Are Higher Salaries for Women Leading to More Divorces?

wife thinking about divorce because of a high gap in salary with husband

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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  1. 41

    Great Post Soulsister.
    karl T I also get your point re abuse. This is because they come from absusive backgrounnds so attract and are attracted to what is familiar, having pain mixed up with love a bit like stockhome syndrome. It is called battered wife syndrome although like you say they are not always married. It takes a lot of therapy to get them better.

  2. 42

    Karl T, it appears to me that you and soulsister have different meanings and interpretations of Macho

  3. 43

    Lots of talk about men being threatened by women who make more than them….  
    However, I just don’t see it in real life.   Perhaps it’s a generational thing?   Maybe it is more common among men over the 40-45 age range?   I simply do not know one young adult male who would have a problem with a woman who makes more than he does.   Not. One.
    On the other hand, I’ve ran into a lot of young women who generally expect their men to make as least as much as they do.   So in keeping with the spirit of helping smart, strong, and successful women find an excellent man, I offer the following advice:
    If you’re a woman who genuinely doesn’t mind it if a man makes less than you, let it be known.   Make it a selling point, for that matter.   You can truly separate yourself from the other women in the dating scene by doing this, and the men that you’re interested in will notice.   Make it abundantly clear that you don’t think a man’s role is to provide for you, and that you believe in true equality of the sexes.
    It really is that simple.

  4. 44

    Karl T #40
    “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. ”
    Again, you are misinterpreting my meaning. I never said that domestic violence was the norm and that every other woman was a victim of it, just that it occurred much more frequently up until fairly recently than it does today, because it was considered much more acceptable, and a private matter between a husband and wife.
    According to Wikipedia, “machoism is a word derived from Spanish and Portuguese, where it has the meaning of a belief in the supremacy of men over women. However, in English the word means instead the sense of being macho or manly”. Maybe this accounts for the differences in yours and Soulsister’s interpretation of the word.

  5. 45
    Karl T

    Yeah Ruby,
    I’m sure that’s it.   She was reading the Spanish and Portuguese dictionaries again.   You’ll go to any length and scrounge up any  shred of evidence you could possibly find just to come up with an excuse why the most obvious reason might not be the case.   You gotta be kidding me….seriously???

  6. 46
    Sparkling Emerald
    Actually – Like many English words, there are often time more than one meaning, with subtle differences.   Kart T uses the #1 definition Soulstister uses #2 defninition.

  7. 47

    Sparkling Emerald #46
    Exactly. But I don’t think Karl T is listening.

  8. 48
    Karl T

    Yeah Emerald, it sounds like the opposite of everyone of those definitions listed on that dictionary link is a soft girly man.   Sounds like Ruby twisted some of the definitions to include a violent man- in which none of the definitions state that.   Every definition equates macho with being masculine.  The opposite is feminine.  
    Evan, how would you feel if a girl you were dating described you to a friend as not being a macho type of guy.   I’m betting you would take it as an insult.   Somehow the female mind here can not compute that.

  9. 49
    Karl R

    Karl T said: (#48)
    “Every definition equates macho with being masculine.”
    Are we reading the same definitions? The four definitions link macho to “dominating” far more than “masculine.”
    Karl T said:  (#48)
    “it sounds like the opposite of everyone of those definitions listed on that dictionary link is a soft girly man”
    Karl T said:  (#40)
    “When a girl tells me a guy is not very macho, that to me means he is kind of weak and feminine,”
    That’s a very polarized way to view the world. The coffee sitting on my desk is not very hot. Are you going to assume that it’s iced coffee? Or are you going to assume that maybe my hot coffee has cooled off to room temperature?
    If a man is not very masculine, it makes more sense that he’s kind of average … and the average male is masculine … mostly by definition of the word.
    Karl T said:  (#48)
    “Evan, how would you feel if a girl you were dating described you to a friend as not being a macho type of guy.   I’m betting you would take it as an insult.”
    How much would you like to bet?
    I wouldn’t be insulted by the comment, and I’ll happily bet you that Evan wouldn’t either.
    We’re men. We have the chromosomes and genitalia to prove it. We don’t need to act in some self-conscious or exaggerated manner to “prove” our manliness. We don’t have to fulfill every male stereotype in order to be men.
    Why should we feel insulted when a woman recognizes that difference between us and the men they would describe as macho?

  10. 50
    Karl T

    Karl R #49,
    The links mentioned dominating.   Which means taking charge and being assertive.   It does NOT be abusive or treating women poorly or taking them for granted!!   The only guys I know who would not be insulted by being told they lacked ‘machismo’ are feminine guys and homosexual men.   And yes I bet Evan would take that as an insult if a date described him as that.   He might totally disagree with her and dump her immediately, but I’m sure he would not take that comment happily.   If he does not accept that comment in a happy fashion then it must be a negative comment which is why I said Soulsister’s comment was an insult.   To some it’s a slight insult, to others it’s a heavy insult.   Either way it is NOT a compliment!!!   Your coffee analogy is not exactly correct.   If you want hot coffee then it doesn’t matter if the coffee is iced coffee or if it is luke warm…it is NOT hot and a disappointment!!!   To say someone is less macho pretty much says he’s less of a man- even if untrue, it is an insult.   Get it now?
    Soulsister’s original post said “The next generation of men have been raised with less machismo and ego, and will not take their women for granted as much.”
    You tell me where being macho is equated with taking your GF or wife for granted.   Like I said they have nothing to do with each other unless it just happens by coincidence.   Many guys who are supermacho DO NOT TAKE THEIR WOMEN FOR GRANTED!!   If anybody is polarized, it is Soulsister’s comment.   She basically said guys who are macho take women for granted and treat them poorly.   BS!!!

    1. 50.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Hey Karl T: calm down with the machismo. It’s not becoming. Not on you, not on me, not on anyone. It is actually an insult to be called macho in this day and age. Macho men generally show a lack of self-awareness and a lack of sensitivity, in favor of selfishness and sexual aggressiveness.

      You can be a sensitive guy, and even take on an alpha male role without being “macho”. At least that’s the way I’d like to see myself.

  11. 51

    Karl R and Evan –
    Men can be masculine and very alpha, and not be macho.   Strong women love a strong, MASCULINE man.   No woman, unless she has issues, wants to be dominated.   You are both right!   Real men do not have to prove they are men, they just ARE.  
    Karl T – your tone of emails was dominating, not masculine and not engaging.   I pulled back from the conversation until Karl R and Evan weighed in and made the discussion “safe” again.   I come here to learn and understand men better, I do not come here to be dominated or “yelled” at for having an opinion.   If YOU come here to learn as well, I would suggest you consider toning things down…..women with self worth will leave if dominated….which is basically what all the women (ruby, rose, and sparkling emerald)  on this blog  string did in response to you…..we all left the conversation!

  12. 52
    Sparkling Emerald

    Karl T @ 48 “Yeah Emerald, it sounds like the opposite of everyone of those definitions listed on that dictionary link is a soft girly man.”
    Ok, here’s a cut and paste of the definitions I posted.

    ma ·cho
    [mah-choh] Show IPA

    having or characterized by qualities considered manly, especially when manifested in an assertive, self-conscious, or dominating way.

    having a strong or exaggerated sense of power or the right to dominate.

    noun, plural ma ·chos.
    Also, ma ·cho ·ism. assertive or aggressive manliness; machismo.

    an assertively virile, dominating, or domineering male.
       Whenever I use the word macho, I am using it as it relates to definition #2, and EXAGGERATED sense of power or the right to dominate.   Someone who is manly as opposed to masculine is not a girly   man or gay, but a man who recognizes when he has the right to assert himself or to dominate the situation, and also recognizes the boundaries of when he can not assert his will.   If I thought of a man as manly or masculine, but NOT macho, it would not be an insult.   I want a loving leader (manly man) not a tyrannical tyrant (a mancho man)   I want a man who makes me feel safe (manly man) not a man I fear (macho man).   Believe me, if that man finds me, I won’t consider him macho OR girly.

  13. 53
    Sparkling Emerald

    Correction to   to #53
    Second sentence below the definitions should read “Someone who is manly as opposed to macho . . .

  14. 54

    Soulsister #52
    Of course I left the conversation – it’s utterly ridiculous. Can we add clueless to that list of what “macho men” are? Or maybe we should just listen to the Village People. They wrote a song about Macho Men in the ’70s.

  15. 55

    I realized something about all this income stuff.   In my world the men in the private sector are the ones who are hurting. Not the women I know who are mostly public sector. I feel for these men.   And I feel bad for the men who women reject because they don’t earn “enough”. Women fought to be able to do what they want, and that is good. It would just be nice if they gave men the courtesy of understanding and support that they, themselves, also want.

  16. 56

    I love grown up manly men yes Sparkling Emerald. I feel happy and safe in their presence. I don’t mind feminine energy men as friends, they can be fun as friends, not partner material though. I feel awful and on edge and unsafe in the presence of macho men. My gut tells me GET away from macho men.

  17. 57

    We are on a brink of economic collapse and these misogynistic pseudo-scientific “studies” are being pushed on the general populace to shame women who are career oriented.
    Not saying YOU, Evan, or your blog is misogynistic but this “study” sure is and it sure seems to attract some misogynistic characters to the comments section.
    I love women. A lot. I know on average, most of them are good people, especially the ones that work hard.
    Which is why I am going to give this advice.
    FORGET finding a relationship! Hold on to your career! NEVER give up on you dreams over a man because that man won’t be there forever but your accomplishments are something that will never be taken away.
    Learn a new language. Keep pushing in your education. Go towards skills that are universal and highly transferrable.
    When the bottom falls out as any economist will tell you it will, it will be VERY important that you have some money saved and the ability to leave the country if need be.
    Things are getting better for the rest of the world but worse for use here. Look into taking some Korean alongside a teaching degree. Korea needs teachers like nothing else.
    Honestly, anybody that doesn’t have their nose to the grindstone either in their job or furthering their skill set is INSANE male or female.

  18. 58

    AJ.   I don’t think this is a misogynistic article.   It’s not a put down on women.   It’s talking about the very real issue of some men being intimidated by successful women.   To tell women to “forget” about finding a relationship…are you serious? It’s wonderful to have a career, if you like it, and to fulfill yourself but not seeking love is a disaster.   That kind of advice will leave many women lonely.   I, personally, do better with a relationship. Much better.   And why does it have to be black or white? Career or love?   Whatever…

  19. 59

    Well with most women nowadays that are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, very spoiled, and very greedy, speaks for itself.

  20. 60

    What is left out in this very real article is this > most women cannot contend with a man who does not at least make as much as them because they do not want to put more of their income (ie when women make more which is happening more and more), into the couple’s fixed or variable costs because its a turn off DNA-wise + takes away females’ #1 aphrodisiac $$$ security; and furthermore, when a child comes along, and she feels she should mother the child which is 100% natural, THERE comes another HUGE issue where she looks at him and instinctively blames him for not making enough.   We must review history, before all our technologies that males invented/ created, and we will see that none of these issues were discussed for the most part however say they were; separation and divorce wasn’t an option because couples made do with gratefulness what they had in a much more physical existence and, they knew that the children need BOTH parents under their roof too. If only we modern day adults would BOTH look to history, and better still, ask the children what THEY want rather than focus sooooooooo much on this obsession for Income competition like the “Career” and “Independent” words that has become a dual mantra for modern women.

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