Do You Need a Man to Make More Money Than You? If So, Why?

Do You Need a Man to Make More Money Than You

My amazing intern forwarded me an article last week that she read on CNN with some not-so-surprising new statistics.

In 2007, 22% of couples showed the woman making more money than the man. That’s up from 4% in 1970.

In this recession, 4.7 million men lost their jobs, compared with 2 million women, thus leaving more women to be the primary breadwinners.

The article points out what I’ve observed previously: the issue these days isn’t so much that the male schoolteacher is “intimidated” by the high-paid female advertising executive (there are some, but you don’t want them anyway), but rather that the high-paid ad exec refuses to date the schoolteacher.

But why is this the case in 2010?

Isn’t the point of being independently wealthy so that you can do what you want, when you want?

Doesn’t the value of being self-sufficient come in not having to worry about someone supporting you?

If you’re a woman who is in the top 10% of earners – and you INSIST that your man out earn you – you’ve now eliminated 90% of the dating population.

For a self-sufficient, high-earning man, a woman’s earning potential carries very little weight. Why? Because we have always been taught that nobody is going to pay our way in life. This gives men the freedom to choose a partner based on what matters most – character, kindness, fun, humor, compatibility – as opposed to mere earning potential. That’s the FREEDOM of making more money.

So why do women treat being high-earners like it’s a curse? “If I make $200,000, then he has to make AT LEAST $200,000.”

I’ve never heard a man say the same thing.

Face it: if you’re a woman who is in the top 10% of earners – and you INSIST that your man out earn you – you’ve now eliminated 90% of the dating population. And that’s before you’ve considered kindness, compatibility, attraction, values, height, weight, age, humor, children, etc. Doesn’t that sound like a self-defeating edict? I’ll say. Which is – in my estimation – one of the main reasons it’s easier for men to find love. We’re not looking at you to support us because we can support ourselves, so we’re free to choose whomever we want.

The question remains: if you can support yourself as well as any man can support himself, what DIFFERENCE does it make what he earns? Why is your boyfriend, the guitarist, “bad husband potential” when his girlfriend, the painter, is just “his girlfriend?” Haven’t we evolved enough to true equality that it doesn’t matter who makes more as long as the couple as a unit is doing okay? Or are women stuck on the old world order where men provided and women took care of the home – even though most $200,000 earning women don’t want to be homemakers? Do women want it both ways? Do you want the option of quitting work and maintaining your high lifestyle, when men don’t have this option? If so, is this the rare double-standard that works in favor of women?

Frankly, I think that successful women holding out for more successful men is as counterproductive as wealthy men doing the same thing – which, as you might have notice, they don’t.

I would love your thoughts on whether women should continue to hold out for men who make more – with these two caveats:

1) Please don’t accuse me of being sexist for making the observation that most women want a man to outearn them. It’s an observation, not a judgment.

2) Please don’t accuse me of encouraging women to date deadbeat slackers with no money, no ambition and tons of credit card debt. It’s not all or nothing. Just as I say you can compromise on chemistry – from a 10 to a 7 – I’m simply wondering aloud why a woman with her own money can’t date a man who makes $45K, the exact same way a man with his own money can date a woman who makes $45K.

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  1. 31

    Sometimes I feel that some people discusses each “criteria” in isolation. A lot of times things aren’t so simple.

    If I meet a guy and he makes less than me, no big deal….IF he is a hardworking man, with appropriate levels of ambition, doing what he loves and is responsible to contribute to the makings of “us”. Then that’s fine. That’s fantastic!

    If I meet a guy who is not all that and/or has low self esteem being with me who earns more than him (yes, there still are such men around)…then no can do. I don’t want money or pride to be an issue in the relationship.

    As I go along in my career, I begin to accept that not many guys my age or the age range I’m looking for would be able to match my income.

  2. 32

    Ah, but life isn’t fair, Evan. 🙂 Truthfully, my feeling on the who pays thing is that while I greatly appreciate a man paying for a date, I really don’t expect him to. I prefer to pay my own way. But I also don’t want to feel like I am stepping on a man’s ego or desire either. I recently offered to go dutch and I think the man was offended. It’s not just the women who may feel a man should always pays. I think the men typically feel this way, too.

    1. 32.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Diana, I’m not talking about who pays for the first date. Old-school chivalry is an extremely nice gesture and a no-brainer for most men in the early phases of courtship. So absolutely let him court you for a few dates before you generously offer to reciprocate. That acknowledges his desire to earn your trust and value you and doesn’t emasculate him. I’m talking about when he’s already GOT you. You’re a couple.

      And if you’re a couple and you significantly outearn him, it seems pretty silly for him to be paying for half of everything due to rules that were created 100 years ago.

  3. 33

    I don’t know, I certainly didn’t feel frustrated, I only said, accept it, this is the way it is. And this thinking is not likely to change any time soon. It’s only for the past 25 years or so (if even that) that women have been truly financially independent – what is 25 years compared to the span of the entire human history? Evolution doesn’t happen that quickly. I am actually very surprised (and perturbed) when I encounter men who do place a disproportionate significance on the woman’s income, since it just feels so unbecoming of a man.

    1. 33.1
      a girl from Romania

      I think the idea behind all this is that men and women’s attitudes and expectations towards relationships are different. The real issue is if it’s working out for  high-earning women to have  the expectation that the man earns more because in many cases it seems it doesn’t and that’s because of a simple matter of demand and supply. Reality looks like this:  men seem to be less interested (than women- but still interested up to a point) on how much money a woman earns; they value being young, pretty, feminine and easy-to-live-with more than her social status or her earning capacity. Actually for many men to have a significantly younger partner (10-15 -20 years younger) can boost their social status. In a way this makes sense since once they will have kids, most probably the woman will stay home with the children for a couple of years to raise them and her earning potential will decrease. In contrast, judging from the comments here, many women seem to want a partner that is either their equal or better than them (not just in earning potential, but social status, height, built, intelligence etc.). What I’m trying to say is that there is a disconnect between what higher earning women are offering to the men they see as their potential partners and what these men actually want. In many cases to have a 200.000 $ salary a year you need to have been working a couple of years in the industry; you are most probably in your middle thirties; but men in their middle thirties who earn that much can actually “get” women in their 20s who are younger and care free because of less demanding jobs (and thus fit their criteria), and since they’re not interested in how much they earn, but these women are, they actually have a shot at them as opposed to a 30 something year old man who earns just 45 k a year.  In the world we live in 20 something low-earning women date 30 something men with high salaries and they also marry them. Honestly, I would do the same if I were a man (and also a woman). It is true that high earning women in their 30s dress nicely, keep fit, but …. many of them have such an attitude that it drives you insane. It really just shows that some women forget to ask men what they want. I also think women add other criteria that make it difficult to find a partner: that he be her age or just a couple of years older, look great, good in bed etc..  The reason I say this is that if for women earning capacity means so much and for men age, than maybe the solution is to find an older man that earns the same or more. Otherwise, high-earning women in their middle and late 30s  might just end up single many, many years from now and even if they like it or not, they might just end up conceiving and raising kids alone, or possibly even adopting  (a trend that I already see appearing not just in the USA, but in Romania as well). Either this, or you accept a man that maybe earns less than you, is not 9 or 10 in the looks department, but 6 or 7 etc. In reality, almost all men of all ages would prefer a younger as possible wife, and I think this is a truth many high earning women just don’t want to face.

  4. 34

    Shay, you make a great point that it’s usually the sum total of a person’s qualities good and bad that factor into who we determine is a good partner. LIke you said most women who saw a man with a lower salary but had ambition to better his life, and had other qualities she was looking for, would be quite happy. A man at 40 still living at home and has no aspirations for growth or change isn’t such a compatiable partner.

  5. 35

    Hmm, this is definitely not the reality for me. I’ve never even dated someone who makes more than me, and I’ve always been fine with picking up the checks, as long as it was my idea to go out. Ideally I’d want a partner to pull his own weight, but not necessarily support me. I don’t think I know any women who expect their boyfriends to make more, so long as they are not deadbeats.
    I do know 3 married couples where the woman are the breadwinners. In 2 of those couples the men are stay at home dads, not making any income at all. In the 3rd couple the woman has a career while the husband is a part time waiter. She pays the entire rent of their house but when they go out he always picks up the checks..I guess so she can feel like hes taking care of her somewhat. It seems to work for them.

  6. 36

    It doesn’t sound to me as if the majority of responders on this blog are making huge incomes, and in fact, one person said that as a high-earner, she routinely pays for her lower-earning boyfriend. 
    I’m not expressing frustration at men so much as I am saying that both genders can be shallow and superficial. Also, EMK’s post is about high-earning women not wanting to date lower-earning men, and I am questioning the validity of this belief. Then again, I’m not all that concerned about what wealthy women choose to do as far as dating goes anyway.

  7. 37

    The only reason for a woman to want her man to have a higher salary than hers is because she’s looking for a man to take care of her.  In other words, she’s willing to put herself in a childlike situation where she is dependent upon another adult to make sure her financial needs are met.  In my opinion, women with that mentality are not only foolish but they contribute to the myth that women — as a whole — are gold-diggers and/or cannot support themselves.

    Evan, men aren’t the only ones who’ve been brought up to expect that their financial well-being is their own responsibility.  Fortunately, that’s how I was raised; but even if I wasn’t I think I would have quickly figured out that true freedom comes from knowledge that at any given time I can leave a man who mistreats and disrespects me with the ability to support myself and move on.  I’ve always been at least an equal earning partner in any long-term relationship, including marriage with children, and I can say the same for most women I know.  

    On the other hand, I know plenty of men who would have no qualms whatsoever settling right in with a woman who makes more than they do — even substantially more.  I’ve yet to meet any many who, after learning my income, had any kind of problem with it being more than his.  In fact, when they find out how much I make, and the retirement options I’ve built for myself over the years, their eyes sometimes light right up, as if to say “Hallelujah, here’s my ticket to a comfy retirement.”  

    On yet another hand, I’ve met men who have a serious problem , which they articulate clearly and early in the relationship, if they learn my income or investments are not at least equal to theirs.  Many men carry what they feel are “scars” from being taken to the cleaners by a bitter ex-wife (or two), and they are very unwilling to let go of that bitterness or control over whatever financial holdings they still have.  While I can understand that kind of mistrust, I find that guardedness a real turn off.    In other words, money is complicated in relationships… regardless of gender.

  8. 38

    To answer Evan’s question in #8, I believe it’s sociology. Biologically males may have been taller, faster, stronger, but I don’t see early human females sitting back and starving to death if their male (if they had one) didn’t bring home the wild boar. It seems much more likely everyone was out hunting and gathering whatever they could to survive. Later gardening and trading surplus food, goods, and skills. In fact, it’s only been within the last century or so that BOTH genders have become so removed from basic survival skill sets.

    If a woman has the financial resources to support herself in the style she enjoys, why would she need a man who makes more money than she? It’s not for survival. Joe in #15 hit on one of the advantages of partnership: dual income can provide a lifestyle that is above what one could provide for themselves, while at the same time lowering the individual’s costs of maintaining a home.

    I can see the point of not necessarily wanting to pay more than you would for yourself when it comes to things like expensive dinners, or vacations and you don’thave to…you can do these things on your own. But it’s not as much fun as having a companion to go with you is it? This is something most men realize and why they accept the fact of paying for dates.  It’s what works effectively, it’s not biology.

    If you are a high earner and you want an equally high earner there is nothing wrong with that… as long as you understand you are by your own choice limiting your dating pool.

  9. 39

    As a single guy, I can find much in this thread to feel defensive about and jump right on in with my own rants.
    The bottom line is people have a right to want what they want.
    If they don’t want me that only means that I move on to someone else.
    If they “price themselves out of the market” with their lists of must haves, some of which are just not rare, but contradictory then that is their life, their business.  They just end up alone.

  10. 40

    Hi Evan,
    Love your blog etc etc. Thanks for keeping it real and being (painfully) honest. Anyway I was just thinking about this issue myself. Went out with fellow grad student a bunch of times who seems sweet and super smart and a total social science dork, just like me 🙂 But well he hasn’t offered to pay for me and that kinda got to me. Then I thought we make the same amount of (very little) money and live on such teensy budgets, I should be more chill. Anyway we’ll see how it goes and it’s all pretty low stakes as long as people are dating and living independently. Once two people decide to make a home together, I think the equation changes a little bit.
    I think it changes because of expectations surrounding men and women’s gender roles in marriage, specifically the home-making and child-rearing stuff. Sure if a woman makes enough money it’s more than acceptable for her to outsource her housework. I don’t know if that’s as true for childcare. Speaking for myself at least, I would want to marry a guy who if the need arises (which it will) can make enough for me and the kid(s) I hope to have. I want to be a stay at home mom for a little while when I have kids (a year or two minimum) and during this period I would want the guy I’m with to be the primary breadwinner. Sure I want a career doing something I love and am good at, but I can’t be the primary caregiver for the children AND be an equal breadwinner at the same time. Whereas women’s roles have changed enough since the ’50s so that now it’s customary for them to be full participants in the workforce, this is work they’re expected to do IN ADDITION TO, not INSTEAD of, all the other stuff like being a good mom/ wife/ homemaker.

  11. 41

    Thanks, Evan, for the clarification. I thought we were discussing higher-earning women who won’t date lesser-earning men. I took this to mean in the early dating phase, and not in a solid couple relationship. If they won’t date them at all, how do they get to the couple stage and the unfairness of who pays? 😉
    If I earned $200K and he earned $60K, I am certain that I would not expect him to wine and dine me in the manner I would be accustomed to on my own. That’s ridiculous. I would also imagine that if I earned that kind of money, I might be working some really long days with little time for recreation. I would hope that once we had reached the state of couplehood, I would value his character, morals, values, how he makes me feel, etc. far, far more than his money or his ability to support my lavish lifestyle, since these very qualities would be the reason I wanted to date him in the first place.

  12. 42

    Income represents, in many cases, the capacity to use intellect, energy, and vision and confidence to make money. The characteristics behind the money are attractive.
    These same talents may not manifest in a huge income– the income is not the point– character is.  And if the talents have not yet come to monetary fruition, well, do these other attractive characteristics show?
    I don’t like to be looked at as a ticket to the easy life nor do I like having to use my money to support some guys life choices that led him to not having much money.  But, if he is kind, loving, and giving in other ways– I’ll lay down the money it takes to have fun life experiences with him.– no doubt.

  13. 43

    Diana #43
    “I thought we were discussing higher-earning women who won’t date lesser-earning men. I took this to mean in the early dating phase, and not in a solid couple relationship. If they won’t date them at all, how do they get to the couple stage and the unfairness of who pays? ”

    This is my interpretation, too. Also, it sounds like Evan’s wife was perfectly happy to date – and marry – him, even though she was the higher earner. Obviously, her values were in the right place!

    I think if you are trying to compare a woman who makes 50k a year with one who makes 200k, it’s not exactly a fair comparison.

    1. 43.1
      Evan Marc Katz


      My ex-girlfriend, who thought it was fair that I pay for half of everything, even though I made 1/3 her income, dumped me.

      My future wife – who makes less than 1/3 of what I make – doesn’t have to pay for anything because I don’t think it’s fair given her means.

      And there’s a big difference between a guy who pays for the first three dates when he makes $45K and that same guy having to continue to pay for things that he can’t afford when his girlfriend can afford them herself.

      No one here but Zann is going to acknowledge that women want it both ways – rather than making excuses to justify this double standard?

      Very well then…

      1. 43.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        Oh, and by the way: indefensible double standards that work for men include:

        “He’s a stud; she’s a slut.”
        “She’s responsible for domestic duties – housecleaning, childcare – even when she works longer hours and makes more money.”
        “Men’s value goes up with age; women’s value goes down.”
        “Men with strong opinions are confident; women with strong opinions are bitchy.”

        Pointing out that women have – and exploit – this one double standard doesn’t negate the fact that there are many more working against you. But, as we know, two wrongs don’t make a right. So as I stop posting on my blog to begin work today, how about it? Give guys with solid jobs and less money a chance. If they eliminate themselves because they’re insecure, so be it, but at least you’ll be making decisions consistent with your own goals, instead of being the equivalent of the man who holds out for the 10…and ends up alone..



        1. Denise

          There are so many things that I could say on this topic but I will just mention a few.
          I make a little more than 200K and know quite a few women who are in their 30s who make the same or even more.  None of us are with men who make more money (based on my assumptions of what their salaries are).  In my experience, the men with HIGH incomes (e.g. $300,000 or above) usually do NOT want educated/professional/successful women.  When I look at my classmates or neighbors, men in the upper middle income marry women who are eventual non-earners or low middle earners.  Women in that same income group end up with men who are probably $60,000 to ~120,000 range.  I can count scores of people that I know personally who have demonstrated this- including myself.
          These figures are for New York City so I am not pretending that these numbers are relevant to others cities.  Making $65,000 in Manhattan means that you have to budget.  But do not look at the figures, just the relative salaries. 
          For this reason, it is not a good idea for high middle-earning women to only look for men who are earning more than they do.  It is rare that it happens. 
          One guy told me that men recognize that a woman who NEEDS him financially is more likely to do what the man wants.  She is trading herself for his money.  A woman with an education/profession/career/independence can take it or leave it.  I didn’t buy it at first but I have tested it out over the past few years and I have seen it in action.  Some guys will even admit to it- albeit while trying to make an excuse.
          Lastly, many men resent women who make more than they do and cause problems in the relationship.  I have seen this in a family friend’s marriage (she ~70,000 and he about ~50,000) and in my coworker (he ~70,000 and I don’t know how much she made but she was an experienced nurse).  He told me that he didn’t like that she could buy whatever she wanted without asking him for money or for his permission.  It was okay when she was waiting to get her license and dependent on him….
          n.  A few guys have even admitted to it. 

  14. 44

    Hi Evan,

    Your points are interesting, and, I must confess, quite valid. However, I have another interesting point.  I am a little shy of 40 and have never been married.  I outearn about 85% of the available men in my area.  I have dated 2 school teachers, both of whom earned in the 40s and an attorney who earned in the 60s.  All three men advised ME that they did NOT want to be with a woman who earne dmore.  No, I never discussed my salary with them or anyone other than my mother and accountant. No, I never insisted on marriage or commitment. As you advise, I let it be their idea, and I mirrored their behavior.  No, I never insisted on terribly expensive dates which they could not afford. No, I never acted like a prima donna who ws difficult to please. No, I never waved my paystubs as if they were either some kind of prize to be won or the very krytonite which would make him fall to his knees in shame.  I was raised by school teachers and my firends always joked in college that they knew I would DEFINITELY marry a schoolteacher.  What can I say, I am madly attracted to teachers. Some men, however, could use a lesson in “every-woman-is-not-out-to-emasculate-you-just-because-her-earning-potential-surpasses-your-own”.

  15. 45

    This is a fascinating discussion, because at some point women have to stop being “evolved” because we don’t want to emasculate the guy.  Whether women want it both ways or not, it appears we have to be able to “be” both ways.

  16. 46
    Karl R

    Jane said: (#24)
    “It’s just that it feels so unfair that most men won’t compromise on age or looks, so therefore it boils down to women having to make the compromises.”

    Most people (men and women) don’t want to compromise. Therefore, if you want improve the size of your dating pool, it’s up to you to compromise (whether you’re male or female).

    That may be unfair, but it’s not unfair based on gender.

    Income statistics: (2008 U.S. Census Bureau statistics)
    For men, the median income was $30K (the mean was $43K)
    Only 33.5% earned $45K or more.
    Only the top 10.5% earned $90K or more.
    Only 1.8% earned $200K or more.

    JuJu said: (#26)
    “I am curious now: who ARE these people who hold out for only 10′s on the attractiveness scale? […] And I am sure that for women an analogous percentage would be even lower. From what I generally observe, MOST people are certainly much more realistic than that.”

    If you are holding out for a man in the top 30% of attractiveness with an income of $45K or more, you are just as picky as a man who holds out for a woman in the top 10% of attractiveness. (30% * 33.5% = 10.1%)

    That assumes that income and attractiveness are unrelated. In reality, younger men tend to be more attractive, and older men tend to earn more (earning potential being greatest between 50 and 60).

    If you’re cutting your dating pool down to 10% before you get to the most important attributes (kindness, trustworthiness, acceptance, shared values, shared goals), then it doesn’t really matter whether it’s for looks, income, or a combination of the two. You’re sabotaging your ability to find a good partner.

  17. 47

    Sorry, Evan, I wrongly assumed that you were talking about your current relationship. No, I do not think it was right for your ex to expect that you pay for half of everything once you two were in a relationship. I have no idea whether your ex was the norm for high-earning women or not. It does occur to me that wealthy people in general can be very greedy though (sometimes that’s how they become wealthy) – just look at Wall Street.
    Still, women like your ex are a small minority of women. I’m sure there are women who earn that kind of money who would be much more generous. One of my best friends earns a 6-figure income. She supported her husband who had virtually no income for a couple of years while he worked on his art, which has now met with some success. As you yourself say, you can’t change the other person, so if a generous partner is high on your list, than find a partner who is more generous. 

  18. 48

    That is old think regarding a man making more then a woman. Times have change and women have come to empower themselves to earn just as much if not more then the men.
    Men need to be secure with themselves not to let such things get in the way of a relationship or marriage. If they do well so be it..move on empowered’re making money too..

  19. 49

    I agree it’s a double standard: high income guy + mid income girl = he pays for everything.  mid income guy + high income girl = they split things 50/50.  Where I disagree with is blaming either sex.  Even though my girlfriend makes way, way more money than I do, I would never let her pay for more than 50% of our relationship.  I’d consider it unmanly and I’d feel like I was receiving something that I don’t deserve as a guy who didn’t work as hard as she did.  Were she to offer to pay for a $600 weekend I’d be bothered because she would be pointing out the fact that I am less successful, since I honestly feel bad about that.

    Until we have children I plan on paying for 50% of everything too, even if it means I barely put away anything for retirement.  I can let myself do that because I really love her and see this relationship as leading to marriage.  Only after we have children I will yield to necessity and allow her to make payments that I cannot make, but at least then I can salve my conscience by doing more than 50% of the housework and childcare. 

    The CNN article was interesting, but it didn’t have examples of alpha women and beta men _not_ working out.  This piece does.

    1. 49.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Too bad you’re taken, Chris. I’d think, given the tone of the comments, that you’d be flooded by responses from women who appreciate your willingness to drain your bank account for your girlfriend. I think your stance is somewhere between delightfully chivalrous and highly impractical and outmoded.

      1. 49.1.1
        It's you

        Whatever makes Chris and his gf/wife happy is their business and I wish them all the best.

        That said, Chris’ stance illustrates exactly what several women here have said that you keep chosing to ignore. Most men do not want to be in a relationship where they make less money. He even said he wants her to forgo the more expensive things that she enjoys because he sees it as insulting his manhood that he can’t afford them.

        Evan you do this for a living so I will trust you know better than an old married lady like me who hasn’t dated in over 13 years. But I do watch and listen to what happens around me, and I have to say I’m not convinced that there are scores of American men ready to have a serious relationship with a woman who makes more money.

  20. 50

    I would suggest, at least in the dating phase, that one option for the women earning substancially more than a man is to save the expensive trips, dinners, etc. as thing to do with her girlfriends, but do the cheap and/or free things to do with the guy she’s dating, i.e. walks in the park, a movie and dinner at one or the other’s home, that sort of thing.  That way he doesn’t/shouldn’t feel “emasculated” and she can still enjoy her more luxurious pursuits.

  21. 51

    BTW, I have no problem with a man who makes less money; as far as I’m concerned, our incomes are not the other person’s business unless things get pretty serious.  As long as he is wise and responsible with what he earns, then that’s telling enough.  I’ve also had the flipside; a guy or two I dated (albeit very briefly) offered to pay for things above and beyond a date and that made me feel extremely uncomfortable.  It sets up a sort of dynamic in a relationship that, quite frankly, I don’t want. 

  22. 52
    Karl R

    Millie said: (#46)
    “I have dated 2 school teachers, both of whom earned in the 40s and an attorney who earned in the 60s.  All three men advised ME that they did NOT want to be with a woman who earne dmore.”

    If someone chooses to eliminate you from their dating pool, that is outside your control. If you choose to eliminate someone from your dating pool, that is within your control.

    Obviously, the men who only date women who earn less than them have created for themselves a problem that is equal to the problem that women create for themselves if they only date men who earn more than them.

  23. 53

    Evan’s probably been hoping I’d weigh in on this one.  🙂  I’m a mid-six figures female earner and have been for over twenty years.
    In my first marriage, I made half of what my husband made when we first met in our twenties; then by the end (10.5 years) I eclipsed him in terms of earnings. He was extremely secure with himself, his career, how much he was earning vis a vis the average in his chosen profession, and so we celebrated when my income topped his.  I took him to dinner at the fanciest restaurant in town and yes — paid the check.  He genuinely thought it was great I was so successful, and his supportiveness when I set out to gain a foothold in my chosen field is a big part of the reason I was able to succeed at it.  We divorced due to lack of sexual attraction and divergent interests, but remained good friends. Money and finances were never an issue with us.  There was no competitiveness in that realm, even during the divorce.
    When I rejoined the dating pool at 35, there was no one who earned even close to what I did — nor did I expect to meet such a man.  I just did my thing, and dated whomever I felt a connection with.  Very quickly, I met a guy who made only about 20% of what I did, and he would be viewed by many as a high earner in an absolute sense.  He was a white collar, degreed professional from a blue collar background and had a TERRIBLE time with the fact that I made more than he did.  He resented it a lot.  We sometimes had bizarre arguments, where I would finally throw my hands in the air in frustration and say, “Would you prefer it if I were a $15,000 a year receptionist and depended on you for everything?  And expected you to support me?  Should I quit my amazing, high-paying job because you can’t handle the stress of making less?”  It was all about his issues, his insecurities, his ego problems — not my having overly high expectations of his financial participation.
    At one point, we broke up for six months.  The woman he dated during that time WAS financially almost destitute; but instead of finally feeling like “the big man” in terms of earnings, he quickly grew to resent her for expecting him to pay for everything and loan her money all the time to help pay her bills.  When we got back together, I never heard any more complaints about the size of my paycheck!  I also never resented him for not earning more because I knew he was at the top of his pay scale for his profession, worked hard, fixed things around my house, etc.  To me, that was “payback” enough.  I wound up being the primary breadwinner for a lot of our time together (because he had child support, legal bills, etc.).  When I finally left him after seven years, I noticed a huge increase right away in my disposable income, and only then realized how much of a “cash drain” he’d been.
    The year I left him (for cheating, not for any financial reason), my income increased dramatically for a couple years.  I knew for SURE then I would never meet anyone who could approach my income.  I didn’t care; it truly didn’t enter my consciousness.  I just accepted it.  I knew that in order to date me successfully, a man would have to be 1) very happy with his chosen field, 2) very secure in his masculinity, so that the income discrepancy wouldn’t be an issue.  Those are both healthy things anyway.  Every man I dated suspected I earned a lot more than he did, but no one asked to see my tax return – and no one expected me to pay my way while they were courting me.  I’m from a small town, middle class background, and happily went on picnics, went to lower priced concerts and movies, to good but not stratospherically expensive restaurants, etc. I didn’t EXPECT a man to have to take out a loan to date me, and was always treated extremely well (because I insisted on dating men with excellent manners and dating skills).
    When I met my now-husband, he paid for everything until we were exclusive (about three months); after that, I would offer to pay for things occasionally, or buy tickets to things, and he would graciously accept; but it wasn’t expected that I would go Dutch all the time just because I earned more.  He was courting me!  He wanted to impress me.  And I graciously received what he offered me.  I was more interested in the QUALITY OF HIS GIVING than the quality of the objects/experiences he gave me.  Was he generous?  Did he take my feelings into account?  Did I feel treated like a queen regardless of where we went or what we did on a date?  I had briefly dated some “wealthy” guys were were absolutely nuts and/or treated me like crap.  Here was a guy who I knew made about 1/7th of what I made, and yet he happily courted me, so I happily enjoyed his company on less-fancy outings than I could afford on my own.  I saved the expensive spa weekends, French restaurants, etc. for outings with my similarly well-heeled girlfriends, and did not expect that kind of thing from him.
    When we got engaged and he actually found out what I made, he did have a brief period of upset where he said he felt like, when we married, he would be a “kept man.”  But that passed quickly once we discussed our expectations for what our lifestyle would be like, what would be expected of HIM, financially, as a part of the team, etc.  I did ask him to sign a prenup, which he did.
    Fast forward to today.  I am now in a dying industry.  My income has declined by about half in the last several years.  I now make “only” about four times what he makes, and foresee the day when it will be much less.  He and I see this clearly, and are making plans to downsize our lifestyle now, while it’s our choice to do so.  We work as a team financially.  He has his responsibilities re supporting the household, and I have mine.  I make his Roth IRA contribution for him every year, and if we divorce, that’s his to keep.  (We won’t – we’re crazy about each other.)  He does so many nice things for me that I have never, ever resented his earning much less than I do.  He is also near the top of his profession’s wage scale.  How could I ask for anything more from him?  He’s been very cool about me possibly having to retire a lot earlier than I anticipated; his attitude is, “I’m fine with going to $10 concerts on the lawn and eating grilled cheese sandwiches instead of filet mignon.”  We are content with each other and happy regardless, and the financial discrepancy simply doesn’t enter into our day to day existence.  In other words, it isn’t all about living high on the hog for us.
    Thanks for slogging through this long post.  Moral of the story:  Find a mate with all the wonderful qualities you seek and feel blessed to have found that person, regardless of finances.  It’s like that song from “Rent”:  “Today for you, tomorrow for me.”  My husband knows that one day, I will go from being a very high earner to being a very uncertain earner (that’s writing for ya), and he may have to step up and support a lot more of our lifestyle, and he’s fine with that. I think if you go into a relationship with your feet on the ground in terms of expectations, and find a mature, emotionally healthy adult to couple up with, so many of the power struggles and angst over finances can be avoided.

  24. 54

    P.S.  When I started dating after my first divorce, I initially fretted about the income discrepancy issue. Once, on an early date with a guy who REALLY liked me, I offered to spring for our very lovely restaurant meal.  He grinned and said, “Sweetheart, if you can get your hands on the check before I can, it’s all yours.  It’s my pleasure to treat you because I enjoy your company so much.”  I thought that was just immensely classy of him.  He taught me a lot about how much it means to a man’s sense of self-esteem to feel like he’s courting a woman properly.  “Properly” doesn’t have to mean taking her to the kinds of expensive places she might be used to; it can (and perhaps should) mean treating her in a way that reflects her value as a person, regardless of how much her job pays.

  25. 55

    Evan, I’m with the other women who ask you: How do you know we women don’t want to be with men who earn less?
    An anecdote from my own life: my hubby of 10 years recently said to me that he would like to quit his job and become a stay-at-home father.  Do you know what I said to that immediately?  “That would be fine.”  No joking: I am fine with my husband’s going from a good salary down to ZERO – because he is that awesome, and I want to stay with him regardless of how much he makes.  Meanwhile, I don’t earn much myself, but could find ways to stretch the budget and support the family if need be.  I’m a rationalist.  It has always been fine in recent American history for the woman not to be making money and to stay home as the primary parent.  It should be just as fine for men to do the same.
    Please don’t assume that women are materialistic.  In the long run, when we do find the man with all those other great qualities you describe – kindness, compatibility, etc. – the amount he makes is not a dealbreaker.  I wonder if there are other people in LTRs reading this that could lend support to that.

  26. 56
    Katarina Phang

    Evan, this thread really resonates with me in a way that triggered me.  I was supporting my husband for 4.5 years because I wanted him to focus and succeed in his writing career.  No other woman (his exes), he said, would have done what I was so willingly offering him (there was also an underlying issue -on top of my undying love for him- which was my own why I wanted to do it but I’d rather not discuss it here).
    So I relate to Kenley’s experience (#25) about having to take the checks in restaurant each and every time even when the waiters always gave them to him.  But it has nothing to do with looks (I know now he’s crazy attracted to me).
    At first I tended to be judgmental of women who wouldn’t do that or refuse to date “poorer” men but now I see there is actually a very deep-seated biological thing at play here.  Still I won’t approve gold diggers -male or female- and I have very low opinion of them.  However, really on the most fundamental level, we can’t deny our basic make-ups: men as providers and women as care givers -in ways that are not financial.  Let me explain it.
    Over time I had this wishing: how nice it would be to be looked after by a man I loved.  That would make me feel very special.  I couldn’t deny my feminine inherent trait of being “cared for.”  And I’m sure he felt the same way in reverse, feeling how nice it would be if he could provide for his woman.
    Did it affect how we felt for each other?  I think so.  Inadvertently and subconsciously.  But would I do that again?  This will surprise you.  Yes I would when I knew it’s gonna well worth it for our future as a couple.  Not forever, maybe, but what better way is there that you can show your love and support for the man you love?  Still, I certainly long for a more traditional arrangement in which he is really the main bread winner.
    So, I’m far more flexible (as I have proven it) re. this than perhaps many other women.  And i don’t require luxury to be happy (I’m pretty low maintenance). If I can help it, I want a man who is wealthier than me.  But if I feel so much for him, it shouldn’t really matter.
    Only, based on my experience, you have to thread this path with caution.  Watch out for the loss of romantic feelings (attraction) for each other.  When a woman is taking over a male traditional role, she’s bound to feel less feminine, protected, attractive and loved and she will perceive her man as less masculine, courting, caring, etc.  And vice versa.  And it DOES take away some attraction in the long run toward each other.
    So my reasoning to be “cautious” of men’s income is not based on materialism or love for money, but basic human traits/instincts according to our millions of years of evolution.  We can only deny it so much.  But I agree, we need to be more flexible in our approach to this.  At least, be aware of the repercussion.

  27. 57

    Also, to all the women who justify their desire for a higher-earning man with the statement, “It’s just biology,” I would like to ask: WHOSE biology?  Certainly not the biology we see in the animal kingdom.
    Female lions bear the cubs AND do all the hunting. Male lions sleep 20 hours a day, and wake only to have sex and eat the spoils the females have brought back.  This is true of virtually every carnivorous mammalian species.
    Male spiders and preying mantises only bring enough food to occupy the females while they’re copulating; otherwise, they don’t provide for the females.
    Nearly monogamous bird species such as swans and geese forage for food equally, feeding themselves, but not specifically reserving food for their mates.
    (Nature hasn’t been fair to females on the whole.  That is why I am so grateful for the one 20th-century class of inventions that has given so much more power to HUMAN females: birth control.)
    So, to say that it is “nature” for women to look for high-earning men doesn’t really have much substantive evidence in the animal kingdom.

  28. 58
    Katarina Phang

    Another thing is I have made some progress :D.  Yesterday we were discussing dinner after yoga and he asked if I would pay since he had spent money on groceries.  I said point blank: “Nope.  I don’t want to pay anymore.  I’m done picking up the checks.”
    He has a job now.  So it’s his turn to pay for everything even when I still earn more than him.  It’s only fair lol…

  29. 59

    Wow Chris, that article was super depressing. At some points the women seem like shallow b-words who were idiots to marry without taking their vows seriously (as in, you know, taking care of the family unit when times are tough). But could also feel kinda sorry for them, because NY is extremely expensive and it’d be stressful for anyone (either gender) to be responsible for all expenses. And I do know a couple where the husband is out of work and plays video games all day, and the wife has admitted to me that she losing sexual attraction to him, as if hes a child all of a sudden.
    But wouldn’t that go both ways? I’ve read “Hearts of Men”, about how men in the 60s resented the breadwinner roll:
    I guess no one wants to feel like they are doing ALL the work.

  30. 60
    Katarina Phang

    Christie, I’m old school having experienced this first hand.  Nowadays I do believe that it’s best in the long run when men pay the majority of dates for romantic purpose (say 4: 1 for him).
    This is indeed instinct.  Our attraction radar of a man will be dampened when we perceive him as less “powerful” and/or less giving.  It’s in fact a turn off when he needs to discuss who’s going to have pay this time around.  It should come from me, not him.  And believe me, I’m not that insensitive either.  I know when a guy is screaming for money.  I guess he can be pretty honest that he can’t afford taking me out this week or something.  And when he says that, surely I will perhaps step up to the plate (or just do something that doesn’t require paying).
    Yes it’s perhaps unfair, but just the way I feel.  If a man acts in a way that is very nurturing even when he knows I earn more than him, wow, he will earn so much of my respect.  He will appear 100 times more masculine than those macho guys who demand me to pick up the check.
    Part of attraction of a man in a woman’s eyes is the perception of his power or success which is a male characteristic, that’s why a lot of women are attracted to wealthy/powerful men (other than the convenience it brings).  It does have biological and hard-wiring aspects to it.
    To be successful in the mating game, you can’t ignore this basic hard-wiring.

    1. 60.1

      Well if that is indeed basic hard wiring then wouldn’t that be a fairly strong argument for women to be paid less than men? 

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