With a go-getter attitude, a successful career, and – if you’re lucky – a husband that’s happy to wash the dishes; does the new breed of the female breadwinner really have it all? Victoria Pynchon, self-proclaimed breadwinner and author of She Negotiates, exclusively spoke to Dawn about the modern-day pitfalls of bringing home the bacon…
No one goes into marriage expecting it to be all plain sailing. But when Victoria Pynchon began to out-earn her husband, there were some unwelcome repercussions.
“Being the breadwinner destroyed my marriage”, Pynchon confesses.
“I was the female breadwinner for many years, and it caused enormous conflict. My ex-husband also expressed a lot of animosity towards me, my co-workers, and hated that I sometimes had to work on the weekend.”
And Pynchon isn’t alone. According to a recent Harvard study, couples are now more likely to divorce if the husband fails to live up to a ‘breadwinner stereotype’. The study found that couples who had married after 1974 had a 2.5% chance of divorce when it was the husband who earned more; but the odds were up to 3.3% if he didn’t.
Yet it is still rapidly becoming the norm for more women to bring home the bacon. Thanks to decades of protesting for equality, men are gladly handing over the pressures of being the sole earner, ‘house-hubbies’ are a thing, and most women have embraced this opportunity to financially support their families.
So, why do statistics suggest a link between breadwinning wives and divorce? Surely after fighting the housewife stereotype for so long, we should all be happier? Or is it that perhaps now that we have a choice; many of us just don’t like the newfound pressure?
“The issue for me wasn’t about the money at all – well, he could’ve at least paid for his own therapy – but it was mostly that he just didn’t work,” says Pynchon.
“When most women have problems in this situation, it is rarely about the actual money. It is about responsibility, fairness, respect, disrespect, anger, resentment… So, if you’re willing to work any issues out, you just have to look past the money aspect and ask what it really is that you’re not working together on. But my ex just wasn’t working, and I had friends at the time who were experiencing the same thing, too. Another issue for me was that I always had to wonder, ‘why do I have to be the designated person to work in such a stressful profession?’ So, I guess you could say that I became resentful too, but it was only ever tied to work and responsibility.”
With intense feelings of resentment becoming seemingly unstoppable, Pynchon’s ex-husband came to his own decision that he could never make enough money “to make a difference”, and so, their marriage came to an end. But did escaping this toxic relationship make her any happier?
“I am much happier today compared to how I was then,” Pynchon laughs. “I am married to a man who has zero resentment towards me, we are both financially supportive and I only spend the money I make. I guess the one thing I have learned is that there aren’t any official rules that a breadwinning wife must keep in mind for a successful marriage; it can totally depend on the couple.”
And what’s next for modern day breadwinning wives and house-husbands? One thing is for sure; they’re on the rise. But unfortunately, there are many women out there like Pynchon who would argue that we’re a long way off from a world where challenging old-fashioned stereotypes will never affect our relationships.
BREADWINNING WIVES’ SURVIVAL GUIDE: By the Experts and the Real Women Who Make It Work
- •“PLAN YOUR FINANCES TOGETHER”. Jo Pyott, a purchasing manager for an international mining company has out-earned her husband for over ten years. “My advice would be to open a joint bank account and put the same percentage of both of your income into it. You should always financially plan together regardless of who is earning, and for us, doing this also meant that my husband didn’t feel like he was being kept.”
- “RECOGNISE IT AS CHANCE OR CHOICE”. Beth Aubrey*, a lecturer and magistrate, worked for many years as the sole breadwinner for her husband and son. “Make sure that you both always discuss how you feel. In my experience, the difference between it working out or not is usually down to honesty and whether your personalities are right for it. The situation shouldn’t be forced on each other.”
- “EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITY”. Jenny Garrett, executive coach and author of Rocking Your Role, says that even if you haven’t chosen to be the breadwinner, you can choose how to engage with being one. “Embrace the fact that you have this opportunity to blaze a new path. But at the same time – and especially if you’re the only one holding the purse strings – you must ensure that you recognise what your partner brings to the relationship, too.”
*this name has been changed.