Updated: May 30, 2023

Can Being a Female Breadwinner Lead to Divorce?

Studies have shown that when women make more money it can ultimately lead to divorce? Figure out why, and how to prevent money from leading to divorce.
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According to the most recent data compiled by the Labor of Bureau Statistics, full-time women workers earned a median weekly wage of $691, which is 81 percent less than the average man. Despite the fact that women typically earn less than males, 24 percent of working wives earn more than their husbands. That’s good news for couples, right? Wrong.

A study from University of Chicago reveals that when the wife makes more than her spouse, divorce rates rise 50 percent. Tension arises between the couple due to the male feeling emasculated in his role as a provider, or from the woman feeling as if she is not being supported enough.

A drastic rise in divorce rates among couples where the female is the breadwinner could spawn from the fact that more woman are graduating college than men. Sixty percent of college graduates are women, and almost half of them marry men without a college degree. Based on these findings, it comes as no surprise that more women are the breadwinners in their household.

Money problems and tension

Finances alone may not be the reason why divorce rates hike when the wife earns more money. If each person feels their role is unfulfilled in the relationship, tension will inevitably arise.

David T. Pisarra, a father's rights lawyer in Los Angeles has a great deal of experience dealing with male clients in the past who experienced problems in their marriages.

When asked whether a female breadwinner can ultimately lead to divorce, he responded, "In today's world, yes, being the female breadwinner can lead to divorce, but not because she is earning money, but because the parties haven't had a discussion about what their goals and roles are. A marriage is more than a romance -- it is a business as well. And the obligations and duties of the partners need to be discussed and clarified so that everyone is on the same page. What causes problems is not one spouse making more money than the other, because as women have noted for centuries, the role of homemaker is not a cushy one. The contributions of the parties to the family may be unequal in terms of dollars, but be equalized by value of the emotional support or domestic duties that make a household run smoothly."

Solutions to prevent a marriage from failing

Relationship expert and author, April Masini explained, "Being a female breadwinner can lead to divorce when that role is incompatible to both people in the relationship. For instance, if a woman always dreamed of staying home and raising children, but has to become the breadwinner because her husband cannot or will not find employment, she may become disenchanted with her marriage and her disappointment will lead to a rift that becomes resentment that grows into arguing, fighting and divorce. Or, a man may become so depressed that he isn’t doing what he wants to be doing, finds that leaving the marriage will solve the problem."

Communication is key. Couples should discuss a budget and define clear goals. While financial goals should be part of the discussion, personal goals should also be a focus. Working together to build a happy and financially solid future through regular, open conversations will set the tone and help strengthen the relationship.

April's advice

Here are some tips from April for restoring balance to marriages where perceived inequity exists:

Do the math. Calculate what you’re NOT paying for!

It’s easy to count dollars that are income, but it’s a lot harder to estimate the dollar value that would result if a stay at home parent opted out of home and childcare. Consider the cost of maid service, laundry service, childcare, an assistant to do shopping and cooking, and then calculate the cost of a stay at home parent. When you add up what you’re saving because a stay at home parent is providing service you’d otherwise have to pay for, you may better understand that that spouse has a monetary value you didn’t realize before.

When you’re passed the baton, take it

Most spouses have times in their lives when they can’t do what they’ve been doing. They have an illness, an accident, a family complication, a pregnancy — or any number of other “life interruptions”. If you’re the spouse who’s life is not directly affected by the illness or the car accident, pick up the slack. You may have to step out of your comfort zone and take a second job or pick up some part time work — even if it’s not something you’re proud of — just to help out the family budget. This is the stuff that builds character, and will win devotion from your spouse. It’s easy to make ends meet when everything is going swimmingly, but when the chips are down, that’s when you see who you’ve really married.

Practice graciousness, and tell your spouse, thank you for personal sacrifices made in the interest of relationship's financial plan

Too often, couples take each other for granted. Simply thanking a spouse for being a great bread winner, or the bigger earner, and making it possible for you to do or have what you do, will make that person feel less taken advantage of. The feeling of being taken advantage of, comes from being unappreciated, and simply thanking someone in a genuine and heartfelt way, can eliminate that. You can easily thank a spouse for sacrificing whatever it might be — a career to stay at home with kids, or a decision to give up a dream of writing poetry to sell insurance instead to support a home and two cars.

Never miss the opportunity to give a good toast

Complimenting your spouse in public, in a way that is charming and heartfelt, is a great to show you’re appreciative. You can’t put a price tag on the results you’ll get from letting the world know how much you appreciate a spouse’s value. So, don’t miss the opportunity to raise a glass in public and toast your spouse.

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