Psychology Melbourne Blog

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When the woman makes more

Edited by Jill Wright,

Relationships where the woman makes more - sometimes vastly more - than the male are becoming far more commonplace these days, and sadly, according to American finance journalist Farnoosh Torabi, they are much more likely to fall apart.

According to Torabi's new book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women, husbands of these uber-wives are five times more likely to be unfaithful as other husbands. The wife is likely to burn out, because she will generally compensate for her financial success by doing even more housework.

It sounds like a depressing echo from the days when men, and a lot of women for that matter, thought that a woman's place was in the home.

But don't despair. Some men can cope. Not only are they willing to support their wives by taking on more of the household routine and looking after the kids, they can actually delight in their success.

I heard about Torabi's book through one of my favourite writers, the Financial Times' Lucy Kellaway [requires registration for free limited access] whose column on the topic canvassed the responses of 500 of her journalist colleagues, seeking examples of marriages where the woman had the fatter wallet.

Lucy agreed with the "clever feminist girlfriend" of one of her equally clever young male colleagues, who had told him "she could never marry a man who earned less as she didn’t fancy a life spent propping up his ego".

One problem with that is that people who complain about having to "prop up" someone's ego frequently display a degree of insensitivity and self-absorption that can undermine even the most conventional of marriages.

And quite often a woman only begins to outpace her spouse some time after the marriage. It's not the sort of thing you'd expect to write in to a pre-nuptial agreement, is it?

Perhaps it might be better from the outset to cultivate a relationship based on mutual respect and loving compassion.

Torabi has some fascinating thoughts on that in an article "New Ways to Pursue Your 'Equal'" on her website. She suggests in fact that the odds of finding a suitable "equal" are not good, and suggests instead that aspirational women should choose to fall in love with a "beta" male.

"If, as a woman, you know that deep down your livelihood and ego depends heavily on your career ambition and success," she writes, "best to be with someone whose livelihood and ego is tied greatly to ... something else."

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.