Secret Lives of Breadwinner Wives
This was the title of a recent article by MP Dunleavy, a writer over at MSN.
Her article was about heterosexual couples in which the wife earns more than the husband. But in gay couples, without a ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ (usually), one person is always going to earn more than the other. It might be a little bit more, or a LOT more. Does that matter?
Ms. Dunleavy writes that while her husband does the lion’s share of housework, and she earns the larger salary, in fact she is “a conflicted mess of gratitude, pride and steaming resentment.” I guess she, like many women, grew up with the fairy tale that she would marry a prince who would take care of her, and now it turns out that she’s the prince. Or princess. I can see why she’s confused.
As for us, the LGBT gang, I wonder if we grew up with the same expectations (and then have the same resentments)? And maybe for us, too, it breaks down along gender lines. As a gay man, I never grew up expecting someone would be the breadwinner for me. And in my relationship now, I earn quite a bit more than my partner, but I don’t resent it. We have enough money between the two of us and it doesn’t really matter who earns it.
But maybe it’s different for lesbians? For bisexuals and transgendered people I can only imagine, and I’m interested to learn.
I did take away one interesting theory from Ms. Dunleavy: “She Who Earns usually ends up being She Who Plans.” (And with the proper pronouns, that’s true in my case: Rob is only very casually interested in our money situation, and he’s happy for me to manage it. But he did finally use Quicken for the first time this week!)
Dunleavy’s tips for dealing with the earning/planning scenario include the following:
1. You’re in charge. This doesn’t mean you and your partner can’t share equally in financial decisions, but you need to accept the fact that you will probably be the one to initiate most discussions, monitor how your money is organized and orchestrate your financial future.
2. Clarify roles and expectations. Given that female breadwinners lack for role models, you have to start with what you’ve got — and improvise. That means sitting down with your spouse and expressing what your ideas and expectations are for everything from spending to laundry — and likewise listening to his [hers].
3. Squash those fairy tale fantasies. You can’t be CFO and Cinderella at the same time. If you are the main provider, it’s unlikely your mate will be taking care of you financially anytime soon. After all, how many [wo]men marry women hoping they will switch roles as breadwinner at some point?
4. Ask for what you need. You don’t have to be superwoman. Just be clear in your own mind what you want from him [her] — emotional support, a little more help around the house, more time with the kids — and ask for it. You may not always get it, but you’ll never get it if you don’t ask.