Are you the breadwinner in your relationship? Are you making more money than your husband? Are you frustrated and resentful, or are you proud and grateful? Could you be with a man if you were the one working and bringing home the bacon, and he was the one organizing playdates and park excursions? I’ve wanted to do a Blog post on this topic for some time… they’re called Alpha Wives, or Breadwinning Wives. And they exist in large numbers today.
Let’s look at the facts. Women are holding some of the highest-ranking positions in society today, and our success has been increasing each year. I discuss in my book, Angela Merkel, #1 on the 100 Most Powerful Women’s list in 2009, is the Chancellor of Germany (Forbes). Other women in the top 25 on that list are the Chief Executives of companies such as PepsiCo, Kraft, DuPont, Sunoco, Yahoo, Xerox, and Avon. Wow! Women are running Corporate America! No more info required. So, with this increased power and higher earning potential, it is not uncommon today for the woman to be out-earning the man. In fact, it’s becoming a trend. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in recent years, 33.5% of wives earned more than their husbands.
So how are these Alpha Women, Beta Men fairing as couples? Now while many women look at these stats with pride, many of these 33.5% feel it to be an awful burden. Some of these women are overly exhausted, resentful and suffering. I spoke to women who said, that despite knowing what they were getting themselves into when they married a man who they knew would not earn as much as them, they still can’t help but still fantasize about the Knight in Shining Armor, showing up, sweeping them off their feet, and then paying for the $400.00 pair of Gucci shoes that go on those feet!! Some women feel simply resentful and angry to be the breadwinning wives. I interviewed one nameless woman, who recently ended a relationship because she was “Tired of constantly reaching in my pocket. I am from the generation where a man takes care of his woman, not the other way around.”
But, for another couple of women I spoke with, they were okay bringing home the bacon… and then cooking it too! One mom told me she wasn’t “cut out to stay home,” and it works “brilliantly,” with her husband caring for their little baby girl while she practices law. For me personally, despite being a very modern-thinking woman, I am not on the fence here. I would not want to be the primary breadwinner in my marriage. Truly it wouldn’t sit well with me. Not sure why, but it would not.
But I am always in awe when I look across the street. There lives a beautiful family. Mother, father, three well-behaved handsome boys. The portrait: dad in the driveway, playing basketball and hockey with his son. Except, it’s not a Sunday afternoon. It’s a Tuesday at 10:45AM. Mom is nowhere to be seen. In fact, she is a doctor at a prominent hospital here in Montreal. They are a lovely couple. And it works for them. I have spoken to both of them separately… he walks the kids to school, buys the groceries, and plays with the little one while the two bigger boys are in school. She is a happy, fulfilled, busy doctor. All parties say they’re happy. I watch in admiration while this patient, loving, devoted, stay-at-home dad cares for his boys. I give him “kol hakavod,” or all the respect, as we say in Hebrew.
I always wondered how Oprah, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears felt. In fact, if you watched the Oprah /Whitney Houston interview, you saw how Whitney wrestled with the notion of out-earning her husband, rapper Bobby Brown. In fact, she said she would often lower herself emotionally to his level to make him feel at ease with himself. She almost belittled her own success, to stay at par with his. When you think about it, it is sad. Being a “Sugar Momma,” as they’re also sometimes called, it not always sweet.
But during my talks with a couple of these breadwinning women, I got the picture that they are not the only ones struggling here. Many of the Beta men are struggling as well. Not every beta man is happy in his position (like my neighbor is). Many are just as resentful of their wives, and even jealous that they get to jet off to work, with the household responsibilities falling on their shoulders. Or better, if both partners are working, but the woman is out-earning the man, this can cause tremendous friction in a marriage as well.
So how does this effect marriages today? Well, all of this has two effects: Studies show that with women earning more money, they can afford to be pickier about their spouses, truly finding the right match and therefore having a positive impact on the divorce rate. But on the flip side, now with women having higher earning potential than ever, it makes it easier to leave an existing marriage, therefore spiking the divorce rate. There are really two sides to this story.
But I want you to take a moment today, and think about the following: If you were out working, paying all the bills, and when you arrived home, your house was clean, the kids were bathed, dinner was waiting on the table, would you feel so badly about being the breadwinner? It’s an interesting thought.
And I ask you, would you want to be the breadwinner of the family? Are you an alpha wife? If you are, are you fulfilled and proud, or do you find yourself at your breaking point? Can you provide some advice and support for other alpha wives drowning in the double standard of bringing home the bacon, cooking it, and just trying to make it all work? This is my goal for today’s Blog. To help a woman somewhere, struggling in her situation.
Until next time, GO HABS GO!!!
I am an alpha wife and boy did this hit home. While my husband is not a “stay at home” dad, i earn double his salary. And this is always a source of conflict in our marriage. He’s a great husband, but I do wish that I too could be swept off my feet by a man could afford to do it. But mostly things are good between us as a couple. This is our hanging issue.
I am an alpha wife, and I love it! I had a chance to be a “beta wife” and marry rich but I would have had to move to a different country far from my family to marry my former fiance and move to Indonesia. He wanted me to not work and stay at home. I couldn’t waste my degree or potential. Sometimes I miss the Gucci bags, and my Mercedes that I had, but I wouldn’t go back to being financially dependent on a man ever again. They end up with too much control over me.
I had a brief first marriage after the broken engagement, where I was really the alpha wife and my first husband didn’t work at all, even though he had an MBA. He pretty much slept all day, but he cleaned the house and took care of our daughter for 10 months, then I sent her to a nanny because he wasn’t taking good care of her. I resented him for not ever providing any money for us, and it caused us to eventually get divorced.
I was a single mom for 4 yrs and had my own successful business, and now work full time for a non profit org.
My second marriage of just 2 yrs now, my husband works but he has less earning potential than me, (no college) both kids (1 from each marriage) go to nanny ( one kid goes to school and goes to nanny after school) and we both work. This is more balanced and we are much happier. I make slightly more money than my husband, but we don’t rub it in each other’s faces or anything.
I encourage him to have his own career path and also ask him for money when I need it, which is often, so I can buy stuff for the house. All of the bills are in my name only, so I have a lot on my plate to pay for. We both do chores at home and both work full time. It’s more equal, but more like 60/40 at this point. I could never stay home and just be a housewife, I think I would go insane.
I have a masters degree and I’m working on my doctorate degree. My husband has never went to college at all. He supports me and doesn’t plan to go to college at this point. He’s planning to start his own business soon, and hopefully will earn more than me, but I’m not going to wait around or quit my job even if he does start to make more than me. My kids have a great nanny and everyone is really happy. I’m hoping to become a consultant so I can work less, but don’t plan to quit working completely, it’s just a waste of potential.
Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean that I need a man to take care of me. My husband is a wonderful husband, great lover, and my best friend. I am very independent of him. If he left I would do just fine w/ the kids by ourselves and we wouldn’t need welfare, and hardly any child support.
Why is there an issue ? Understandably, society is generally used to the males bringing in the income, with the females attending to the home. With women finally getting their rights, we can finally have an equal playing field for both sexes.
Reading this article, I would give one simple reason as to why/how there is even a problem:
That’s it. If everyone would stop worrying about the other person, and simply focus on their own self improvement, there wouldn’t be these silly issues. Perhaps the husband shouldn’t be with you if he’s lazy, and unwilling to improve himself ? Perhaps the wife shouldn’t be with you if she is easily suckered into marketing schemes by companies and only cares to shop and “keep up with the Joneses” …
Food for thought.
THANK YOU for this post! I think something else to focus on for this Alpha wife discussion would be us ladies in the military. I am in the navy and my husband stays home with our son. I would rather be the one at home, but because of my remaining commitment to the military I am stuck in the Alpha role. We are both making the best of it but it has caused a little bit of resentment in our marriage. I want nothing more than to be a SAHM and because of the LACK of daycare options in Hawaii, my husband has taken up the Mr. Mom role. I get frustrated because everyone assumes that my husband is the one in the Navy, completely discrediting my hard work and the sacrifices WOMEN in the military make. I am not gung-ho freedom fighter, but at the same time I don’t think women in the military get enough credit.
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What a wonderful and thoughtful piece. You wrote near the end (to women): ” If you were out working, paying all the bills, and when you arrived home, your house was clean, the kids were bathed, dinner was waiting on the table, would you feel so badly about being the breadwinner? It’s an interesting thought.”
It sure is. I’m a beta husband, and I’d like to think that that all of the above describe our house. My wife is a lawyer, we have four kids, and I stay home full time. It’s been a huge huge adjustment over the years and I’m still in the process of making it. Lots of friction, yes. Thankfully, however, unlike the guy in the cartoon, I can still bench press more than my wife can.
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I am also an alpha wife. I earn more than my husband, and my job is more demanding, so I don’t mind letting him do the cooking and housework. He also plans the meals and does the grocery shopping. And the truth is, he loves it. He likes his job, but he really likes to play the supporting role for me and my career. At first I wasn’t sure about this arrangement, but I’ve gotten used to it, and now I prefer it. I haven’t picked up an iron in eight years. I manage our finances, because I am better at that, and I like to be in control of them. I’m not too controlling, however. For us it is more a matter of a clear division of labor.
You obviously do not have children. Children throw will imblance into your well balanced life.
“He’s a great husband, but I do wish that I too could be swept off my feet by a man could afford to do it”
The attitude of many women on here is repulsive. I can understand that biologically, you are attracted to men who display alpha characteristics – but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t demand equal rights and not being relegated to stay at home mom in relationships, but then complain when you earn more money than your husband + work harder than him that you don’t find him as attractive? Would rou rather go back to the 1950’s family model? Because you can’t have it both ways. Keep your selfish attitudes in check.
I find the responses amusing……..
I am a technology professional – and I earn a great salary –
My wife is in sales – in good years she has tripled my salary. At one point she left one position and had to sit out a 1 year non-compete – therefor 0 salary
And yes, we have kids –
We are both professionals, we both work hard at home and in the office.
We don’t give a damn who earns more in our family.
by the way, ‘sweep off feet with 4000.00 buck shoes’ is called ‘sugar daddy’ – not marriage
Sweeping off feet is attitude, caring and some roses 🙂
I am an alpha wife and my husband is a great father. A better parent than I am. But When it come to housework, I do the most. I tried millions time him to do them, but when he cooks, cleans and washes, always little details are left out I need to finish the job. I am almost giving up as it is much easier if I do it myself. But sometimes, I get very sad. I do have fantacy that my partner makes equal or slightly higher than I earn and takes care of me while I keep the work I love.
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Wow what selfish double standards some of you women have.
Amen, brother. Amen. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Years of bitching cause “Oh we can’t earn as much as men!”. The when they do, they want to leave their husbands because they don’t make as much as their wives do. Always money money money!
Thanks for this, it’s really helped. To address a few of the comments, I’m the breadwinner in our relationship and we’re both happy with that BUT it is an adjustment. Every thing in society says it’s not right, maternity leave is more difficult because over the course of a year it’s my salary that’s cut (which we can’t afford) or we lose his salary completely so that one of us could stay with the baby. Just because I earn more doesn’t mean I am a man, I still have a maternal instinct and want to stay at home with baby…
It’s one example, but worth a think. Society is not set up for alpha females and paving the way isn’t easy, you do find yourself resenting your man instead of society even though neither of you have done anything wrong.
Relationships have become an extonsein of some sort of marriage. Many people often say why would I ruin a perfectly good thing? To regain intimacy in a relationship, you need to do the same thing as you do for a marriage, communicate. You need to express the feelings that you have in a nonthreatening manner. I say nonthreatening because as people are approached about intimacy, they often go on the defensive.