How to Deal with No Longer Being the Breadwinner


A former bread-winning wife worries about her new role.

Q: My husband and I have been together for almost six years.We started dating a year or two after college. I studied business in school, and landed a job with a good salary and many perks. My husband studied literature, and worked in an industry that did not pay as well, so I have been the primary breadwinner throughout our relationship. This changed about eight months ago,when he finished his MBA and got a great new job. Now, his income is almost triple mine.

I had no idea at the time, but I really enjoyed being the main financial provider, and now I'm uncomfortable with our situation. In the past, it felt fair to more or less arrange our schedule around me, so that when I had an event at work, he was there with me. Now, his job is very demanding, and he has far less time. I also find myself picking up the slack at home. More than ever before, I’m responsible for things like grocery shopping, laundry, buying gifts, or scrambling to get things together when we’re having friends for dinner.

I think it would be unfair to make added demands on him. I'm super proud of him, and have been as supportive as I can be. In fact,wanting to support him, I feel that this is my problem, something I should not bother him with. But I'm feeling a little resentful, and a little less than shiny. What should I do?

Jennifer R., Chicago, Ill.

A: Your home has gone through a big change! Households often run around what works best for the primary breadwinner,which earns him or her a lot of consideration from the other partner, as well as status and power. It’s not surprising that you miss the perks that felt fair then but are off-limits now, nor that,while you are proud of him, you are also a little resentful. You have fewer claims on his time and have lost his financial dependence—in a way, you feel demoted.

This is not just “your problem.” It is important that both of you recognize the influence that earning power has on your relationship. You should discuss your feelings about income and money, as well as how recent changes have affected your life together. I suspect that your husband will welcome this discussion. He’s probably noticed that you have been feeling a little off, and is wondering what’s up.