I earn the money in this relationship! What I say goes!

Ok not for me specifically. My wife has her own career and makes a roughly equivalent salary (which creates its own challenges).

I made a comment in another thread that in relationships where one spouse is the breadwinner or there is a significant disparity of bread won, that partner wields disproportionate power in the relationship. Not that I was advocating the wielding of that power, merely that it exists.

Yes, there are divorce considerations and one can always invoke a variation of the “happy wife, happy life” clause. And most major decisions should be made as a couple. But the reality is, if one person holds the purse strings, there are practical implications for the dynamics of that relationship (i.e. “we need to be close to my job.” “I just got transferred to xxxx”.

Questions for discussion:

  • How do these couples avoid disparity of power?
  • How do couples avoid feeling resentment towards each other? Either the Breadwinner resenting having to work while the SAHP stays at home or the SAHP resenting that they don’t get to pursue their career aspirations or that they become an “appendage” to the Breadwinner’s career. And lets be honest. It’s not 1950. “Housework” doesn’t take the entire day to do in this day and age.
  • How do the avoid creating a “transactional”, almost “employer/employee” type relationship - i.e. “I work all day so I expect x, y, and z to be done before I get home.”

I’m so comfortable w/ the relationship that has worked for my wife and me for 35 years, that I am still occasionally surprised that other people perceive things differently.

We always assumed all income and expenses were shared equally. There was no my/your money. But we agreed on limits (I think $50 or so at the start) that one could spend w/o at least telling the other.

When married when in school, we had little money and few expenses. When we graduated, we both had jobs. She made more than me. We always budgeted such that we could live on either one salary. So yeah, we were fortunate that we did not “need” both incomes.

When we had our 3d kid, we decided our strong preference was to have one of us stay home. Without question, my wife would be the better stayhome parent, so she quit her job, even tho she still earned more and had better bens than me. Since then, she always worked pt-time. This year, she might make 5-10% of me.

It never crossed either of our minds that I ought to have more say in pretty much ANY household/economic/parenting situation, just because we decided that our preference was to style our household such that I bring in more money. We are a team, and we share equally in all income and obligations. Don’t know why any 2 people who love and respect each other would view things differently. We acknowledge that earning $ involves some effort, so she does a greater share of some of the household tasks - like managing the money, paying bills, some routine home maintenance and such. But we share the routine housecleaning. She buys the food, I do most of the cooking.

And yeah, it did bother her that when she did decide to rejoin the work force, as a woman in her 40s she was unable to find any job in her profession. So she does regret that she gave up the possibility of work rewards. But, she did have the experience of being a stayhome parent. And she was concerned over the fact that she was so dependent on my earnings/retirement/etc. So I made clear that she was beneficiary on all of my accounts w/ full survivorship, etc.

We share money, and each have an individual credit card for an emergency (like the months after the spouse’s death). We divide responsibilities according to interest and ability–I drive at night and do most of the cooking, she manages finances, both of us fix things. We both work. Over time, the proportion each of us contributes economically changes. We both enjoy our work and are both happy to have the other pursue her interests. Sometimes it’s uneven–for example, I get a small travel stipend for trips by myself that might or might not be balanced by my minor income from speaking and writing, which goes in the joint account.

We discussed all of this when the relationship got serious and before we combined finances. I had large student loans and didn’t think it was fair that she have to take them on. She rejoined that she’s be retiring before me and I would be bringing in more money to her benefit then.

We make other decisions together. Sometimes we don’t agree, but we’re pleasant about it.

The statement by the OP in the other thread was, “I’ve tried telling my husband this [about some issue with how to raise their child], but he doesn’t seem to think there’s anything unethical about this. He’s also the breadwinner of the family, so what he says pretty much goes.”

Now, I’ve never been married, so perhaps I’m talking out of my ass, but that sounds fucked up to me. Marriage shouldn’t be such an unequal partnership. (And if anything, that was the bigger issue than the one the OP posted about.)

Finances is one source of ‘power’ in a relationship but not the only source. It’s typical for one person to be more attractive than the other and also for one person to have a stronger desire for sex.

In the case of ‘power from attraction’ if one person attempts to become more attractive (through working out, surgery, etc) you almost always see a response from the other person to maintain the power balance (they will attempt to lose weight, etc).

I’d propose in a happy marriage the power coming from financial disparity will sort itself out in a similar way until a power balance is reached. The more attractive partner may feel like they have equal power even if they earn less and not feel threatened at all.

If they feel the power is disparate a partner may feel the need to take action to equalize the power disparity (by earning more, by becoming more attractive, etc) and then do so. But it’s also possible they may feel confident in the relationship and allow the power disparity to continue.

My mother was stay-at-home through most of my parents’ marriage. Essentially, my father left all household spending to her and took only what he needed. She made the household budget, chose the furniture and appliances, made sure that the kids were fed and dressed, etc. My father didn’t have to approve expenditures because my mother knew how much he was making and how much she had to work with. Even when it came to buying a car, my mother pretty much decided what she wanted, and left my father to negotiate the price.

For various reasons, this was pretty much how both their parents operated when they were growing up, so it didn’t require any delicate negotiations. It was simply the way things worked.

Both of my brothers-in-law are the sole breadwinners in their households both married women who never held a job after graduating college. One of my brother-in-laws has his wife on a allowance while he gets to spend money on whatever he wants and she needs to have the house cleaned an dinner cooked and he mainly gets fun time with the kid while she does the chores (feeding, diapers, etc). She didn’t even have her name on the tite to their house until 5 or 6 years after they had been married. For my sister she homeschools her kids and does all of the housework and is 100% incharge of the house, I’m not certain how they deal with money. In my opinion both women are harradines and brow beat their husbands into submission on a regular basis and earning the money is the only way the men have power in the relationship.

From what I can tell there is no resentment from the men in these relationships and they have no desire for their wives to go out and get jobs unless they want to. I would say both of them tend to very traditional gender roles and enjoy being the providers for their families. Also in both cases the men have expensive hobbies and enjoy working on their hoses so I think it is transactional in that they get to do stuff they enjoy and not do stuff they don’t but they don’t seem to think less of their wifes for it. In the end I have to conclude different strokes for different folks and these seem to be the relationships they were mean for while my working wife and I couldn’t imagine living there way.

Others are handling a lot of the rest of this; but I’m going to pull out this bit to say: that depends on the house and who’s in it and what gets defined as its being done.

A three-room apartment with two people, no other animals, no garden? No, that doesn’t take all day.

An eight room house with three kids under 10, a grandparent needing care, two dogs, three cats, three goats and a horse, and a half acre garden providing most of the produce for the family including things that need to be canned or frozen for the winter? One person’s going to run themselves ragged getting all of that done, and may not be able to do all of it well.

Most households are somewhere inbetween. And many households don’t do some of their own housekeeping, or don’t do all of it well, because there isn’t time unless somebody does take it on as a full time job.

I have been in both sides of the unequal relationship. My ex-husband frequently invoked his favorite saying, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Since he was retired with A LOT more money than I was making, he felt entitled to call all the shots. Which he did. My role was to work full-time, pay half of our living expenses (there was no mortgage, so that helped), and do all the cooking, shopping, and cleaning. How do you avoid resentment? You don’t. I certainly didn’t. Divorcing him was one of the happiest days of my life.

In my current relationship, the balance is the opposite. We’ve only been together about two years, so we haven’t accumulated money together. I own my house (that is, my partner is not on the mortgage), and I make about three times what he does. I do not need financial help to pay my bills, but he struggles. So he pays what he can in “rent” and contributes to groceries and utilities. I pay for any expenses for the house; we just had new flooring installed, at my expense. But, hey, it’s my house, it’s only fair.

Our callenge is that he loves to spend money, so frequently suggests that we replace the fencing the backyard, remodel the bathroom, extend the bedroom, expand the back deck, buy a travel trailer, replace the barn or whatever new shiny idea has caught his fancy. He says I could just get a home equity loan to pay for it. Ha! My answer is always no. The fence, bathroom, bedroom, deck and barn are all fine just as they are and I don’t want a travel trailer.

I have told him that he is free to buy whatever he can pay for, with the understanding that I will not make any payments for him. And that, the more he buys on credit – like his new car – the longer he will have to work before he can retire. It mostly falls on deaf ears.

Does he resent the imbalance? Yes, I think he probably does. He’d rather I just give him whatever he asks for, like a child in the grocery store asking mommy for everything at his eye level. But that speaks to a bigger problem: his sense of entitlement and lack of maturity. And those can’t be fixed with money.

This is fair. He may control 90-100% of the finances, but she definitely controls 100% of the vagina in the relationship.

I can only speak for my marriage, but issues of power disparity due to money have never entered the picture. My wife and I tend to operate from a perspective of collective goals; I have needs and wants, my wife has needs and wants, and now that we have kids, our kids have needs and wants. The aim is to try to collectively operate to fulfill as many needs and wants for everyone as is practical. Money is just one input to that end; time being the other major resource.

I’ve always made more money than my wife, although the gap has narrowed somewhat in recent years. But it just never occurred to us that there is a concept of “my” money and “her” money ever since we got married; it’s just a pooled resource. Yeah, we have separate bank accounts through sheer inertia, but we both have full visibility into all the accounts. (Hey, can you pay this bill out of “your” account? “My” account is a little low right now because I just sent in the kids’ tuition payment. Yup, sure.) Before we got married, she told me about her career aspirations and how it would likely involve relocating a couple of times; I was fine with it. If I hadn’t been, we probably wouldn’t have been compatible enough to get married in the first place.

I suppose we have some things working in our favor:

  • Our incomes individually and collectively are plenty to sustain our preferred lifestyles, so disagreements over expenditures just aren’t much of a thing. This has got to be one of the major advantages we have in avoiding money-related disagreements.
  • We have similar ideas about what are small purchases that need not be cleared with the other, and what spending warrants some kind of discussion.
  • We have similar value systems in terms of what is “worth it”. For larger one-time expenses, sure we check in with each other as a courtesy. But I can’t recall the last time one of us seriously objected to a proposed expenditure from the other on the basis of the money. (She sometimes objects to my spending because I like gadgets and she dislikes clutter, but that’s not about the money.)

Aristophanes said much the same thing, 2400 years ago.

This is true. And a lot of it depends on how much you leverage technology or outside services to do the work for you. Also your general disposition regarding housework. My wife’s a bit compulsive so she is very particular about how she does the children’s laundry. She’s got to hand wash the stains. Then use the special artisanal detergent. Then the drying rack. And she’s stressed out about it the entire time. Me, I just sort my clothes by color and toss them in the machine. I also don’t mind organizing stuff. If anything, I’m a bit compulsive the other way.

Childcare does occupy the entire day though.

Over the course of our 40 blessed years of marriage, there have been long periods when I earned more, and long periods where she earned more. But decision-making was never connected to the paycheck. We would discuss the question like reasonable adults, and if we couldn’t agree, the decision was based on who had more expertise in the subject matter. It will be different for other couples, but for us, I had more say on practical questions, and she had more say on esthetics.

When one or the other had to stay home to take care of a sick kid or whatever, it was based on who it was easier for - that was usually the spouse whose job was closer to home, but that could be trumped if something special was happening at the workplace.

As far as how we split our money: We were still engaged when one of us (neither of us remembers who it was) asked the other, “Can I borrow ten dollars?” The response was, “What do you mean ‘borrow’? It’s all one wallet now!”, and handed the cash right over.

I’ve been the spouse not working and he’s been the spouse not working. He’s made more than I and I’ve made more than him.

It changes nothing.

It’s our money, together, and the work of the family is ours together. Who is making more money and who is more primary on family stuff doesn’t change the equation at all.

Our value to each other has nothing to do with productivity or income.

I’ve come to the conclusion to keep our marriage happy, I don’t try to control her life, I don’t try to control my life.

While I agree that childcare requires varying levels of attention throughout the day, and can play hell w/ trying to keep a schedule or complete prolonged tasks, it certainly does not preclude getting other things done.

In no way do I wish to suggest that childcare is not hugely difficult and often tedious. But I’ve often wondered about parents who cite “childcare” as the reason their homes are a mess and other things don’t get done.

Warning for @msmith537

Really? I don’t think so. Refrain from this kind of crass, sexist and misogynistic remarks for now on.

There is also a ton of stuff that’s not housework, but is part of maintaining the household. The budget and bills. Making doctor, dentist, and other appointments. Arranging for repairs. Car maintenance. Yard maintenance. Taxes. Then there’s the social side: making holiday arrangements, from plans on where to go to shopping and wrapping to decorating and curating a holiday experience. Organizing and planning vacations. Doing relationship-maintenance with friends and family. Then kids add a whole new layer: interfacing with teachers. Interfacing with PTSA. Keeping up with school events, like carnivals and fun runs. Figuring out extracurricular stuff, like sports and swimming and camps and clubs . Setting up and attending playdates. Testing and screening for GT or disabilities. Monitoring academics. Supervising homework. Then for a lot of social circles, there’s a whole social media presence to be maintained, as well.

These days, we may spend less time scrubbing, but we spend a lot more time doing those things.

Were you referring to the “finances” part, or the “vagina” part?