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Men Get Stressed When Their Wives Make More Money Than They Do, According to New Research

It’s not a secret that money in relationships can be a hard thing to manage at times, but a new scientific study showed that it’s more complex than we previously thought. It turns out that men feel stressed, not only if they are the breadwinners of the house, but also if the woman contributes more than 40% of the family income. The cultural idea of masculinity linked to being the main provider is the main reason for this situation, although it’s not the only one.

We at Bright Side summed up the main conclusions of this research for you, that go deep into the difficult connection between money and love.

The more economic dependency, the more stress

Stress among men increases when their girlfriend or wife contributes more than 40% of the income in the house, according to a study by the University of Bath (United Kingdom). The relationship is directly proportional: if the man is more economically dependent on the woman, the level of psychological disorders he is prone to suffer are also greater.

The conclusion was reached after extracting and analyzing data from another study conducted in the United States that followed the situation of more than 6,000 heterosexual couples, married or living together, over a period of 15 years. Stress levels, meanwhile, were calculated based on feeling sad, anxious, restless, hopeless, and worthless.

The idea of masculinity and power imbalance

One of the reasons for this connection is linked to the persistence of a patriarchal culture in society. “For generations, in many cultures, there has been an expectation that men will be the primary income provider in the family, and masculinity is highly linked to fulfilling this expectation,” says Joanna Syrda, the academic in charge of the research. “Faced with a change in this outcome by being out earned by their partners, means men are likely to experience high levels of psychological distress,” she adds.

Another explanation goes beyond the gender issue, since it points to the imbalance of power that can be generated in any relationship, by one of the partners having a higher economic income. This imbalance is notorious both in the decisions of daily expenses and savings, as well as in the eventual deterioration of the relationship between the couple, where the person with the lower income may feel more financially vulnerable and think about divorce or separation.

Every rule has an exception

There is an exception to this direct relationship between stress in men and their contribution to the couple’s domestic economy: this happens if the woman already had a higher income before they married or moved in together. In this case, the existing and potential income gap in the future was already established in advance, and that can alleviate the situation.

“People do not pick their partners at random, so if the woman was the higher earner before the marriage, then the potential income gap was already clear to the man — perhaps even a reason to partner with them.” says Syrda.

Income ratio is the key

The research found that, for men, being the sole financial breadwinner in the family also generates stress, although not as much as being in the position of being the one who contributes less money to the couple. The reason, in this case, is linked to the fact that responsibility and pressure cause significant levels of anxiety and distress.

Therefore, this is another important conclusion: men are happier when both partners contribute financially in the home, but when they are the main providers. The ideal proportion is to contribute 60% compared to roughly 40% from the women, since beyond that is when the problems begin.

Slow progress in eliminating the gender pay gap

The Global Report on the Gender Gap 2018 of the World Economic Forum indicated that the gender pay gap will persist: although 89 of the 144 countries surveyed, recorded improvements, at this rate it will take more than 200 years to eliminate it. The countries that made the most progress toward equality are Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The United States, the country on which the research of the University of Bath is based, is in 51st place. However, little by little, the percentage of wives out earning their husbands is growing: in 1980, only 13% of married women earned as much or more than their husbands. In 2000, that figure reached 25%, and, in 2017, it was 31%.

Does a difference in salary affect your relationship with your partner in any way? Tell us in the comments, and share your experience with the other readers.

Preview photo credit The Notebook / Warner Bros.
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