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What to do when you earn more than him

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In one of my recent couples sessions, I found myself outlining, as I often do, to a couple, what many couples from my point of view as a counselor struggle with; money, sex and intimacy. And not even necessarily in that order.

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 As I paused, waiting for a response, I got that gut sense that guides me and I found that I had spontaneously asked, the “tell me how you feel about money” question... Needless to say the session and its direction was set from there.

Women earn as much or more than men nowadays and many couples are two-income families. It seems like this area does bring issues when one or the other is not comfortable about the level of income.

Men who are satisfied that they earn “enough” and women feeling well taken care of, rarely complain - at least not beyond matters concerning the treatment of certain basics.

When a woman earns quite a bit more or if the man is insecure and genuinely unable to meet his targets is when, for me, the issues start.

This is a bit different from very low income earners where survival is the primary concern, since meeting immediate needs takes precedence over self-actualizing discussions like “Where are we headed to financially?” Or, “How can we use money to enhance our happiness and relationship?”

Role playing

As I proceed with couples therapy I find that men and women tend to work around fairly traditional models of what roles men and women play.

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Somehow that a man is meant to play a manly active, provider role in the relationship and the woman a more nurturing role (speaking very generally here.) I can’t emphasize this “generally” enough.

As a counsellor the rest depends on the particulars of the circumstances of the relationship and the two people. If a man makes less, say even much less, as long as he feels like a contributor and is treated with respect, then his Sh100,000 per month and his wife’s Sh1 million is less of an issue.

But if he wants to quit his job, has no real sense of contribution and direction and wants a tax-free stipend of Sh200,000 per month from his wife, then it’s another story.

Just as it can be when he refers to her as a money-hungry greedy shrewish woman. Clearly, at this point everyone is in it for the themselves at the expense of the partnership.

Money is a taboo subject right from when we grew up. The issue of money, its use, role and value was often a closed topic shrouded in mystery. It makes sense that in a relationship, money and income disparities will come up especially when the two have very different incomes.

The handling of these matters comes back to the two because it is up to them to figure out the “contract” they have as a couple and to “negotiate” its terms.

No peace

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This is to say the more people have not had significant discussions about the financial direction of the relationship, the more they inevitably run into problems.

 Lack of peace in that home, so to speak, is then often tied to not having some kind of cushion where expectations and obligations have not been worked out. Without peace, woe unto the couple... sometimes literally.

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Some areas of concern with money that come up include, debts and obligations, children, investments, power plays and money personality issues.

But even then interestingly even when the wife has a higher status and higher income job than the men, its boils down to gender and not power dynamics.

Does your man make you feel like the girl of his life and do you do the same for him? Because if this isn’t even happening then what brings you two together? Hence the martial and monetary strife...

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