Gender roles, relationships and…you

October 11, 2016

gender-rolesThis is a question about gender roles and expectations in relationships. It came about after a conversation with friends in which I wondered what, if anything had changed in our expectations of genders in relationships: what we find acceptable and what we think isn’t so cool.

I’m going to lay out a scenario and ask you for a response. Even a quick response would be great–and if the responses are interesting enough, I’ll base a future post on the concept of changing (or not changing) gender roles.

Here’s the scenario, and for the purposes of this post, we’re talking only about heterosexual couples.

The scenario:

A heterosexual couple fall in love.  They’re both smart, college-educated and have had fairly equivalent upbringings.

The man makes average income and is likely to stay at the level for his entire career. The woman makes twice that much and will stay at the level for her entire career. To make it easier, let’s say no children are or will be in the picture.

Here’s the question for women readers:

What are your feelings about making a lifetime commitment to him, knowing that you will always carry the larger financial burden? In your response, please give your general age group.

Here’s the question for male readers:

What are your feelings about making a lifetime commitment to her, knowing that she will always carry the larger financial burden? In your response, please give your general age group.

Thank you!

51 comments on “Gender roles, relationships and…you
  1. Leigh Young says:

    Making a life together is what should be important. No two people, in any relationship, make the same amount of income. If it matters to either of them that one has a greater income than the other, it will never be a successful relationship.

  2. Carolann says:

    That’s a great question that many couples face – especially these days. I think if two people are truly in love, it shouldn’t matter which partner makes the most money. Although, I’ve seen it create issues in marriages too. For me personally, yep, I’d make the commitment. I still believe that love and devotion come first in a marriage and then finances.

  3. candy says:

    Age 56 years old. When I was in the work force I always made more money over my husband. Never bothered me or my husband. Not my money or his money it is our money.

  4. Skipah says:

    Since I just hit 40 and have already been divorced this isn’t an issue for me at all if the female is the “bread” winner. My ego has already been “cooled” after a gnarly divorce. When I was a young man who knows it’s not something I could answer honestly.

  5. Kelly says:

    I’m 55 and I’ve always felt that I needed to make enough money to take care of myself if I have to. And after a divorce in a 24 year marriage, I was able to make it on my own financially. That is my only financial criteria – relationship or not.

  6. It wouldn’t be an issue for me. I think our society has moved past this. Haven’t we?

  7. Ima says:

    This is one big question couples definitely need to consider thoroughly before getting to the altar
    Thankfully, I am nowhere close to this yet:-)

  8. Paula kiger says:

    I’m in my early 50s. I think to a degree it depends on the couple but I was the higher breadwinner in our marriage for a long time, incorporating the most demanding time of having little kids, pregnancies, etc. It didn’t matter to me — except that I needed more from him in ways that were non monetary. Support isn’t just about $$.

  9. I don’t think it matters who makes more, love shouldn’t ever be about money.

  10. Omg. I wish we had moved so past this kind of question. It doesn’t make a whit of difference to me if I make more, or my partner makes more. We are so much more than our jobs and salaries.

  11. Allen Herskowitz says:

    The premises make it difficult, I think. What youngsters believe that they will always face a financial burden rather than achieve some level of financial independence? Do the millennials really accept that future? If the prospect of shared contribution but to discretionary resources enters the equation I believe the answer is different for either side. At 75 trying to project the question back to same earlier time fails because I can not accept the premise – so I can speculate on an answer but for my generation it is not an honest one given that I do not believe the question represents any model I could accept. Of course at 75 no one cares what my peers or I think about the issue anyway- we are uninvolved and irrelevant.

    • I’m really not sure I understand your position except for the last line…?

    • Allen Herskowitz says:

      Sorry; did not mean to be obscure. It is a question complicated by the fact that expectations in relationships have changed so dramatically in the past 60 years that it is hard for someone my age to have more than a surface understanding of the attitudes of the youngsters to whom this question should be addressed. I will just shut up and watch.

  12. Tamara says:

    While I’d like to say that I’d have no problem with it (and I wouldn’t, at the beginning), I think it’s important to acknowledge that people’s feelings about any kind of imbalance in a relationship change over time. Keeping the doors open to future conversations and checking in periodically to ensure that both partners are still okay with the situation is crucial. It’s amazing how many people start out feeling ‘good’ about a situation, but over time, their feelings change to ‘not so good’ and even straight out resentment…

  13. Nancy Hill says:

    Marriage is an economic partnership as much as anything, and like everything else in partnership, there are no guarantees. Marriage is a negotiation, a constant negotiation, And if you are not willing to change with circumstances, you probably should not enter into the contract.

  14. Tyane says:

    I’m 31, and he will always be the breadwinner in our relationship. When we began dating and got married, he wanted me to be able to stay home and raise our boys. That lasted for about two weeks, until I had a work-from-home opportunity fall right in front of me. Support goes beyond the money though. We have to support each other physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, too.

  15. Rosemond says:

    Great question: My former spouse and I flip flopped often in terms of salary. When we met he was the primary breadwinner, but then he wanted to write so I carried the financial burden. Then we were both working and earning a good salary. I would be comfortable with a man making less than I made. My only caveat would be that I’m attracted to men who are passionate about their careers and are goal driven. If that’s a part of his makeup the I don’t care how much he makes.

  16. Amber Myers says:

    I am in my 30s and I wouldn’t mind.

    Right now though I stay at home with the kids, which works out for us.

  17. sue says:

    Hi Carol, you are describing my daughter and her husband. They have a great relationship but Rachel was always going to be the career girl and Ian, a landscaper. Rachel is a top executive so it made sense for her to return to work after maternity leave and Ian is the primary carer for their son. They have both agreed on this lifestyle and it suits them. I think some men in our generation would have difficulty accepting the ‘woman’ as the breadwinner but fortunately, that is changing.

  18. My husband and I have been married for 50 years. When our kids were young I worked part-time. Otherwise we were both fully involved in our careers and pooled our money – as a physician he always made more. Now that he’s retired I finally get to be the breadwinner. Although finances in relationships is important, we’ve found that the other issues around cooperation and support make compromising an ongoing by-product of making marriage work.

  19. age 62, a confirmed minimalist. relationships have a combination of centrifugal and centripetal forces. naturally, hanging ( esp. traveling) w people who want to spend more coin on a meal out, or rent a fancier room, &tc. can cause tension. are there enough centripetal forces to overcome these? i don’t see it being a problem, as long as respect for one another’s choices, preferences… what’s pops yr corn? do we really have to do everything together, anyway? of course, my embrace of simplicity is a deeply spiritual choice ~ materialism, consumerism, i view as destructive choices. this would not have been a question even a few generations ago. now the focus on individuality, self-expression, me-ism, brings these questions up.

  20. Laurie Stone says:

    If I love him, its not an issue.

  21. Crystal Gard says:

    Through our marriage out roles as the bread winners has always changed. But its not important who make more money its about building a life together and finding what works best for yourselves both together and on an individual basis,

  22. chei says:

    I am 31 and i wouldnt mind who makes the money most. Actually, i am the one who makes the money most but it’s just fine. Its a give and take for us. That’s why our relationship works. 🙂

  23. Ileana says:

    I would not see any problem on this situation 🙂

  24. I agree with Nancy -in the right partnership, it wouldn’t matter. The man wouldn’t feel like he’s being undermined, nor would the woman feel like she’s a parent, because they would both work towards their common goal – their future.

    In a wrong partnership, however, there would be pride and resentment.

    I’ve been in many of the latter.

  25. I honestly don’t mind earning more than my husband, he’s a great guy and I love him for what he is not his money or what he can buy me. It is all about conversation and making agreements. Who cares who earns more. When you have found the love of yoru life money is a secondary thing.

  26. Elizabeth O. says:

    I am in the top 40s and I think it’s not a problem for me if I’m earning more or earning less than my partner. It’s all about how we think, our mindset. If your husband is bothered about the whole scenario then there’s obviously an issue with ego. I wouldn’t really call having a larger salary a burden, after all everything we earn and have are shared.

  27. Valerie says:

    If it’s love it shouldn’t matter. I’m in my late 30’s and my hubby is 11 years older and had a stroke. I will carry the larger burden for the rest of our lives. I love him.

  28. Jennifer says:

    In my 50’s and for most of my life have been the primary breadwinner in the family. With my ex-husband, it didn’t start that way but after a few years I was making more (and paid for it at the divorce.) With my second husband, I’ve always been making more.

  29. Clara says:

    As long as he had a source of income, I wouldn’t have a problem with him making less.

  30. Cori says:

    The way we decided on our finances was live on one and bank the other. We live on mine, which is slightly larger, and bank his for paying off debt and going on vacation. It’s worked out for the best.

  31. I think it depends on a number of factors–the strength of the relationship and the confidence, sense of well-being of both parties–particularly the male if he is the one making less money. And, each couple is different. I had a 3 year relationship in 2000’s. We were same age (early 50s) and I was making better money. He managed his money poorly and enjoyed the benefits of my house and my spending money. But his self-confidence got in the way and he began to spiral…..He was measuring his success, salary, against mine and it began to make him feel less of a man/breadwinner/partner.

    For me, at age 62, it’s not the money as much as it is the attitude of equality and partnership. Ir’s compatibility based on life experiences and intellect… I can’t speak for the younger generations as I think some of our attitudes about masculinity and gender roles have changed for the better.

  32. Jena Proctor says:

    This can be such an issue in modern marriage. If the husband is bothered by the fact that his wife makes more money than him, there will be issues. I made a little more than my husband for a little while and it was never an issue.

  33. Kelly Reci says:

    As long as the married couples agreed on the very beginning, there is nothing to worry about it. I don’t mind who earns bigger.

  34. DogVills says:

    Due to the modern setup we have now, a woman can also be the bread winner and it is not a big issue for us. This post is very interesting.

  35. Fatima says:

    For me, it doesn’t matter whether or not my spouse makes more than I do. It’s about the love connection my husband and I have. We’re not together because he’s making millions, nor is he with me because I do. It’s all about how well we balance each other. (PS: Neither one of us is making millions… and that’s okay)

  36. I don’t see it bothering me too much if he is working. Right now I make a pretty decent living at my day job but also make money on the side with my blog and business, so it wouldn’t be too off the wall that if I met someone I might make more than him. My ex made less than me and that was never an issue with us because we were both hard workers. If he was just sitting at home playing playstation all day and I was working 2 jobs then it would be a problem,

  37. Jobs are temporary. Tables can and will turn. The foundation of the relationship (God) is the most important part to me.

  38. Ourfamilyworld says:

    Oh, interesting! Whoever generates income bigger doesn’t matter as long as the couple are okay with it.

  39. Rosey says:

    I am 46. and I would relish in making more money. It’s imporant to make sure you have financial security on your own in case anything happens unexpected.

  40. angie says:

    I have been married to my husband for 30 years and have enjoyed it every year. We married young with both of us in our teens. I went to school while he cared for the children. I have worked for the past 20+ years and he has cared for the house and children. Now he cares for the grand=kids as I work
    come see us at

  41. honestly i wouldn’t care, this shouldn’t be an issue if your partner is a modern, caring and supportive partner.

  42. Jason Young says:

    traditions are a hard thing to break away from. Even when they seem tobe non-relevant they’re still there as they have helped shaped the society we live. Breaking away from them is a constant challenge.

  43. In my world, income isn’t counted and a couple should act as one and help each other. There’s no entitlement as to who pays and who gets to be obeyed.

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