DEBATE: Are Men Really Happy You’re Out-Earning Them?

23 April 2014

DEBATE: Are Men Really Happy You’re Out-Earning Them?

Kate Moss’s earnings make her a powerful partner for husband Jamie Hince [Getty]

Author Joanna Trollope sparked a debate last week after saying men are happy for their partners to be the breadwinner… good news given that 25 per cent of women now out-earn their other half. But is she right?

Money can’t buy you love, but it can certainly take it away from you. As a man with a very successful (and high-earning) girlfriend, I know exactly what it is like to have a woman earn more than me. About £1,000 a month more. We’re both doing well in our jobs, yet she’s full-time while I’m freelance. And this means that some months, when I’m having a quiet spell, she is the main breadwinner. Which is where the problem lies…

I get anxious during any month Jen, who I’ve been dating for five years, ‘beats’ me financially. She says she doesn’t mind what I earn, but all the hopes and dreams we have for a buying a house and having a baby don’t come cheap. And while Joanna Trollope argues that men would happily be taken care of financially by their partners, I just don’t agree.

I can imagine this scenario would work when kids came along. Then it may make perfect sense for the lower earner to pick up the domestic slack. But I’d worry that would leave me feeling even more emasculated. I like my freelance life, digging and scraping for every pound – it’s the closest thing a man has to hunting. A baby arrives and I’d worry I’d be stuck indoors with Loose Women on – my self-esteem melting into the carpet.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an alpha male or not – to provide is an essential part of being a bloke. There’s very little in modern life – apart from manners and behaviour – that marks you out as a man. But providing is definitely one of them.

Women might say they are happy living with a man who earns less, but after a few months of constantly picking up the tab, they lose respect and are soon running for the door.

However far equality has pushed on, I don’t think any man can be truly happy playing second fiddle. If you earn less than your partner, it’s as if – though it’s never said – you somehow have less say. And if you lose your voice, then surely you’re no man at all...

We’d been going out for just three months when I found out my girlfriend earned more than me. We were toasting her latest bonus with champagne, and the figure just came out: £15,000 higher than mine.  My first reaction (I’m ashamed to admit) was a mix of embarrassment and jealousy. It didn’t help when my mates bought me a girly gin and slimline on hearing the news. 

But once I’d got over the initial ego hit, I started seeing things differently. For starters, more money for her means more money for us. But more significantly, I realised that it actually made me fancy  her more. Her success (and the salary that goes with it) is a reflection of the driven, headstrong woman I fell in love with.

Times have changed. My dad’s salary would have dwarfed my mum’s, now a third of working women outearn their partner in my age bracket (18-40). Will I ever become a stay-at-home dad? Out of my two best mates, one is a househusband who spends all day watching cartoons with his kids. The other is a banker, chronically stressed, working 80 hours a week. What would you opt for?

I’ve learned that her earning more needn’t change our relationship. There are some clear advantages, too: not only do we get to go on more nice holidays, but when we recently celebrated our anniversary there was no expectation of diamond necklaces. Instead, she was content with me rustling up a delicious three-course meal and making her a heartfelt card. And what man wouldn’t be happy with that?

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