How much you make can be a very personal thing. Some people are quiet about their salaries and some people are very open about what they earn. But no matter what, you should be able to feel proud when you've worked hard to make a good living. And yet, that's not always the case. Although talking about money can often be tricky, new research shows that when a woman earns more than her husband they might not really acknowledge it at all. In fact, they both might try to hide it.
An interesting — and pretty disappointing — finding from a new paper from the Census Bureau, shows just how uncomfortable many people are with women being financially successful. The paper compared what respondents told census surveyors about how much they made to their actual earnings on their taxes. In a heterosexual couple where the woman earned more than the man, women reported earning about 1.5 percent on average less than they actually do. In those same marriages, men tended to say that they earned about three percent more than they actually do, on average. The census researchers, Marta Murray-Close and Misty L. Heggeness, called it “manning up and womaning down". It's not surprising but it is really, depressing.
Even though women now out-earn men in around a quarter of relationships, the fact that they feel uncomfortable owning that shows just how far society has to go. "We have thousands and thousands of years of being accustomed to men being the main breadwinners," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "Even in the most modern, progressive families, there is sometimes shame or embarrassment on the part of the men and the women when this is not the case. Both parties have a conscious or unconscious bias that the man is supposed to take care of the woman. Traditional gender roles are turned upside down a bit and can make both parties uncomfortable."
But in a marriage, earning money is a win for everyone — especially because money is such a huge source of relationship stress. But if you don't have a healthy relationship with money as a couple, and you have traditional views toward marriage and gender roles, then women out-earning men seems to be a big issue.
What To Do When There's Tension Over Salaries In A Relationship
If you're in a relationship where this sort of tension is looming, it's best to clear the air. "The best thing to do in these cases is to talk directly and frankly about it," Hartstein says. "The worst thing that can happen (and it often does) is that the women bend over backward and take on even more household chores and responsibilities to 'make up' for the fact that they out-earn their husbands. They may find themselves massaging their husbands’ egos to compensate for their high salaries. As always, airing these anxieties and feelings can go a long way to clearing them up." There's no reason you should be the big earner and have to worry about massaging your partner's ego.
Plus, if you can move the conversation to how the extra money can help both of you, then you can both be reminded that this is a positive thing. "The more you can frame the conversation around how the higher income (that belongs to the woman) benefits you both the less the disparity seems to matter," Malani says. "And even better when it leads to tangible results like a Turks & Caicos trip this year that otherwise may not have been possible." Sounds like a win-win.
Women have to fight a gender pay gap to begin with, so there's no reason they should also have to feel embarrassed about what they earn as well in their marriage. Open up the conversation, don't let things fester, and remember that earning more is a good thing for the relationship.