Around 40 percent of American women find themselves as the primary breadwinner for their families. In some cases this can lead to significant frustration and trouble in your marriage.
For most of my working life, I was part of that 40 percent. I've been able to see the breadwinner role from several different perspectives. I've experienced it in a less-than-healthy relationship, where it was a touchy subject to be avoided. Then I experienced it as a single mother, and then with a husband who saw us as teammates instead of competitors. Sometimes circumstances dictated that I would be the primary earner, while at other times, it was a strategic choice that Chris and I made for our family. More recently, Chris has taken over as the breadwinner.
No relationship is perfect. It doesn't matter what kind of wonderful Prince Charming you marry; you will at times experience financial strife.
There are three factors that play key roles in our marriages when it comes to the issue of breadwinning.
1. The right kind of guy
Bluntly speaking, some men handle this situation better than others. This is something to be aware of and to watch out for when you're dating. My friend Lisbeth in Work, Love, Pray recommends that dating couples considering marriage have a serious, "all cards on the table" discussion about finances and compare W2s.
Look for the right combination of humility and confidence. Often when men have a problem with making less money it stems from a good impulse: the desire to be a caretaker. Unfortunately, that impulse can be skewed by pride, insecurity, or plain old competitiveness, leading to frustration and relational strife.
2. The right attitude
Relationships are a two-way street. It's not just your husband's responsibility to make the marriage work. Men are naturally wired to want to take care of their families and to desire respect. Don't punish him for that desire or get disdainful if he shows insecurity.
If you want your husband to view you as an equal partner, you have to do the same. Show your husband that you respect him and value his contribution to your family. Let go of the money issue. Don't treat it as "yours" versus "his," especially when you're making financial decisions together. Be aware even of the little things, like joking in public that you "bring home the big bucks," or calling him "Mr. Mom." You shouldn't have to walk on eggshells all the time, but you're not powerless here either. You should take responsibility for your attitude because that's what teammates do for each other.
Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.