Keeping Househusbands Happy

Friday, May 02, 2014

Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert and the author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women (Hudson Street Press, 2014), offers survey data and advice on family dynamics for wives and husbands when her job supports the family. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the woman earns more in 29% of families where both halves of a married couple work outside the home. Despite the fact that this family structure is now much more common than it was a generation ago, Torabi cites several studies that found that when wives earn more, infidelity is more likely and divorce rates are higher. She offers tips on how to make this setup work. 

Four Things You Do To Make It Work When She Makes More:

1. Make his money matter.

"If he's bringing home 50 percent of what you're making, it's still good money," suggests Farnoosh. "If he's bringing home less money, attach it to big goals." Pauline in Hackensack agrees. "In our case, my husband maintains responsibility for almost all of the financial decisions... even though the larger share of the income is coming from my work," and it helps. 

2. Talk it out, be honest.

Matt in Westbury said it's a source of tension in his marriage. "It makes perfect economic sense for my wife to work and I'm home with the kids. But it's a struggle... and on Long Island I'm the only dad at the Mommy and Me classes. It's not like in Brooklyn with the Hipster dads." 

Sarah in Highland Lakes said she hadn't realized how old-fashioned she was until her husband stayed at home. "I'm having little twinges... and we just got it out in the open and had a huge fight." It helped, she said. "It's me... this is what we wanted and what we planned for. I just didn't realize I was so old-fashioned."

3. Sometimes you'll feel stuck.

Caller Mary in Brooklyn said it would be helpful to have more flexibility at work. "In 2014 in New York City, the amount of money that it takes to raise a family here really almost demands that one of the parents be somebody who has a more flexible schedule, who can be available, and most jobs that support a lifestyle here don't really allow for that kind of flexibility," she said. "If we want to stay in New York, we have to keep working at the kind of job that I have."

4. "You've really got to love each other." 

Mark in Rockland County's wife has been the sole breadwinner for 9 years. "I've been depressed about not working, but I do other things... and I take care of the house. She has not cleaned or cooked or anything like that for years."


Farnoosh Torabi

Comments [25]

landless from Brooklyn

What needs to be distinguished are husbands who don't work because they are creative and don't fit into the bourgeoisie world from husbands who work in jobs that don't pay well. These types are very common.

May. 02 2014 08:49 PM
DW from NJ

I have been the major bread winner in our household for about 10 years. In fact, with nearly every couple in our circle of friends, the wife makes more than the husband. The age range of the people in the group ranges from 40 - 57. A common thread is that the wives still have far more responsibility for the traditional household chores and child rearing/issues than the husbands. It's not to say that the husbands are disengaged with these matters but the distribution of labor is not equitable, by any means. As a result, we wives start our second full time jobs when we get home from our day job and are chronically tired and stressed out.

Our husbands are all good people but each of us grew up with parents that played the traditional male/female roles of the time. Growing up with those kinds of role models can't help but lead to disappointment on both sides. All of us wives enjoy being successful business women but wouldn't mind if our husbands made more than we did. And our husbands all say they enjoy having successful wives but clearly believe there are certain chores/responsibilities that are more 'ours' versus 'theirs'.

We wives all hope we are raising children who understand that the best relationships are those where labor is equitable, whether it be in the office or at the home.

May. 02 2014 11:34 AM
Gaye from New York

Amy from Manhattan, you are so right. Why is this only the woman's problem? Shouldn't the partners be involved in this. After all women are not the one who need to be kept happy in this. The men are the ones who are unhappy. Why aren't they trying to help this kind of situation?

Crybabies, you are lucky that obviously either yourself or your partner is secure enough that your incomes are not equal. This is NOT the case for most women who are primary breadwinners. Their relationships are fraught and full of anger and resentment which is directed at them from their men. Hopefully we will soon arrive to a place where women feel secure enough to be on their own or with a man, but not feeling as though being in that traditional family model is the ultimate goal. Many women put up with a lot of unnecessary crap because of the male ego.

May. 02 2014 11:31 AM
ShadowOne from NJ

As I approach retirement I have come to the realization finally that I am not defined by what I do to provide for my family. My wife feels the same way for herself. The fight for income by either or both partners is hard enough, so who cares who earns more or who is the principle household provider.

May. 02 2014 11:28 AM

My advice to men: don't marry. The cost of prostitutes is much cheaper, and kids will give you no pleasure after age 14 anyway. They won't know you when you're old. Why marry? What's in it for you?

May. 02 2014 11:26 AM
Gaye from New York

My advice to my daughter was 'Don't marry a man who makes less money than you or is less famous than you'
They will ALWAYS take it out on you.

And to john from office, women respect a man who respects her. Obviously you don't respect the woman you are with.

May. 02 2014 11:19 AM
Amy from Manhattan

A lot of this sounds as if it applies whether it's the woman or the man who makes more money. In either case, it's good for the couple to discuss financial decisions & for the one who makes less income to feel s/he's contributing substantially to paying expenses.

And both the segment title & the book title seem to be making it the woman's responsibility to make this situation work! "Keeping Househusbands Happy" implies that it's the wife's job to keep him happy & says nothing about her happiness. In the book title, the rules are for women. Gee, aren't there any rules for men to follow in this kind of relationship?

May. 02 2014 11:17 AM

Once marriage ceases to exist and its demise is analysed, people in the future will wonder why it ever existed. Oh right, that was because you needed a female womb to have offspring. Thankfully, medical techonology has made it safer and more sensible to produce children scientifically in envionmentally controlled hatcheries under strict quality control standards.

May. 02 2014 11:16 AM
Gaye from New York

I think men,like women, need to adjust their mindsets about what it means to live in current society. Women are expected to be the primary parent as well as the one who looks after the house, as well as brining in an income. If we are lucky enough that our income is sizeable, we are made to feel as though we are emasculating our men because we make more money. Shouldn't our 'partner' feel happy that as a family we have a larger combined income because of the woman's larger income? I think most men need to GROW UP and stop belittling, or treating their spouses badly because of their own insecurities about their income. I freelance and the years when my husband made more money, I never took that out on him. All I hear is, that he has nothing. Also, when I was not busy, we had no housekeeper, we had no babysitter, I paid attention to how much money was spent on groceries etc. When I make more money, we have a lot more expenses because, as he says, 'he's not a bloody woman'.
So exhausting! Men need to grow up!

May. 02 2014 11:16 AM
BK from Hoboken

Please address age with this: I really don't see this to be as big of a deal for younger generations. I am Gen X and married for 10 years. When we met I made almost what my wife did. Even though I do pretty well, my wife now makes about 5 times what I do. I consider myself lucky to be married to a wonderful successful woman. I really don't think people my age have a problem with this.

May. 02 2014 11:13 AM
Measure up

[[john from office
No woman respects a man that makes less money then her. That is a fact.
Hence she leaves for greener pastures.
May. 02 2014 11:03 AM]]


They ll told you they were leaving because your "paycheck" was too small.


May. 02 2014 11:12 AM

It's no the money so much, but how the main bread winner makes the other feel included and more importantly needed.

May. 02 2014 11:12 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Unless there is a vast salary difference I can't imagine why it would matter in a serious relationship. Earning power is also highly variable over time. Having been through periods of unemployment that were highly stressful I think the biggest problem is ego, it's painful for a man to ask anyone for $, especially his wife, but women do not seem to feel similarly. Don't let your ego ruin a good thing.

May. 02 2014 11:11 AM
john from office

She said cavemen!! It is cavepeople or cavepersons. Lets get it right!

May. 02 2014 11:10 AM

Oh, for the love of God!

"My wife makes too much money. Waaaaaahhhhh!!!!"
"We have too much financial security. Waaaaahhhhhhh!!!"

Such an annoying segment.

May. 02 2014 11:10 AM
Tobi from Brooklyn

What age groups did Torabi's study include? I have heard that higher earning women do more house work. And that seems so antiquated. Am I wrong to think of that the more traditional gender roles are stronger in older age groups?

May. 02 2014 11:10 AM

do not like the "caveman" traditional roles comment. This is irresponsible. Guest is applying 5000 year old culture to prehistorical people........ she is not a specialist I would guess. Please do not spread "Flintstones" stereo types.

May. 02 2014 11:09 AM

As women were allowed into the work force to compete with men and to take the jobs men once dominated, it depressed wages for both men and women and so it takes two salaries to live on what one salary could buy in the 1960s-1980s. And once communism came down and billions of workers were freed from socialist slavery, that made real wages impossible to increase until all that foreign labor rises to a certain level, making investments in the US more viable again.

May. 02 2014 11:07 AM

As women were allowed into the work force to compete with men and to take the jobs men once dominated, it depressed wages for both men and women and so it takes two salaries to live on what one salary could buy in the 1960s-1980s. And once communism came down and billions of workers were freed from socialist slavery, that made real wages impossible to increase until all that foreign labor rises to a certain level, making investments in the US more viable again.

May. 02 2014 11:06 AM
Camille from Crown Heights

My husband is from Eastern Europe and is very "old world" in a lot of ways. That said, since we moved to the US and had a baby, he has a stayed at home with our one-year old during the 3 days a week I work from the office and works at night as a delivery driver 3 nights a week. I still definitely feel like I do more in the relationship/for the family (I do all the cooking, most of the , but I've to be in acceptance since he is a wonderful person and am glad to be with someone who supports me in pursuing my career.

May. 02 2014 11:06 AM
john from office

No woman respects a man that makes less money then her. That is a fact.

Hence she leaves for greener pastures.

May. 02 2014 11:03 AM

Been there done that. Marriage? Feh! A contrivance not long for this world. Just wait until babies can be produced in labs and then we'll see how much longer it lasts.

May. 02 2014 11:03 AM
A lady from New York from nyc

I've always earned more than my men, and I'll tell you what usually happens. I feel a little guilty about having so much more money than the guy I'm with, that I start buying everything. And then after a while of that, I'm broke or in debt. It's stupid, but I'm sure I"m not the only one. Anyway, it's taken me a long time to get a balance, and actually share expenses. It helps that I've been brought to the level (by my debt to income ratio) of equality with my partner now. Haha. Irony. Anyway, don't let that happen, ladies! It's silly!

May. 02 2014 11:02 AM

My wife makes double what I do (we both work in the arts so it's not much) we've been together almost 10 years. Totally fine with this.

May. 02 2014 11:02 AM
What are you even talking about?

"15 years ago the economy was strong enough to support a single-income family"

May. 02 2014 10:15 AM

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