The XX Factor

What Happens When the Wife Earns More? She Can Afford to Get Divorced.

“When he came into money, it was his. When I took out loans, those were ours.”

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Last week Hanna Rosin wrote about the results of her breadwinner wives survey, and more generally about the various power dynamics in relationships in which the woman earns more than the man. We also asked readers to share their own experiences, and we received many wonderful responses. Here is one of them:

Name: Mary B.

When my husband-to-be and I met, I was starting college and he was working odd jobs. He continued at that as I took classes. He mowed lawns, worked as a custodian, etc. When he came into money, it was “his.” When I took out college loans and grants, those were “ours.” His argument was that my money should be used to support the household because his was intermittent. When I graduated and started a job that paid $60,000 a year, the trend continued except that now I was put on an allowance while he controlled the household money. His argument now was that I had no experience handling money, while he did, and that since he was staying home full time with our infant son, he needed the money more on a day to day basis to buy groceries and run errands.


This continued through most of 10 years, until I finally divorced him, which was finalized this summer.

I am very glad that earn as much as I do, because it allowed me to pay for an attorney to be rid of my husband. He was emotionally abusive and used his financial control to enforce it. He refused to negotiate on things. He refused to cooperate on financial strategies that I wanted to pursue. He engaged in magical thinking a lot, that if he just got angry enough, his problems would go away. Maybe that worked with me, but it didn’t work for our checking and savings account.

Previously in this series:

What Happens When the Wife Earns More? Sometimes, Panic Attacks.

What Happens When the Wife Earns More? Dad Stays Home, Everyone’s Happy!