Marriage First: There’s a Clear Breadwinner in the Relationship

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Despite our very different careers, Paul and I were neck-and-neck with our salaries since we joined the workforce in 2004. Until last year.

Thanks to a new job and a steady freelancing gig, I was ahead. And I liked being ahead. As much as I wanted Paul to advance at his company, if someone in our relationship had to be earning more, I was glad it was me.

Maybe it was satisfying because I’m expected to earn less. Besides being a woman in a country where my sex earns about three-quarters of what men earn, I also chose the not-so-lucrative career of magazine publishing. So to seemingly overcome those two obstacles–even if it was only in comparison to my husband–felt like a coup.

After eight-and-a-half years at basically the same company (Paul left his first job after seven years, and that second company merged with his old one, leaving Paul back at his same exact desk…and not much opportunity to advance), Paul got a nice job offer elsewhere. And as a result, his salary burst ahead of mine. I even got a raise last week, and Paul is still making more.

It really isn’t a competition. In fact, it doesn’t actually matter. After all, we have only joint accounts, so every dollar is shared and a salary bump for one of us is a win for both of us. But I’ll likely never out-earn Paul again, which makes me a little sad. I liked that the odds were stacked against me and I was coming out on top, especially since I was technically worth more than someone who’s so brilliant at what he does. Even better, Paul wasn’t at all threatened by my extra earnings.

Being the wife of a successful guy obviously isn’t such a bad fate. Plenty of women seek out that very life! But I’d feel more accomplished if I were the one bringing home more bacon. Not that I eat bacon.

Is there a breadwinner in your relationship? Do you care who comes out on top?

More on Marriage
Attention Married People: Don’t Pose for a Photo Like THIS
Surviving Working from Home Together
Marriage First: Not Sitting Together on a Flight

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  • dark.deadpool

    The tone of your articles are slightly antagonistic and competitive. I understand that you may feel validated by making more money than your husband, as if you are representing all of women kind. Maybe it’s the blog’s shtick, but it seems like it would be a constant struggle to be “on top.” Do you feel like that’s healthy?

    • mereditor

      Thanks for your feedback. The point of this blog post: that it’s a great feeling to be on top when it’s difficult to do so, but it’s OK to have trouble feeling as proud of yourself when you’re no longer in that role. I imagine other women feel this way, though of course not all do. I don’t think any single blog post for women can represent how all people of a single sex feel. I was, however, hoping this post would reinforce the fact–for me and others in my position–that guess what? It doesn’t matter who out-earns whom. Sorry if it didn’t come through that way. If I felt this way for the rest of my life–instead of blogging about it the first time I felt that way as a way to explore what I’m experiencing and get over it–it would be unhealthy. But no, this isn’t a constant struggle.

  • Betty

    I am the breadwinner in my relationship and I’m not very happy about it.