How Do Non-Traditional Earning Patterns Affect Relationships?

How Do Non-Traditional Earning Patterns Affect Relationships?

Last spring, after eight years of marriage, Sasha and Michael filed for divorce. At first their friends were shocked and saddened by the news, but as the surprise faded, the couple’s underlying issues became clear…

When they first met, Sasha had just moved to New York City to play drums in a band.  She bartended on her off nights to make ends meet, and struggled everyday with the idea of pursuing a life in music versus looking for a more financially secure career. That’s when she met Michael: a successful computer programmer riding the wave of the internet boom. He was interesting, cute and… financially stable.

They both loved to travel and eat good food. Michael loved that Sasha played music. In fact, it inspired him to revisit his childhood passion for writing. And Michael’s stable outlook subtly steered Sasha to take a job on the ‘suit’ side of making music. Within a few years, she was the VP of marketing at a major record label and loving her high-paying job.

Their relationship progressed steadily, and they soon married. And with Michael’s writing hobby becoming a bigger and bigger part of his life, he actually quit his job to write a novel—with the intention of returning to work once it was complete so they could start a family.

However, that never happened. Michael chose not to go back to his old career so he could write full time, and Sasha assumed the role of the primary money maker. It was quite a role reversal from when they first met! As time went on, Sasha grew to resent her role as breadwinner—saying it was a key factor in breaking up their marriageor so she thought.

The Starving Artist & His Money-Making Muse

There have been many articles written about the complications that arise in a marriage when the woman is the main breadwinner. Many experts suggest that men often feel emasculated by their high-powered honey, while also suggesting that women actually have more issues with the gender reversal than their husbands.

Because 40% of women are now the main income source for their families, we’ve seen more and more of our female friends begin to earn more than their partners, while their husbands  pursue more artistic jobs for less income—or none at all. We’ve seen the situation work beautifully, with mom going off to work and dad tending to the house and the kids full time, and like in Sasha’s case, we’ve also seen marriages fall completely apart.

Is it Really About the Money?

In the irony of all ironies, Sasha is now dating a man who will never be in a position to earn more than she does, but somehow she doesn’t care. Her new man makes her feel sexy, desired and more secure than she has ever felt before—and money has nothing to do with it!

Sasha’s story got us thinking: Was money really the issue in her marriage—or was it something deeper? Does it really matter who makes more money in a marriage if both partners see eye to eye and know how to make the other feel wanted, needed and desired?

Communication & Expectations

Anyone who is married will tell you, divisions of labor—financial and otherwise—don’t usually happen automatically. Discussion is necessary. And these are not questions to leave until after your I do’s are said.

Having a bit of an uncomfortable conversation now can save you a lot of heartache down the road. Maybe you want to keep working and are on the partnership track at your firm?  Or maybe you plan to quit work the second you get pregnant? Want to be a stay at home mom? Are you ok with being the breadwinner if your husband is an awesome homemaker and dad? Maybe you see yourself as part of a two career family? These are all questions you need to broach while dating.

The Definition Of Security

Money is of course just one aspect of security—there’s a reason they say, “Money isn’t everything!” Try writing down when you have felt most insecure in your life and in your relationship, and have your partner do the same. Then do the same exercise for the moments you have felt most secure and loved. When you strip it down to moments and pure emotion, you may be surprised to find that money probably does not play a role in most of your scenarios.

Besides the fact that this ‘security’ exercise might provide you with some surprising answers, it also just might be the catalyst that gets you to communicate more with your spouse about financial issues—and that’s a skill that money truly can’t buy!

Tell us in the comments: What have your experiences been with non-traditional money-making situations within a marriage or relationship?


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