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When The Wife Earns More Than The Husband

Wife Outearns Husband

A Cause of Marital Crisis if Not Well Managed

The modern working women are now more competitive at the workplace, thus may may higher salaries and positions than their spouses. If socioeconomic status is deemed important in marriage, will the new status quo affect a marriage? Especially since it is traditionally acceptable that men are the key breadwinner of the family. Are men willing to take on a more submissive, non-traditional family role? Can women accept their new role as the sole financial supporter in a family? Such changes in traditional family roles need to be managed well to avoid becoming a source of marital conflicts.

Counsellor Chloe Cheung states that, with greater earning capability, working women find it more challenging to seek a socioeconomically compatible partner. Those who got married may have to juggle both work and family responsibilities, such as looking after the children, helping with their schoolwork, and taking care of household chores. If their spouses do not support them in sharing the family responsibilities, these working women can become depressed and resentful from stress and the feeling of being unfairly treated. 

Husband’s Low Income Becomes A Reason for Divorce

Chole Cheung shares that a wife may be able to speak out on certain marital issues, such as her husband having an extramarital affair. But when a wife outearns her husband and feels that he is inadequate, she may find it hard to share these concerns.

While in a position of authority at work, it is natural to be dominant. However, this may carry over into our personal life. The power dynamics between a couple thus need to be well managed to avoid conflicts or even a marriage breakdown. In one of our counselling cases, the couple had a similar socioeconomic status at the time of marriage. As time passed, the wife advanced significantly at work, reaching a higher job position and income level than her husband. She got used to being authoritative because of work and thus rarely listened to her husband’s opinions. She often got angry for no reason and gradually felt that she was drifting apart from her husband. As a result, thoughts of divorce surfaced.

A woman can find it difficult and troubling to accept that her husband’s incompetence at work is her reason for wanting a divorce. This makes her feel like a ‘bad’ person. Counsellor Mendy Kwong says: “Many women find it hard to tell others when they realise their marriage falls short of expectations. It is even harder for them to let others know that their marital problems are due to their husbands’ low income. They also fear that others may gossip when they find out this is also the reason for them to consider divorces. As a result, these women are usually stuck in a predicament, not knowing what to do.”

In situations like this, when thoughts of divorce surface, it does not necessarily mean that the wife truly wants a divorce. Nor is divorce the solution to the problem. Mendy says: “When we reach a certain age, companionship is regarded as most important in a marriage. The affected wife may be feeling vexed. But when the cause of what bothers her is addressed, it will bridge the gap between her and her husband. At the same time, it helps them better accept and get along with each other. Therefore, the wife may not have to resist having to support her husband financially.”

Marriage Counselling Brings Clarity to the Problem

Identifying the root cause of marital problems and what the couple wants are important before deciding to divorce or to rebuild a broken relationship. At this point, a couple should consult a qualified counsellor to get help in addressing the difficulties they faced during their marriage. But more importantly, through the counselling process, to get clarity on the problems faced and to know their real needs.

In the earlier mentioned case, the couple managed to address their emotional distress with the guidance of a counsellor. At the same time, they realised that the conflict on their income gap was superficial and that they had other deeply-rooted issues, such as how they got along with both of their families, expectations on having children etc. With counselling, the couple managed to open up to one another and resolved the conflicts and issues they suppressed. They also got better at communicating with each other.

When a Wife Outearns Her Husband, Avoid These in Conversations:

  1. Saying: “I can pay for it or I can take care of it” when shopping or spending.
  2. Talking or discussing income and expenditures in front of parents and in-laws.
  3. Putting her spouse down in front of his friends.
  4. Showing that she is “the authority” in front of others.
  5. Asking her spouse: “What have you contributed to this family?”

The Companions
Chloe Cheung