Wives Earning More Than Their Husbands: The New Kind of Marriage Inequality
The fundamentals of marriage are no longer the same as they had been for generations before, so it’s no surprise that the issues couples are facing today are a bit of an uncharted territory. One growing issue in marriage is income inequality, but reverse. Modern women are working more than women of the past, yet they still often times carry the full responsibility of housework and parenting.This can often lead to bitterness. Since this is such a new issue, there aren’t a lot of cases or case studies to help couples go through something like this, but Jeff Landers, a Divorce Financial Advisor, has some astute observations you may want to consider in the full article below.
Over the last few years, we’ve been hearing a lot about income inequality and how best to address the economic and social problems it presents. Researchers have uncovered disagreement about what steps, if any, need to be taken, and there’s certainly plenty to think about, regardless of your political outlook on such things.
For example, an article in The New York Times examines a sociological aspect of the issue: as income inequality has become more pronounced, there has been a concurrent rise in the phenomenon social scientists call “associative mating.” Simply put, associative mating means that people tend to marry others like themselves, particularly in terms of education and earning potential. Economically advantaged people tend to marry other advantaged people, thus magnifying both their advantages. Sociologists report that the result is a society more stratified by class than in the 1950s, for example, when women in particular strove to marry “up,” and there was more mobility between social classes.
As people marry later now than they used to, and increasingly choose partners from their own educational and economic backgrounds, the nature of marriage is fundamentally changing. Whereas single men once sought homemakers and single women sought breadwinners, The Times reports that people now are more likely to seek companions who share their interests. And, while it is still most common for the husband to earn more than the wife in couples in which both spouses hold jobs, the marital pay gap is slowly shrinking. (Wives today reportedly make 78% of what their husbands do, on average. While that’s a long way from equality, it also represents much progress—in 1970, that figure was just 52%!)
Since the fundamentals of marriage are changing, it only follows that the problems that lead couples to divorce are changing, as well. Today’s marriage therapists report that couples are struggling with the division of housework, responsibilities for child care, and differences in sexual desire. (Considering that women who earn more than their husbands also do more housework and child care than their husbands, it comes as no surprise that these are areas of resentment and conflict.)
What does all this mean for a divorce financial advisor?
Regular readers know that my firm works exclusively with women going through financially complex divorces. Increasingly, these are women with substantial incomes and assets of their own, and possibly significantly more than their husbands. Particularly in high-net-worth marriages, having a greater income or higher net worth than your husband makes for special considerations when it comes to divorce.
Here are a few points of advice to consider if you are in that situation:
- Maintain excellent communication with your husband about financial issues.
- It’s long been my experience and observation that in healthy marriages, spouses talk often and openly about their money. Resentments grow when dissatisfaction goes unvoiced. That’s as true about financial issues as it is about anything—and where your marital finances are concerned, being in the dark can have serious consequences indeed.