Back in January, I wrote about making more money than my husband, the ever-so-delightful Ed. This is a trend on the upswing, as even Jezebel has noted. (I will note that "traditional roles" are not the same across cultures within the U.S., particularly when we start talking about single mothers and women of color.)
When it came to tax time this year, Ed sorted out (he does the math in the family) that I am bringing home 75% of our total income. Attaching a number to it like that was kind of a shocker for both of us, as we'd been kind of floating around in a theoretical haze.
One factor in me making more money than Ed is mental health. He's had a hard time with depression over the last few years, and him being mentally healthy has been way more important than him bringing home a large amount of bacon. But he's started a new med that has made a major difference -- and as he feels better and more capable, that has had an impact on how we handle our mutual finances.
Where at one point I had to become the totally-in-charge head of our household, now I'm having to loosen up on a little bit of that control. I won't lie: It's basically terrifying. The only way we managed to achieve a stable footing was for me to iron fist the finances.
And now we're re-examining the necessity for that.
That's the thing about relationships -- they're pretty much always going to be fluid, changing, developing, growing. That's what keeps relationships exciting but it can also be a significant source of stress.
One thing we seem to have started doing is talking about serious stuff over chat instead of just in person. That way we have time to compose how we want to present an idea -- and to compose a response to it. The key here is that we never ONLY talk about stuff in chat. And sometimes it's just not a good time for chatting with each other during the day and we wind up in a face-to-face conversation instead. If that happens, we're super careful to give each other time to think things through before we speak.
In fact, that's how Ed introduced the idea of him having his name on at least one of the bank accounts came up.
We set him up with a card that doesn't allow overdraft -- and I told him honestly that one of my biggest fears is being hit unexpectedly with overdraft fees because he doesn't keep an eye on his money in the bank. We're communicating; in fact, we're overcommunicating because we'd rather tell each other we bought some jelly beans on the way home than surprise each other when it comes to financial stuff.
I'm also involving Ed in more decisions -- for example, this weekend was all about buying new pillows. Because Ed said he needed a new pillow. But halfway through the day, he announced he also needed a new toolbox for Organizational Purposes. And since we're mega into organization these days, that was a pretty high priority need.
Instead of dictating that we were already on a Quest For Pillows, I asked him to prioritize the purchases for me and gave him a potential time table for acquiring both. (Our paydays alternate so smaller purchases generally only wait a week or so.) Together, we decided that I'd buy the pillows (memory foam with a down alternative cover for extra squoosh) and he'd use a gift card he'd been saving to take advantage of a tool box sale.
Tool box sales are apparently a thing when it gets close to Father's Day.
It was a small decision in the greater scheme of things, not at all on par with the time I donated a bunch of money to an Indiegogo fund or any of the times I have planned weekend trips to NYC. But it's getting him involved in the everyday stuff, which makes keeping him involved in the larger decisions easier and more natural.
Now, none of this changes that I make a lot more money than Ed does. But it does work to make him feel like he has a voice, now that he actually wants one. No one should feel powerless in a relationship because a relationship is a partnership -- and even if we don't always initially agree on how to get there, we have a common goal.
(Being happy together.)
It's taking a little getting used to on my part. As reluctant as I was to be completely responsible for our money stuff, I've gotten used to it. And I'm a little bit of a control freak, too. But Ed's a grown ass man, not a little kid -- and it's good for me to loosen up.
Now that he's feeling better, I think the gap in our earning does bother Ed a little bit. Not because his wife has a larger payday but because he doesn't think he's living up to his capability. That's a really crucial difference, at least to us. That's something he can work on, something he can take action on -- whereas it would be silly to expect me to make less just to appease his ego.
Since writing my first post on this topic, I've talked to a variety of people -- reporters and other women in this situation. I can see how it's tipping some perceived balance of power; when women in heterosexual relationships make more, they are less dependent on their male partners and are more independently empowered, which might not sit so well with traditionalists who wish women would just get back in the kitchen.
(India-Jewel is feeling some of this as she tries to date men who are intimidated by her success.)
For me, making money is about that independence -- it's about being able to take care of myself even if Ed and I were to split up tomorrow. Neither of us want that to happen, though, so we keep working at things. We're in it together, and that is way more important than which one of us makes more money.