by Shane Perrault, PhD, and Dawn DeLavallade, MD, author of She Makes More.
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, 40 percent of American households with children have a woman as the higher earner, and 60 percent of African-American families have a female breadwinner. (Female breadwinners include single mothers and married women who earn more than their partners or husbands.)
This revolution in male/female relationships has grown steadily over the last four decades. And with more women than ever before attending college and settling into high-paying careers, this shift most likely represents a new era.
But how does this shift in cultural norms with women more likely to be represented in the boardroom impact their romantic relationships, or satisfaction level in the bedroom? There certainly is no straightforward, or one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, when a woman is in a relationship with a man who earns less money, there are a few telltale signs that their relationship’s stock might be falling.
While some relationship problems are difficult but possible to talk about, this role reversal, with women earning more, can be almost impossible to talk about with both your partner and with your established support system. Stigma, shame, loyalty, frustration, confusion and this relationship dynamic possibly representing a stark departure from any role model either of you have observed – are just a few reasons that being a woman who earns more can be a very isolated and heart-breaking experience. For these reasons, couples often struggle, and can find can find communication and conflict resolution skills deficient, if not non-existent.
Frequently, your earning more money is the proverbial elephant in the room.
Far too often, silence, miscommunications, awkwardness and hurt feelings surrounding this role-reversal negatively impacts their relationship and/or family. Even worse, because much of society still tends to judge a man who earns less as a slacker, a gold digger, or an opportunist, the couple often fails to seek critical help to avoid condemnation from outsiders. Not to mention, the sense of betraying the man who earns less.
Female breadwinners here are a few telltale signs that your relationship may be at risk of becoming emotionally bankrupt.
If these telltale signs feel familiar to you, relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Your relationship is not necessarily destined for emotional bankruptcy, although there is certainly room for improvement.
As a society, we are all on a steep learning curve when it comes to gender roles being blurred and redefined. Couples could benefit greatly from trying to lean more on each other, having candid, non-defensive conversations, and remaining open to getting professional help. No matter what challenges you face, know that It’s never too late to live your happily ever after. Divorce rates can drop as much as 30 percent with an appropriate intervention.