Relationship Rules For Breadwinning Women? Well This Feels Wrong.


Ah, yes: money and relationships.

When it comes to mixing money with friends, we have all been repeatedly told it’s “a no-no.” According to this study, 1 in 5 people have lost a friend over a money dispute, while the same number have also felt pressured to keep up with friends in terms of how much they spend on dining out, fashion, homes and more. It’s the good ‘ol clichéd, cyclical game of keeping up with the jones’, otherwise known as a fabulously unoriginal waste of time and resources.

In terms of romantic relationships, the financial woes are even worse. Kylee Gwartner of Elite helped us understand the severity of the situation back in this January article where money was cited as the number one reason for divorce according to research conducted by Kansas State University.

Most recently up for discussion, and interestingly enough coming off the heels of April 8th Equal Pay Day, is Farnoosh Torabi’s book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. The book, which debuted on May 1st, provides advice and real-world examples for women who earn more than their husbands.

For all intents and purposes in our society, the breadwinning woman is a newer trend.  According to the Pew Research Center analysis, 40% of family households now include a mother who is either the sole or primary earner for her family.

This number has quadrupled since 1960.

While there may be clouded factors behind this statistic (such as, single mothers), one thing is for sure: women are increasingly becoming strong financial providers. Overall, this should be a positive.

Except, apparently, it’s not.

With chapters like “Cater to the male brain” and rules such as “Find Your Favorite Position: Stay on top of the finances while allowing your partner to lead” Torabi’s stance and the book’s premise seems slightly misdirected, manipulative and even out of date or contradictory at times.

Even the title evokes a sense of guilt. There is this syntactic implication that being a breadwinning woman is not only a taboo position to be in, but an unfavorable one which requires the woman to almost exclusively bear the responsibility of keeping the male ego intact while slyly maneuvering the obstacles of any subsequently-related relationship issues.

I simply have trouble grasping the reality that progress made on the professional end of the spectrum for women along with any narrowing of the still-prominent gender pay gap could produce, of all things, ANOTHER set of socially-crafted rules for women to follow. And, not to mention, that coming up with said rules would be a fellow woman’s idea.

But then, can I really blame Torabi for attempting to solve what we ourselves have deemed a problem?

After all, her own survey of 1,033 professional women found that the “women who made more than their partners reported less relationship satisfaction and more embarrassment about how much they made compared to their spouse than the women who earned less.”

So, what’s that about ladies? I know that the great Gloria Steinem and her posse (oh, hey Grandma!) did not petition this country for the last 60 years so that we could stand here on the podium of opportunity feeling ashamed.

Not to mention, where is the pointed advice in her book, or any book, for men to rise to the occasion, adapt to the changing landscape and progress alongside us?

It is all so convoluted, this situation. But it exists and so, very naturally, everyone impacted will continue to speak up – the happily supportive stay-at-home Dads and their breadwinning wives, eager to accept executive roles; the stressed out and overly harsh wives, upset at the responsibility of making more money than their husbands; the misogynist GOP lawmakers and even this absolute , I mean, “traditionalist.”  

The point is that we could argue ad infinitum about the pros and cons and rules involved with the game of “who makes more.” But rules without context are arbitrary – as are most of the aforementioned statistics.

Let’s be real. 1 in 5 friendship breakups and 1 in 2 divorces likely don’t end over pressures strictly related to money, so much as they likely end over a deep discrepancy in value systems and an inability to facilitate meaningful and empathetic discussion in a relationship.  People often grow sick of the materialistic one-upper or the petulantly cheap friend and they feel uncomfortable speaking up. Marriages may become strained as the stresses associated with vanity and appearance multiply.

Money is simply the visible bud of the problem, whereas values and communication – more so than a comparison of salaries – are the root of it.

The simple principles of values and communication– isn’t that what so much of Torabi’s topic and all of this money business really comes down to – or at least should?  Isn’t it communication that is truly at the heart of what ties together a friendship and enlivens a marriage? And do we really think a set of 10 rules is going help matters?

Have you taken a peak into Torabi’s new book or the story behind it? Do you have strong feelings about gender roles in finances? Weigh in, below!