Those changes may signal a big problem for American family life. Research completed in the past few years shows that men and women prefer the traditional model. Men and women are happier in marriages in which the husband earns more than the wife. These days, however, that model is not always possible to achieve. When a woman marries a man who is younger than she is (according to the AARP, one-third of women ages 40 to 60 are dating younger men), she is likely to earn more than he. And the simple fact that women traditionally have earned less makes them more attractive employees to keep in times of downsizing.
So women compensate. If you are a woman who out-earns her spouse or partner, you know exactly what I mean. Some families hide the fact that the woman is the breadwinner by putting complete financial control in the hands of the man or by earmarking the woman's income to pay the big bills (such as the mortgage and car payments) so there's no money left for her to spend as she sees fit. Other times, the woman feels so guilty about out-earning her partner that she takes on more and more of the housework. Rarely will either spouse admit that the woman is the breadwinner to their families or friends. And if and when those superficial fixes fail to work, more of these families split up than the average.
Is there any hope for your relationship? Here are my suggestions, based on current research, my conversations with women in this situation, and my own life experience as a woman who has been in the position of earning more—and earning less—than her spouse. I'm asking you to change your attitudes, not necessarily your habits.
Love and Money continues...