of what the market is willing to pay for it. If you can’t admire a man who has the integrity and character to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, then I suppose perhaps you don’t have what it takes to deserve him.

The problem with your attitude is not that you can’t find a man with whom you’ll be content. The problem is that I fail to see how you could possibly have sufficient gratitude for the people who keep the country running. If it were not for the work being done that does not require a college degree and whose pay reflects that, we wouldn’t have food on our tables, nor in our restaurants. No one could afford to have their elderly relatives taken care of in nursing homes. I could go on, but the truth is, I don’t think you could have gotten your math degree without the work of a multitude of people who will never make as much as you do.

Because let’s face it: With your attitude, you’d not marry St. Joseph, the man that God chose to be foster father for His Son. You’ marry the rich young man, but not one of those willing to leave everything behind to serve God. How nuts is that?


#16

cmscms,

Thank you for your honesty. I don't know your background, but if you've ever been around folks who've lived through hard times- it's a practical attitude to have.

Again, it comes down to the two people involved. I have friends who got married with the understanding that the wife would stay home with the kids. Well, after the kids were born, the husband, who was in the IT industry, didn't stay current on his qualifications. He also has poor work habits and was laid off. (This was well before the downturn in the economy). He turned down two positions each paying in the mid-60,000s because he couldn't see himself working for less than 100K. This with the savings accounts draining away, the stress of young children, mortgage payments etc. I could go on, but, wife went back to work and is now the primary breadwinner. The husband fault isn't the amount of his salary or whether it's more/less than his wife's. His fault is he didn't do his part to keep his word to her about being a stay at home mom. She feels taken advantage of, and somewhat let down. He's now a stay at home dad, which is what she had always wanted for herself .

So, back to the OP. Your desire to do a particular occupation isn't a bar to matrimony. But it does require finding a partner who's supportive of your goals. AND your understanding that you may have to shift priorities if circumstances change.


#17

Yes, but the men living on subsistence wages probably didn’t have much of a choice. My boss, for example, easily earns 3-4 times what he used to earn teaching high school English. Is it really fair for a husband to choose to continue teaching when he can easily go into another field and earn 3 times as much? Babies do need groceries after all, and growing up in a double-wide in a poor neighborhood with poor schools can drastically affect a child’s prospects.

I know that I would not be able to ask my family to make a drastic lifestyle so that I could go into a line of work that, while important for society and one that I love, is less than lucrative.


#18

I make more than twice what my dh makes, but he is the one that paid for the education to make that possible.

I did stay home when my kids were little, and money was tight! But we got by. As the kids got older, I got grants and loans and went back to college.

Now I make more money, and dh makes dinner ;) And I love that I am able to let him pursue his dreams, and let him spend more time with the kids now that they are older (especially as his chosen career is a massage therapist!). I don't think it would have bothered me that much if he had stayed home with them when they were younger, as long as it was one of us and not a stranger!

It works in our marriage, it may not work in yours. Personally, I am happy I have a dh who is a great father, loves and respects me, and is Godly. He takes the time every day to visit my grandmother and make sure she is OK, he tolerates my dog, and pretends interest in art exhibits for me. What more can I ask for?

I would rather be poor and have him than to have $$$ without love or respect.


#19

This is an interesting topic for a few reasons.

Like almost everyone else, I also agree it depends on the people. I have read studies/articles where cheating/divorce (initiated by the woman) is higher where the woman makes more, but the primary reason seems to be that even though these women claim all that feminist equality stuff, they really still feel that the man should be the breadwinner. They want it both ways - the freedom to work outside the home, the husband to share the housekeeping and childrearing duties, but then when that happens, he's not enough of a man because he doesn't make enough and he always messes up when he tries to clean/make dinner/give the kids a bath.

One article interviewed a man whose wife made significantly more, so they had decided she would continue working and he would stay home with the kids. Turns out she ended up really resenting the fact he wasn't working and ended up divorcing him, and got at least half custody of the kids. Awful.

People have been so brainwashed into thinking that two incomes are necessary that they forget the things they have are a big problem of why they don't have money. So many people are in tens of thousands of dollars of debt, have no money for retirement or kid's college savings, but still want cable and internet and vacations and dinners out, that of course they feel they need two incomes! That's a huge burden to carry around.

My last point is that your job first and foremost is to keep a roof over your head, your home heated and the power on, and your family fed and clothed. Of course it's wonderful if you actually like (or even love) your field/position, but that is NOT the primary objective of having a job. It is selfish to insist on doing what you love when your family is struggling and you could be making more in another position.

Of course, if she's not threatened by having to be the primary or even sole breadwinner, and he's not threatened by making less, or even changing diapers and cooking dinner, then go for it. I don't think it matters to the kid who's staying home!

Ultimately, success depends on the views both people have, and their willingness and ability to discuss and compromise!


#20

I don't want to get into detail, but if the wife makes a LOT more, then she can approach her husband with humor and make some propositions that he might find ... acceptable.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.