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What You Need To Know If You Earn More Money Than Your Partner

For one, he's more likely to cheat.
PHOTO: istockphoto

Warning: This article contains information that can be hard to bear.

1. He’s more likely to cheat.

The less money someone earns compared to his/her spouse, the more he/she is likely to cheat. This is especially true for the men, according to a study titled “Her Support, His Support: Money, Masculinity, and Marital Infidelity” published in the American Sociological Review.

Christin Munsch, the study’s author and a sociology professor at University of Connecticut, proposes that the financially dependent person—in this case the husband—cheats to compensate for feeling emasculated. She explains that not being the breadwinner threatens the man’s masculinity, since he is expected to be the main source of income. He then cheats because this is seen as “male-typed behavior.” (After all, masculinity is also qualified in terms of sexual conquest.) For Munsch, this may be a way for the threatened man to distance himself from his higher-earning spouse, and perhaps even to punish her if he resents her.

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Now before you think the man has to make more money than you so he wouldn’t cheat, the same study states that for the men, breadwinning increases infidelity too.

Earning more money causes men to feel less satisfied with their partners’ physical appearance, according to the study “When Love Meets Money: Priming the Possession of Money Influences Mating Strategies” in Frontiers in Psychology.

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The higher income was also found to lead men to get closer to an attractive woman than if they had less money. The reason? In general, high income makes men think they’re more desirable, so they may be more encouraged to get close to someone else—an “attractive alternative,” as the authors phrase it.

Your best bet regarding your partner not cheating on you is when both of you earn the same amount of money, according to Munsch’s research. She found that couples who earned the same amount were the least likely to cheat. You can think of this as a point for equality, but you can also argue that it’s not quite equal if earning slightly more or a lot less than your partner would increase his chances of cheating on you.

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2. You still might do more housework than he does.

In theory, whoever earns less should take on more household work. However, studies have found that the reality holds a different picture: Even if she earns more, the woman spends more time than her husband does doing the chores.

The study “Gender Identity and Relative Income Within Households” in the Quarterly Journal of Economics states: “The amount of time a wife spends on household production increases when she earns more than the husband.” This could be because the woman would do what she can to neutralize or ease her husband’s discomfort with the situation—and it is his discomfort that strains the relationship.

3. You might be compelled to leave your high-paying job for work that pays less or to be a housewife (which is work that doesn’t pay at all).

The study “Gender Identity and Relative Income Within Households” has found that in general, women who outearn their husbands will likely either: quit working or looking for work, which the authors say is “financially costly,” or work fewer hours or look for a job that demands and pays less. Doing so would make women earn less, and high-earning women make such a decision (and sacrifice) to not threaten their spouses and cause marital problems.

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4. It’s bad for the economy if you quit working.

Being in the workforce (like your partner) is important not only for gender equality but also for poverty reduction. You’re able to provide for yourself and your family when you work. And since you and many other women like you are highly skilled and competent, working results in the country having a more skilled labor force. On a larger scale, this is important for the country’s growth and development (and a rapid one at that), since a bigger labor force is linked to higher GDP and international competitiveness.

5. You can leave a bad marriage or relationship and be okay.

Separating with your spouse is likely to happen if money issues are making the relationship unbearable. Regardless of who initiates the separation, the fact that you make a good amount of money means that you’ll be able to take care of yourself as well as your kids, if you have any. And if you earn a whole lot of money, you’ll be able to maintain your standard of living without your spouse.

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It might take a lot for you to be truly okay or happy after a split (if you’re really hung up on him), but you’ll have to admit that your independence is much better than living with someone who fights you or whines to you over your triumphs.

6. You don’t have to worry about money.

Since you and your partner are both earning, there’s less anxiety about sustaining your lifestyle and family. This is according to Olivia Mitchell, an economist and professor at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Imagine decades ago when the man, the only breadwinner, lost his job and you didn’t have a job too. Everyone struggled.

7. A suitable life partner must be happy about your successes.

This is a no-brainer, but it still must be said, as there are women who settle for less for whatever reason. Of course, having a supportive partner doesn’t guarantee fidelity because there are still many causes to cheating. But it does help in assuring you a little bit.

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8. Traditional gender roles can be a bitch.

It’s easy to blame the men for not knowing how to handle a strong, independent woman—especially one whose brains and skills exceed his. But it’s not the wisest thing to do. We have all been affected by traditional gender roles, and many of us still are. Much of society is still adjusting to gender equality, and as it does, the acceptable roles and responsibilities for men and women continue to expand. With all our help as young, vocal women—and for some of us, mothers—we can effectively influence or raise guys to be more comfortable with economic dependence. 

Stephanie blogs about art on Follow her on Instagram.