Moral money: our reader is concerned her earnings will cause conflict
Dear Moral Money,
My husband and I both work, but I am the higher earner. While he is very supportive, he also has an issue of feeling emasculated by not being the main earner in the relationship.
I am totally willing to take on more of the financial burden as a result, but he doesn’t like it. For example, when I try to pay more for things like holidays, he says it makes him feel like a failure.
I have recently had a pay rise, meaning the gap between our salaries has grown even bigger. I haven’t told my husband about it yet – and my question for you is: do I need to?
I don’t want to get out of paying for things, or use the extra money for anything sinister – but I’m just not sure his ego can take it.
Congratulations on your pay rise. It is a shame that the social stereotype of the man being the breadwinner means that your pay rise is causing anxiety, rather than being a reason to celebrate.
Research predicts we are 21 years away from gender pay parity in Britain, let alone dissolving centuries of cultural conditioning, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
It is quite easy therefore to see where your husband may be getting the idea that traditional thinkers might judge him harshly.
I am unconvinced that pretending you earn less will resolve anything. In fact, I worry it will make it worse.
Dishonesty changes the fabric of a relationship. It isn’t necessarily the actual lie or omission itself, but the many other things we end up doing and saying to corroborate the original deceit.
It changes us, and that changes our relationships. You may intend to make your relationship better, but setting a trail of dishonesty in motion is more likely to undermine your long-term relationship, in my opinion – not to mention the fact that you deserve to be celebrated for what you are, rather than pretending to be less than that.
Isn’t the problem here how your husband is thinking and feeling about your comparative earnings? If so, then only he can actually address the problem at its root, but maybe there are some life hacks that make it easier for you as a couple to operate in a society not yet ready to give up gender-based judgments of you as individuals.
I know a couple who reply to the question “What do you do for a living?” with the answer “My husband/wife and I run a business and raise a family between us”. Your careers may be less collegiate than theirs, but maybe you could take a lead from them and start thinking of yourselves as a team and describing yourselves as such.
If you genuinely want to share the spoils of your labour then a couples’ finance approach might work better. Both of you have your earnings paid into a joint bank account.
All the costs of home, joint holidays and spending come out of that account. You haven’t mentioned children, but this approach works really well for covering child-rearing costs as well.
The balance left after all joint costs are covered is split equally between you, and what lands in your personal account belongs to you individually. This way, should either of you get a pay rise it translates to a pump in earnings for both of you.
Does your husband feel valued for what he contributes to your family life? You seem to feel that you are a team and you are happy to share, but does he know that?
When I am busy I forget to let the people around me know how much I appreciate them. Regardless of what they do or earn, our roles in each other’s lives, I have a personal responsibility to express appreciation and gratitude, and I don’t always do it. When I remember to do it there are varying reactions.
Some flush with embarrassment and say things like, “Not at all, it’s what I am here for”. Others reflect their appreciation for me – “I couldn’t have done it without you”.
Some have come to expect it and are quick to let me know when I have forgotten, occasionally someone may feel my appreciation of them is insufficient currency and become resentful. However people react, I believe my responsibility ended with communicating my appreciation.
This is a long-winded way of me trying to say that as long as you are being honest, fair and appreciative of your husband, his ego is his responsibility to manage.