- Heath Collins spent a decade working in finance until he left his career to become the COO of his wife’s company.
- In more than 10 years together, his wife, Susie, has almost always out-earned him.
- He finds not being the breadwinner in his relationship lets him be bolder in his career choices, enforces to him that a couple is a unit, and reminds him that taking care of someone is about more than just money.
Last summer, I was at a dinner party and heard a comment you don’t hear so openly anymore: “I think it’s the man’s job to earn more for the family.” It came from a successful older man who had seemingly fulfilled his “man’s job” quite well.
Were we in a time warp? It felt like we’d travelled back to the 1950s.
My wife and I bit our tongues because we didn’t agree at all (and it was his house). I’ve been with my wife, Susie, for over 10 years and in that time, she’s pretty much always out-earned me. And just over 18 months ago, after working in finance for a decade, I hung up the suit and tie to be her COO.
Here’s what traditional thinking about gender roles leaves out:
Her making more doesn’t make you less of a man …
… but downplaying or not supporting her success to spare your ego will.
Say you earn $US100,000 and you marry a woman who earns $US200,000. Then you divorce her and marry someone who earns $US50,000 (or nothing at all). Are you more of a man now?
Of course not. It’s nonsense. Masculinity isn’t defined by income, or a certain job status. Because now more than ever, you can lose your job at any time. That doesn’t have to affect your identity.
You can be bolder in your career
When there’s a dual income, you’re not solely responsible for your entire family. This means you can take more risks professionally, because you’re less intimidated about speaking up, asking for a raise or promotion, or changing careers or companies altogether. You can also delve into what you really want to do or spend more time looking for the right opportunity between jobs.
A marriage is a unit
At a time when inflation-adjusted wages aren’t growing, according to MarketWatch, every dollar entering your home should be celebrated – regardless of who earned it.
The pressure being off me didn’t go unnoticed by my former colleagues, who said to me over and over again during my career that it “must be nice!” every time my wife had another career win. So why is it that so many other men are subjecting themselves to economic stress by not supporting their partners’ careers? Because of their feelings?
I’ve always felt that my wife’s wins were my wins. Why wouldn’t they be? We go through life (and enjoy its material pleasures) together and we have joint finances. It’s not like I make proportionally different mortgage payments, or eat from the dollar menu while she orders Lobster Thermidor.
If you’re cool with it, so is everyone else
In my experience, women care less about the fact that they earn more than they do about how their partners will feel about it. If you’re not weird about it, everyone else seems to be cool with it, too! Taking care of someone comes down to so much more than income.
Relationship expert Ken Blackman told me, “Finding a good provider used to be the highest aspiration a woman was permitted to hope for, but let’s be honest, it was never a great formula for long-term relationship bliss. There are, and always were, more important qualities for a man to have as a life partner than his earning potential. And with her covering their material needs, those qualities of his can really shine.”
It’s the new normal – whether you like it or not
Data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics shows that 29% of wives in heterosexual marriages earn more than their husbands. When I look around New York City, I only see this growing.
“Some men hide behind their earning power because the new paradigm is scary,” Blackman said. “It goes against what they were taught.”
But tradition is only wonderful when it’s relevant and when it works. With a new paradigm that’s here to stay, the only smart thing to do is embrace it.Heath Collins is an Australian former finance professional who is now the COO of susie-moore.com.Check it out herefor free weekly tips on how to live life on your terms, too.
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