Most of us grew up hearing jokes about marrying into money; if we could marry a wealthy man or a woman, we’d have got it made. Jokes aside, transforming your life through such a marriage is what dreams are made of, in the past and the present. Isn’t this what makes the story of Cinderella so appealing, the poor young girl marrying a prince and reaching great wealth? Actually in a Turkish, and also the male, version of it, “Keloglan”, a poor and not good looking young man, marries to Sultan’s daughter with the help of his sharp wit.
On the other hand, there is the statistics that wives with similar backgrounds to their husbands tend to earn more. It is important to note the feelings of the wife who earns more than her husband, and the attitude of the husband in face of the seemingly advantageous reversal of his traditional role, especially in a male dominated and macho society.
If we evaluate the situation on managerial perspective and the legal perspective, we can spilt the situation into before the contract after the contract.
1. When women know from the start that they do and will earn more than their husbands
In fact, this is a socially acceptable situation. The roles in the marriage are predetermined, the contract signed with the consent of both parties. The woman may be earning more but perhaps the husband has other qualities that bring certain values to the family. Perhaps he is an artist or an academic. This situation would enhance the social statue of the woman while providing a comfortable environment for the husband to practice his art or work on his research. Or perhaps the husband has other important qualities, visible or invisible. If such a marriage were to break up, this would only be because of the natural course of the relationship.
2. When couples in similar circumstances get married but yet the woman begins to climb the corporate ladder.
I think we all know the many possible outcomes of a husband who begins to earn more through entrepreneurship or career advancement. What we are not used to, is the opposite. My observation is that, this opposite situation is on the rise, even if most women will not openly talk about this matter. As a member of KAGİDER, Woman Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, I am increasingly aware of this issue.
Among marital problems, this kind of relationship where both parties begin as equals but the woman advances in her career is the most difficult to manage, and can make the marriage unbearable for both parties. If the difference between the earnings of the wife and the husband is too great, it can become a real problem.Why? When two parties sit down to sign a marriage contract, there is an unwritten job description for both of them. In time, they will have assumed certain roles in the marriage. Even if these roles slacken with time, married couples will adopt these traditional roles to some degree. This of course, is the ideal situation where both parties are equal, and in Turkey, where the husband is in a more powerful situation, due to the management patterns of a male-dominated society.
The fact that the wife is also the bread winner is a great comfort in today’s consumer society. On the other hand, this is as if one is forcibly taking away the job of a senior manager. What will the husband do now? In this case the husband would have to accept certain chores that are seemingly unimportant in the outside world, no matter how crucial they are to family life. He may have to pick the children up from school or water the plants. Although rarely there are some men who accept either immediately or through the course of time, that since their wife is the bread winner, it is natural for them to do more for their homes; most men will feel that they no longer have a place in the household.
In the women’s case, she may either openly impose her new role on the husband, or she may discreetly be less devoted to him. The husband who no longer has a valid job description must find a new role for himself, and when these new roles are “unacceptable” for the wife, problems ensue.
Of course, there must be many couples who are able to manage this situation smoothly. I would like to congratulate them on their adaptation capability and sensibility.
I would like to ask you, husbands, what would you do if your wife begins to earn much more money than you do? How about you, wives? What would you do if you earn more money than your husband?