Now more than ever, women are killing it in their careers, breaking glass ceilings and rising to the top of their industries — and bringing home the paychecks to prove it. Unfortunately, within the context of hetero couples, we're not yet at the point where this never poses complications. Even though the husbands of female breadwinners may respect their admirable hard work and grit, because of the way men are socially conditioned, some still feel intimidated or even threatened by this dynamic.
When a woman is the main breadwinner of the family, their partners may report feeling insecure or inadequate. One FGB'er wrote into our Discussions Board to ask for advice on helping her husband feel comfortable with her success.
"I feel like sometimes it causes a lot of friction. I also feel resentful because my husband still wants to be the main decision-maker about family/household issues. Does anyone else have the same issues?"
A few other FGB'ers answered the woman's plea with great advice:
One user said she is in a similar situation with her family. "In my marriage we just had to talk it out -- like literally write down who controlled the decisions in which domains and what things were joint decisions so we weren't operating under frustrating assumptions we had about what the other person should or shouldn't do (either b/c of gender roles or b/c of what jobs we had at work and what financial means we have)."
Another FGB'er discussed her struggle with having to justify purchases to her husband, saying he feels his purchases are more important than hers. She went on to recommend a book on marriage that she benefitted from in the past. "If you haven't read John Gottman's 'The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work' I highly recommend. His section on Accepting Influence was profound in its explanation and identification of power struggles. And the realization that this is common among men because they are trained by society at large to have, show, wield power made me feel much less alone. It has also given us an objective starting place for this discussion, which diffuses a lot of the tension. Hope this helps!"
These women are right. The best and most effective way to deal with this friction is to talk about it with your husband. Be open and communicative about how you are feeling, so that he can feel comfortable doing the same. When you are open about the kind of mental and physical support you need from each other, you can work to alleviate the tension.
Author Minda Zetlin wrote about being the breadwinner of her marriage for Inc., saying the most important solution is to not be afraid to say you are the breadwinner. If these financial scenarios are discussed more frequently, people would realize how common they really are.
"Once we can step into the light of day and talk about being a breadwinning wife as though that is a normal thing to be--which it is--we can dig deeper into what that means for each particular partnership. We can ask ourselves what we really need from our spouses," she said.
"In my case, I need a support system to handle day-to-day tasks while I focus on work, a sounding board to talk out my problems, and a cheerleader to boost my confidence when challenges arise."
By simply having the conversation with her husband, Zetlin was able to achieve this relationship.
A third FGB'er offered her advice to the Anonymous Breadwinner, telling her to be proud of her success and to "reinvent" what it means to be the main provider of the family. And we agree.
"I'm offering validation for both you and your husband that our times have no roadmaps or role models for shifting gender roles. It can be extremely confusing if you were, for instance, brought up as I was to expect the man of the house to be the provider. Well, you can own the Provider role, but reinvent it too. You & your husband can distribute your household tasks according to your skills, for example. I too have been the major breadwinner in my house but I am a lousy bookkeeper, so my husband does that. He checks the homework, I do the cooking. He plans outings, etc. Recognize and take advantage of your husband's talents & put them to use. Good luck & be a proud Provider."