The first thing to deal with is the facts. A 2012 study showed that unmarried, childless women between the ages of 22 and 30 make more than their partners. So, being of this age group and status, you should not feel as though your situation is unusual, strange, or perverse—that the very order of nature has been overturned because you make more money than your man.
Your life as a single woman living in the second decade of the twenty-first century is much different from that of your forerunners in the sisterhood. Today, young women have more opportunity for education and career success than they have ever had. The world is a better place than it once was, and you have done is seize the options set before you—options created by your own hard work and sacrifice.
Yet, you have met a wonderful man—a man who is just as intelligent and ambitious as yourself, but whose fortunes have not been as good as yours. Thus, the second thing to ponder over is your attitude—that is, your attitude towards a man who makes less money than you; a man who indeed may not even be in a position to provide for you if ever you decided to leave work.
Indeed, the latter issues presuppose a more traditional mentality: the man as breadwinner of the family. If that is what you feel deep down inside, when you are away from the fashionable feminism that you talk about with friends, then you may find it hard to pursue a satisfying and fulfilling relationship with your un-moneyed beau.
If, however, you are a true believer in equality—which must include a willingness to believe that either person in a household can carry the bulk of its financial burdens—then you might have a chance. But socialization and nature itself do not let us off that easy. There will always be a part of you that wants to be looked after—lavished with treats, gifts, and expensive vacations; while your man will remain wholly obsessed by the fact that you make more money than him.
To make your relationship work it is essential that you recognize the extreme sensitivity harbored by men who make less money than the women they are with. There are, fortunately, a number of practices and habits you can adopt to make him feel less threatened by your career success.
1. Don’t offer to pay for everything
Drop the phrase “I’ll get it” from your vocabulary at once. To you it may seem like a nice and thoughtful thing to do; but to your man having you pay the bill every time the two of you go for dinner or drinks is pure anguish. When you are first getting to know one another, allow him to pick up the tab. Once you feel that the relationship is settled and stable, it’s okay to split the check. But under no circumstances should you offer to pay for an outing—unless, of course, it’s his birthday.
Some of you ladies in the high-powered professions of law, finance, and consulting may think this advice absurd. You’re making serious bank and have no children or dependents of any kind. Why shouldn’t you treat your man to a candle light dinner or cocktail now and then? In thinking this way, you’ve overlooked a glaring feature of the situation. When you’re out for drinks or dinner, you’re out in public. When your server brings the check and you whip out the gold card, everyone will see that you paid for the dinner and your boyfriend will feel as though every eye in the restaurant is standing witness to his shame. Even if no one has given you a moment’s attention, he will think otherwise. Trust me.
If you want to spend money on him, a new tie, pair of jeans, or shirt, occasionally, will do. We men actually like little gifts like that. Nothing too flashy or fancy; just a little something that shows you were thinking about him
2. Don’t offer to help him find a better jobbe
If I were of a religious cast of mind, I would call this a cardinal sin. It amazes me that women actually believe they’re helping when they make job inquiries on behalf of their men. You may as well tell him that he isn’t man enough to find his own job or to better his situation. Don’t do it. Even if you hear about some wonderful opportunity that you think he will be perfect for, don’t act as though you have the authority to speak on his behalf. Nor should you feel free to tell him where he should look to find more remunerative work.
It should be no surprise that men are proud. We cannot help it. Pride is one of the many instincts we retained from the time when we were a weak and vulnerable mammalian species struggling to survive in the African savannah. Pride gives the male of our species the confidence and focus needed to compete against other males for food, shelter and women. Nowadays, we regulate it to fit the trappings of advanced civilization, but it is still a deep and powerful emotion: we can fend for ourselves; and we especially don’t need our women to help us.
3. Try not to talk shop at home
While it is true that you should be able to speak to your man about anything, it doesn’t follow that you ought to do so. From your perspective, you’re sharing a moment of intimacy—telling the person you trust most in the world the difficulty and travail of office politics. All he hears is that you have a wonderful job, making important decisions, dealing with serious people, and bringing home a truck load of money.
Unless there is some major news about your job, try not to talk shop at home. It will only make your man feel even more the pain of his financial shortcomings.
4. Curb the frequency of your outings with the girls
Your friendships should remain important to you. And it’s right that you have your nights out with the girls. But staying out all night several times a night will remind him of the financial disparity between the two of you.
Just because you’re not spending money on him or in front of him or around him makes him no less aware of the fact that you’re spending money—and lots of it. This is not a call for you to become some shrewish miser. You are a young, energetic, beautiful, financially successful city dweller. You should get out and about—just not all the time in the most lavish fashion.
5. Allow him to take charge
Finally, allow him plenty of opportunities to take charge. Whether it’s planning for a holiday or organizing a party with friends, resist the urge to always head things up. It is your duty to make power moves at work. You don’t need to do the same at home.