Women earning more

What to Do When She’s the Bread-Winner

Categories Lifestyle

Women earning more

If money is power, what happens when she earns way more than you, Helen Hawkes address an issue of size.

Sex, money, power. Ask any man and he’ll tell you that, when it comes to women, he has no problem with the first two, but the third one — uh-oh. Because while most men love a woman who is horny or rich, they don’t want her to use either of the first two to club them over the head with the third.

Yes, being kept by a well-to-do woman is every working man’s fantasy. But if money talks, it’s only saying trouble. Recently my friend Simon, a successful real estate broker who’s 39, was wooed by a woman who owned a chain of sporting goods stores. Invitations for lavish dinners and Veuve Clicquot were free-flowing; sex was problematic. Just who was in charge? And was it the same person asking for the bill?

At first Simon tried to go Dutch but because his tastes were less extravagant he often found he was squaring up for a meal or hotel he could not afford. Admonitions by his wealthy lover to “forget this paying-for-yourself nonsense” and enjoy her intimate relationship with American Express fell on resentful ears.

“I felt financially small and other bits started to shrink as well,” Simon says.

He eventually broke up with her because he didn’t feel “comfortable”. Men…they just don’t know when they’re onto a good thing.
In reality, only a tiny percentage of women are managing directors of multimillion-dollar firms, so your chances of being kept by the female director of an oil company are minuscule. But as more women surge into the professions there’s a greater number of eligible ones with at least as much cash as you — and then some.

Today’s bachelorette has her own house, sports car and designer wardrobe. If you’re also a well-heeled executive, that’s probably not going to create a relationship rift. If, on the other hand, you’ve gone as far as you’ll get on the corporate ladder, the fact that you earn less money might become an issue.

You want to order a cheap Thai, she wants to eat at the latest three-hat restaurant. You fancy a (cheap) night out at the pub, she’s thinking opera or spa weekend. You’re thinking, “Who needs this anyway?” She’s thinking, “What’s his problem?” Which is a good question, especially if she’s willing to foot the extra expense.

Its that power thing again.

Says Tim, a 33-year-old architect: “My ex-girlfriend earned twice what I earned and she deserved it. But after promotions that had her climbing the salary ladder, I started letting her pay for more things and she went a bit power-mad. Where we ate or went on holiday all became her decision. She was calling the shots not just on big things but on everyday things.

“When money changes a person in a relationship, that’s a problem.” Perhaps Michael, a 26-year-old engineer, sums up how men feel about the money/power dilemma best. “Most of my mates don’t mind the idea of a rich girlfriend,” he says. “In fact, I say, rich women, bring them on! It’s just that they wouldn’t want to work for a woman.”

It seems a man in a relationship with a woman who earns more money than he does may feel he has accepted a position for which he was never interviewed. Sure, he knew the job specifications when he was the alpha male but he’s not sure how he’s supposed to behave when she’s picking up the tab.

Therapists would suggest that for men in a fundamentally healthy relationship who still identify with the role of breadwinner/killer of woolly mammoths, while it’s her bringing in the bucks, counselling can help. After all, equality isn’t just a token idea in the 21st century. But if money becomes the leash by which she leads you around, Michael says the advice most men would give each other in the change room is: “Get out of there, mate, before she gelds you!”