Are Higher Salaries for Women Leading to More Divorces?

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We’ve beaten this issue to death on this blog, but this latest study out of the University of Chicago does a neat job of summarizing the conundrum faced by women who earn more than men. Sure enough, marriages are threatened by a higher-earning wife.

“The evidence suggests that while men tend to applaud their spouses when they help to bring home the bacon, husbands aren’t always as enthusiastic when women start bringing home the filet mignon…While women prefer men to be intelligent and ambitious, men have these preferences for women only to the point where women threaten to earn more than they do.”

It’s not merely that the man is threatened; it’s that the woman looks down on the husband who earns less.

“What happens when a man marries a woman who has the education and skills to earn more than him? The couple can avoid violating the “man earns more” social norm if the woman works part time or leaves the labor force altogether. The authors found evidence of both choices. But what if the woman stays in the labor force and does earn more than her spouse? How does this affect the marriage? The findings here are striking. In such couples, surveys show, both wife and husband generally report being less happy about the marriage…The divorce rate rose by half, to about 18 percent, for couples in which the wife earned more than the husband.”

So what we have here is clear evidence of one thing at this point in time: marriages where the woman earns more are less stable. But that doesn’t begin to answer WHY.

If you’re inclined to side with women on everything, the answer is clear: men are threatened by smart, strong, successful women. Just look at the study! However, if you have the ability to see things from the other side, you’ll get a much more objective picture.

Are women earning more than their husbands because their husbands are unemployed? Because an unemployed husband is a depressed and emasculated husband and that has to put a strain on a marriage. Then there’s the other explanation for the dissolution of these marriages – it’s not merely that the man is threatened; it’s that the woman looks down on the husband who earns less. It would be hard to be in a marriage where your biggest fan looks down on you, no?

The article acknowledges this as well, saying, “Is there any way to tell whether it’s the wife or the husband who becomes unhappy when the wife earns more? Does he think that she is threatening his manliness, or does she think that he’s a slacker?”

In equilibrium, it’s impossible for you to be happier than your spouse.

That may be impossible to answer, but, it doesn’t really matter. In equilibrium, it’s impossible for you to be happier than your spouse.

If you and your spouse both understand that rule, you’re both likely to be happier – regardless of how much money either of you make.

What I coach women is to a) avoid men who are threatened by your success and b) not look down on men who make less than you or worry about dating a guy who makes as much as you. Because if two people make $300K combined, it doesn’t matter if you make $200K and he makes $100K. Really.

Read the article here and share your comments below.
 
 

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Comments:

  1. 21
    sarahrahrah!

    I don’t make a lot of money, but I would be very concerned about getting in a relationship with a man who makes less than I do or who is unemployed or retired.   My experience has shown me that men who are working less than their wives seem to have a need to prove themselves and I’ve seen this in the form of flirting or coming on to other women.   This is one of the reasons why I won’t date men much older than me because I don’t want to be financing a retired man who is chasing other women while I’m working. I know this is not P.C. and I’m probably going to get blasted, but it seems that masculine men need outlets for their male energy.   If they don’t have that outlet through work, it seems they will next look for one with women.   

  2. 22
    Kathleen

    Pia   #13
    Loved your comment and your writing!!    I was lucky I didn’t have to pay alimony too and won’t marry again unless he’s rich and hot     

  3. 23
    LC

    My ex husband was always telling me how his job was the most important, and mine wasn’t.   I always agreed with him.   Then I broke my neck, and he didn’t “want a sick wife and was going to trade me in for a new model.”    Before this injury,  when I would have a bad day at work, he’d scream at me and tell me what a horrible lieutenant I was.   When I’d start crying, he’d apologize and say that he only said it because he was jealous of how I was a better LT than he had been at my age.   So I couldn’t win.   All I know is that if you get in the way of a man’s ego, you’re done.   Some men (and women) will do anything to bring other people down b/c they feel bad about themselves.   Trying to date men who make less money is nearly impossible b/c they find out that you make more, and they’re no longer feeling “in charge.”   So it’s just better to be alone, I guess.

  4. 24
    Taylor

    This discussion is fascinating because we assume that men’s need to make more money is hard wired. But weren’t women called the weaker, less intelligent sex for generations and feminism proved that one wrong, correct? I think it also proved men could be more nurturing and do work that was traditionally considered part of the “women’s” sphere.  
    And pre-feminism, women didn’t always marry for love; they married for security. A man was their meal ticket. That didn’t make them gold diggers; that made them survivors. They traded what they could provide (sex, children and housework) for a home and some security. And they stayed to keep that intact, even if they were miserable.   Let’s face it: these women didn’t necessarily love the men they married. A single woman was often a woman on the streets, in a brothel, sick and poor or dependent on her family.
    There ARE men out there who are okay with women making more and celebrate their successes. Maybe they are in the minority. I don’t agree that a woman who loves and is excited about her work should hold back on expressing it because it will make a man feel badly about himself. Women are completely capable of being successful, while inspiring and respecting their men for the same.
    As some above have pointed out above, being with a man who needs his ego stroked all the time is a nightmare. Some things are worse than being single. Some women just aren’t “easy” just as some men have learned to get over themselves. Women have a right to have a say in how they want to live their lives and not submit to letting the man have the say all the time. And women also have the choice to not be the dominant one, financially or otherwise, and let their husbands make more.  
    And we shouldn’t assume that all men who are unemployed are emasculated. Maybe they are just lazy. And no woman, regardless of her income, wants a lazy man.

    1. 24.1
      US MARINE CORPS

      And men also have the right to stay away far away from women that only care about their career and nothing else. Maybe a simp can deal with you. I’m glad I have found women that are nothing like this board. A job allows you to survive and purchase luxuries, it’s nothing more than that. I feel sorry for a good deal of these women who seemed to run into lousy characters. I can understand the misandrist/bitterness flowing from them. I became bitter at the female gender after a couple bad breakups but soon grew up and treated each case individually. I became better for it and treat my GF like the queen of england

  5. 25
    Ruby

    The divorce rate rose by half, to about 18 percent, for couples in which the wife earned more than the husband.”
      
    The implication here is that these unhappy men are more likely to divorce their wives. However, women initiate 2/3 of divorces. Perhaps it’s these women who are more likely to initiate divorce, because, on top of working their buns off, they’re also expected to do the the majority of household chores. Or they are married to slackers, or insecure men. I’d be curious to learn which sex is more likely to initiate a a split.
      
    Or just maybe, these women simply aren’t compelled to stay in marriages in which they are unhappy, and their financial situation gives them the ability to leave. OTOH, lower-income, less educated couples are more likely to split up than better educated, wealthier ones. And I do think that many people, regardless of gender, still expect a husband to be the main breadwinner.

  6. 26
    D.P.

    This has been kind of a fascinating phenomena to witness.   While personally I don’t think I would mind if I ended up in a relationship where the wife earned more than the husband, who knows what I would feel actually in that relationship.   I’ve seen a lot of accounts online where the couple agreed that the wife would be the breadwinner and the husband would stay at home and raise the kids, only to find the wife resentful over this and critical of her husband’s “lack of ambition,” which seems profoundly unfair to me but maybe it really is hardwired into us.

  7. 27
    Diane

    If a woman looks down on her husband because she is earning more than him then what kind of a relationship is it. I can’t believe there are women that think that way.
    I only hope the poor guy doesn’t fall ill, as there is no hope for him!
      

  8. 28
    Henriette

    “If men met their future wives when the women already were the bigger breadwinners, “they never have any problems later on,” Pierce said. “The problems are all coming in marriages where the guys are making more, they get married, then their pay slips (below their wives’ salaries).”  The study was published in the  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

  9. 29
    Soulsister

    Since the beginning of time, women had to  feed and protect  their children, so   they  paired up  with  men out of necessity.   Up until WWII, women stayed in marriages when men beat them, cheated on them, or treated them like hired help.   That is NOT saying there were no loving husbands, but there were many who only kept the women there because she HAD NO CHOICE and he knew it.
      
    Thank God to the feminists who risked everything and were shunned by society for challenging the belief that women were “less than” men.   If you are a woman, whether you agree with feminists or not, whether you want to  stay home with your children or not…they gave us the most wonderful gift of all: choice.
      
    So if a man marries a woman, he gets the same choice she does; treat your partner with love, care, and respect, try to meet his/her needs, or he/she has the means to survive without you.   That is true partnership. I will stay because I choose to stay, not because I cannot survive without you.   So a man who wants to make a partner happy will rise to the occasion, knowing she stays with him because she wants to.   And because he can survive financially without her, she will  know the same.
      
    So any blogger, male or female, who wants to blame the downfall of the marriage, I say if all women had the CHOICE to stay, more men would not smack them around, yell at them, rape them, or hurt them in the name of marriage.   And that cannot be a bad thing.  
      
    When I left my husband of 22 years (equal wage earners), I cannot tell you how many women told me “I wish I could leave”.   That does not count the ones who stay because they love their house more than they love the man who provides it.   I mean ones who cannot survive on their own.
      
    Money=power=choice.   I stay because I want to stay, not because I need you to feed my children. I can do that just fine by myself, thank you very much!   And I tell all young women I meet (who will listen): get your degree, start your career, and if you CHOOSE to stay home, keep your fingers in your field, cause someday you may be glad you have the CHOICE to stay or to go……or if he CHOOSES to leave you!
      
    And if you make more money than your husband, more power to you.   Loving partners share the booty, no matter who brings home the bacon.   If a man doesn’t like his woman to make more than him, that says way more about him than it does about her!
      
    I honestly cannot believe anyone is still having this debate.   My sons will be fine with having a stay at home mom (I was one!) and a working mom (I was one!).   The next generation of men have been raised with less machismo and ego, and will not take their women for granted as much.
      
    Off my soap box now…gotta do some late night work while my son sits next to me playing xbox!   🙂

  10. 30
    Karl T

    Soulsister #29,
    Some of what you say is laughable.   Feminism didn’t change men, it changed society.   Yes, years ago you would be frowned upon for doing certain things or for leaving a marriage- but the frowning upon would come from society- which includes other men AND women.  
    “I say if all women had the CHOICE to stay, more men would not smack them around, yell at them, rape them, or hurt them in the name of marriage.”
    BS!!!!   If a guy is an abuser he is going to abuse.   You think he’s gonna stop just to save a marriage??  
    “The next generation of men have been raised with less machismo and ego, and will not take their women for granted as much.”
    That is one of the most  whacked out statements I’ve ever heard and  also entirely untrue.   Where did you pull that one out of??   You seriously believe that?   Keep living in your own feminist dream world.   Most women I know wouldn’t want to live  in a world like that.   Thank God!!!
    And lastly, how many women do you know today  stay with  or keep going back to their husbands/boyfriends even though they beat them.   Or they finally move on to another guy who does the exact same thing?   Funny how they have  entire freedom of choice today,  but yet still remain with abusers.    Why is this still so common if they have  freedom of choice?    
      

    1. 30.1
      John

      KARL,

      In the circle where you must have been raised, these “beatings” you emphatically discuss, did and do not take place in the vast majority of cases; especially today.

      SOULSISTER,

      The same applies to your generalizing when there is no proof of your gross over-statement during WW2.   As long as either gender have this hatred for men classifying them all as what you say above, which is you trying to indoctrinate as many men and women to believe you, we are never going to alter the devastation of WESTERN culture today that wasn’t the case during WW2.   We WILL surely be doomed as groups like MGTOW flourish.

      Our children are never asked what they want and if they were, they wish for BOTH parents to raise them under one roof and yet, the vast majority of separations/divorces are initiated by Moms who then have the power over children, too.

  11. 31
    Ruby

    Karl T #30
      
    “Why is this still so common if they have  freedom of choice? ”
      
    Do you actually know how common it is? I doubt it. While domestic violence still exists, it has declined greatly since the 1950s. A report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2012 showed that 64 percent decline in intimate partner violence from 1993 to 2010.
      
    “Feminism didn’t change men, it changed society.   Yes, years ago you would be frowned upon for doing certain things or for leaving a marriage- but the frowning upon would come from society- which includes other men AND women. ”
      
    Social change affects how all people think. The point Soulsister is making is that it was not only less acceptable for women to leave bad marriages, it wasn’t financially feasible. And if domestic abuse was considered acceptable, women would be more likely to tolerate it and stay. If men are held accountable for their behavior they are going to be less likely to be abusive.
      
      

  12. 32
    Kathleen

    Soulsister 29   Great post !! Well written. Agreed

  13. 33
    Karl T

    Ruby #31,
    I’m not referring to domestic violence as a whole.   I am referrring to women who stay with men who continually abuse them.   I’m not even talking about married people- simple BF and GF.   They could leave at anytime- nobody is married and yet they choose to stay.   I don’t have any type of numbers for how many stay, but I hear about it sooo many times there has to be at least some significant number.  
      
    Kathleen #32,
    Great post?   Seriously?   You really think so?   She belittles the “Next Generation of men” and you say great post?  

    1. 33.1
      US MARINE CORPS

      This website has a lot of male bashers. You just have to laugh it off. 3-4 billion men in the world and they make these generalizations because of their bitter divorce. So much for being an adult. I did that when I was 13

  14. 34
    Soulsister

    Karl T 30 –
    BS!!!!   If a guy is an abuser he is going to abuse.   You think he’s gonna stop just to save a marriage??  
    I completely agree with you… but a woman who can make a decent living is not going to  stay around for the abuse as easily as someone who makes $8/hour.    My uncle physically abused my beautiful, kind aunt.  After he died (a lifetime of abuse later), I asked her why she stayed with him.   Her answer:   I had six kids and no way to make a living, how was I going to leave? Thank God she had a few good years without that bastard.
      
    “The next generation of men have been raised with less machismo and ego, and will not take their women for granted as much.”
    That is one of the most  whacked out statements I’ve ever heard and  also entirely untrue.   Where did you pull that one out of??   You seriously believe that?   Keep living in your own feminist dream world.   Most women I know wouldn’t want to live  in a world like that.   Thank God!!!
      
    My own bf is extremely alpha.   When we first started dating he did try to pull off some bad behavior after being together a long time…not physical, but he would snap at me or get annoyed and boss me around.     I broke up with him because I could.    His wife put up with it for a long time and it  became a bad habit  for him.   Why did she put up with it for so long?   Because she felt she couldn’t financially survive.   We did get back together, but he contains his bullish behavior much more.    50 years ago, most women would have put up with it in order to be “taken care of”.   It is kind of human behavior, we do what we think we can get away with.     Financial equality keeps the stakes even and helps contain that bad behavior.
      
    Even Evan says a man is going to do what a man is going to do.   The only thing a woman can do is leave.   When you are not afraid to be on your own, you will exercise that choice much more readily and act with more power in this world.
      
    So a woman who makes a great living should find a man who is proud of her for being able to do that in a man’s world…and she should stay away from any man who feels that her success somehow makes him less of a man.    
      
    Yes, I am a feminist and proud of it.    It raised the stakes for men.   Men who want to control or dominate stay away from women like me. And for the record, I do not control or dominate.   I am all woman.   Just one who has the confidence and means  to take care of herself and leave if the circumstances require it…..
      
      
      
      

  15. 35
    Soulsister

    Karl T – 33
    Kathleen #32,
    Great post?   Seriously?   You really think so?   She belittles the “Next Generation of men” and you say great post?  
    How exactly did you get belittling the next generation  of men out anything I said about women having financial equality?   I have two wonderful sons and they  are a shining example of the next generation….neither one of them would be threatened by a woman who makes more than they do,  nor a woman who is an equal in a relationship, the workplace, or even *gasp* as a BOSS, lol!!

  16. 36
    Ruby

    Karl T
      
    “I don’t have any type of numbers for how many stay, but I hear about it sooo many times there has to be at least some significant number.  
      
    Oftentimes, women do seek help and support, but they don’t receive it from police, family members, clergy, or health care personnel. Up until very recently, domestic abuse was considered a private matter, and even police were reluctant to intervene. Frequently, battered women – and their children – face physical danger if they try to leave. Poor women are less likely to have the resources to leave, and don’t want their children, if they have them, to be deprived if they leave. For cultural or religious reasons, some women believe it’s their duty to keep the marriage together. Psychological issues can play a role. There are many reasons why a woman stays other than that she enjoys the abuse.
      
    I’m not seeing how the statement, ““The next generation of men have been raised with less machismo and ego, and will not take their women for granted as much” is belittling to men.

  17. 37
    Karl T

    Ruby #36,
    No no no, I’m not talking about women who have children with the abusive guy.   I’m talking about women who have no obligation at all to stay and they do.   Or they finally get the nerve to leave and what happens?   They meet a new guy who is equally as abusive.   I’m not saying they like the abuse, I’m saying they have some psychological issue that makes them seek out and accept these types of men.   Sometimes the abuse is verbal or even mind control.   Come on, you know these types of women.   They stay and put up with this stuff and it  turns my stomach  to see it happen.   I know several and they are not poor and are not unintelligent either.
    She basically said men are much less macho than before implying they have turned into puffy little feminist formed softies.   You’re not a man, so I guess you have a hard time seeing how that is belittling.   It’s an insult.   A man can be both macho and understanding at the same time.   You think youthful men today are becoming less macho.   I don’t.   Only maybe in Soulsister’s puffy little dream world.   We men have a term for guys like she is describing.   We call them manginas.   Not many women I know want to date a guy like that.
      

  18. 38
    Soulsister

    Karl T – 37
    She basically said men are much less macho than before implying they have turned into puffy little feminist formed softies.   You’re not a man, so I guess you have a hard time seeing how that is belittling.   It’s an insult.   A man can be both macho and understanding at the same time.   You think youthful men today are becoming less macho.   I don’t.   Only maybe in Soulsister’s puffy little dream world.   We men have a term for guys like she is describing.   We call them manginas.   Not many women I know want to date a guy like that.
    I did not say anything like that, nor did I imply it.   A truly masculine man is not threatened by a woman making as much or more money than him.   I think I struck a nerve with you.   You are making your own meaning.   My boys are not puffy little feminist formed softies. Neither is my bf.   But all of them are very confident about their masculinity, they don’t need to make more $$ than me to prove it to themselves…..
      

  19. 39
    Ruby

    Karl T #37
      
    Soulsister was talking about domestic violence in her original post, as was I. That was the quote you first responded to in post #30. Saying that boys today are raised to be less macho, less egotistical, and more respectful of women is not the same as saying that boys are being raised to be docile little creampuffs, not by a long shot. That is your interpretation.

  20. 40
    Karl T

    Why does she say less macho??   Being macho has  absolutely nothing to do with being abusive  nor is it in any way bad.   When a girl tells me a guy is not very macho, that to me means he is kind of weak and feminine, as I said- an insult.   I understood just fine.   It’s not my interpretation, that is what she stated.
    Lastly, I want to point out that the way you speak of women having to endure violence in the past- you make it sound like that was the norm.   It most certainly was not.   My mom didn’t take crap from anyone, including my dad if they got into an argument and my dad was no pushover.  
    As for making more money…I could care less.   That was never part of my commetns in any way.   Not sure why it was brought up.   Yes it is the topic of this blog, but I never commented about it or made any references to it.

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