According to a study, husbands experience increased levels of stress when their wife begins to earn more than 40 percent of the household income. Researchers from the University of Bath have found that husbands are the most stressed when they are “entirely economically dependent on their partner” or when they are “the sole breadwinner.” However, once their wife begins to bring in more than 40 percent of the household income, they begin feeling more stressed. Is this spike in stress levels due to women earning more money, or a sense of insecurity breaded by patriarchy, which conditions men to be financially dominant in a relationship? Do men take their wives’ bigger paychecks as a threat to their masculinity? Or they simply do not have a coping mechanism to deal with not being “needed” that much by their partners, albeit financially?
- When wives begin to bring in more than 40 percent of the household income, husbands feel more stressed, says study.
- Does financial independence of their partner breed a sense of incompetence or insecurity among husbands?
- Do men fear not being “needed” if their wife earns well?
- Should it matter who brings what amount of money in a household?
Do men take their wives’ bigger paychecks as a threat to their masculinity? Or they simply do not have a coping mechanism to deal with not being “needed” that much by their partners, albeit financially?
These findings do not come across as a surprise in a patriarchal society such as ours. The skewered gender dynamics and insecurities regarding financial dominance in a relationship are only more pronounced in orthodox countries like India, where men and women are still trapped under the weight of defunct gendered norms. Men not only earn more than women, they are largely the sole breadwinners in most Indian families. This means that all the key financial decisions to be made for a household rest with them. Being a breadwinner also places them at the head of the dining table, thus making them a person who’s every command and order needs to be obeyed.
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So, what happens when women challenge this dominance by giving a serious competition to the money that their husbands bring home? Naturally men begin to feel insecure. Is it their fault though? For a gender bred and trained by their forefathers to earn and lead their families, it doesn’t come easy to accept the challenge to their position at the dining table. It even gives rise to a sense of insecurity and being disposable. Imagine taking away the purpose of his life from a person and you shall understand what kind of mental crisis women’s big paychecks put husbands in.
When their wives begin earning well, it gives husbands a sort of existential crisis. Does my family even need me, if they can do well without me? What is my standing in a marriage, if not as a breadwinner?
They aren’t been conditioned to follow their passion, to pursue a career based on their liking. Instead, men are trained since childhood to be breadwinners. Every choice they make in their career should be guided by the size of paycheck that it’ll earn them. After all, they are solely responsible for the well-being of their family. But when their wives begin earning well, it gives husbands a sort of existential crisis. Would my family even need me, if they can do well without me? What is my standing in a marriage, if not as a breadwinner?
So, one can safely say that it is not women’s big paychecks which are responsible for the rise in stress levels among husbands, but their upbringing. We need to stop telling boys and men that being a breadwinner is the sole purpose of their existence. Unless they are relieved of this pressure, they will fail to rid their minds of insecurities that arise from being married to financially independent and dominant women. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how money comes to your home. Besides, financial security also means that men don’t have to make compromises in their career and life just for the sake of a fat paycheck. It could give them an opportunity to explore their own interests and pick up an occupation based on their likings.
Women making good money is a win-win situation for any household, but the patriarchy doesn’t want men to see this benefit, as it will disrupt the social hierarchy. However, it is high time for husbands to realise that a well-earning wife is an ally and not a rival. In a relationship, a husband’s successful career brings fortune to his wife and it could be the other way around as well, if only men can rid their minds of centuries-old brainwashing.
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.