Woman As Main Breadwinner = Happier Marriage?

   By daringfemale  Feb 18, 2010

I was fascinated to read this article in the New York Times suggesting that the rise of women breadwinners has led to happier and more stable marriages. According to the Pew Research Center report, in 22% of couples women are now the main breadwinners, up from 7% in 1970. And in 1/3 of all couples women are better educated than their husbands.

First of all, wow. Second of all, according to the New York Times article, this gender role reversal is having a surprising effect ? it’s making marriages happier.

Here are some interesting points from the article that support the idea that when both the wife and the husband work, their marriage is more stable:


  • In states where fewer wives have paid jobs, divorce rates are higher.
  • American couples where both the husband and wife work have lower divorce rates than couples where the man is the main breadwinner.
  • Divorce rates in the US have fallen as women have gained more financial independence.

Sociologists interviewed in the article suggest that as women become more financially independent and better educated they choose their husbands differently. Instead of just looking for someone who can support them financially they are looking for a good life partner, which leads to a happier and more stable marriage.

I completely buy this argument. I also think that when a woman feels self-sufficient ? i.e. able to support herself financially if need be ? she is overall happier and more secure, which then leads to her being happier in her marriage. But I am still a skeptic when it comes to families where moms are the main breadwinners. I’ve been one and I’ve been honest about the fact that it caused me to feel some resentment for my husband. I’ve heard this from endless number of friends who are the main breadwinners.

The main resentment-causing issue seems to be that even when the wife earns more than her husband, she still handles the majority of household and childcare responsibilities. And I tend to think that both the husband and the wife are partly responsible. As in our case, part of the problem was that I just couldn’t let go of trying to do everything at home and the other part was that my husband wasn’t jumping in to take on more responsibilities. Either way, this did lead to stress in our marriage and I’d be hard-pressed to argue that more women as primary breadwinners leads to happier marriages. Perhaps in time this can be true, as men and women get more comfortable about the reversal of traditional gender roles.

I’d love to hear what you think about this topic and the idea that when both the wife and the husband work the marriage is more stale or happier? Have you found this to be true in your marriage?

Make a Comment

MadHatter by MadHatter | Whitestone , NY
Mar 08, 2010

i sort of have to disagree with the article from looking at my parents point of view. My mum makes a lot more then my dad and its been really stressful on him because he has too much pride AND the fact that he is old fashion (which i think he needs to understand that the times has changed!), still thinking that the man of the house should be providing for the family. there are several arguments here and there but then when my mum pulls out her pay check, my dad doesn't say a word. all this stemed from renovating the house so that they can live there more comfortably in the future. I am mixed on the subject.

BranDlicious by BranDlicious | North Charleston, SC
Feb 27, 2010

I guess my husband and I are very lucky. I am the breadwinner by a large margin. We are equally educated and both love our career feilds, I just happened to pick the better paying feild. I work full time, but I only go to my place of employment 3 days a week so I don't mind picking up the household stuff as well. I like the household stuff done a certain way and doing it myself ensures it gets done that way. Being the breadwinner certainly adds to my confidence which I believe does help our marriage. He helps out, but there are many things I prefer to do myself. I don't feel any resentment in that regard. We have things that have to be done and we just do them. I think wasting my energy feeling resentment takes away from the work I do both in my career and in my home. But again, I think we are just very lucky in this regard, I was lucky to find work I love that has hours and comensation that compliment our family's needs.

thriftychic by thriftychic | Montgomery, TX
Feb 26, 2010

My husband and I have been married for 9 years. I worked for the first 4 years. I found it very hard to keep up with my home. When we had our first child, we both decided it was for the better interest of our family for me to stay home and focus on our daughter and our home. I have never been happier. I love being at home with my child and taking care of my home. I find it fulfilling. I don't know how wives who work keep up with all of the laundry, bills, carpooling, doctor visits, etc. I commend them for juggling it all. I can say that my marriage is happier now. We both have our roles and we fully support one another in them. Its a complete give and take. He works (out of the home). I work (in the home). We are equals. Everything we have is ours. We make decisions together. So for us, its been a lot easier with him bringing home the bacon...while I maintain our home and family.

djcalli by djcalli | BERKELEY, IL
Feb 24, 2010

I agree. While my husband does help out with the kids quite a bit, there are things that he feels only I can do. Sometimes I feel stretched to my breaking point, because I am basically doing two full-time jobs. So many things are expected of me by so many people: my husband, my kids, and my work; I feel like I never have a minute to just sit down and take a breath. My husband helps out a ton, but I still feel like a majority of the housework/ kid stuff falls on my shoulders. I am tired. I am hoping for a day when he can be the main breadwinner; then I won't feel like our stability is resting on my shoulders.

pjclayton57 by pjclayton57 | Oceanport, NJ
Feb 19, 2010

I have always worked and I have always been the sole provider of all household and childcare responsibilites as well. This did cause issues within my marriage and eentually led to its demise. I think that had the home responsibilites been more equally distributed, things may have been different. There was no adjustment period for me when I got divorced; not the case with my ex! I think it was a huge eye opener for him!

jjoyce by jjoyce | WOODBRIDGE, VA
Feb 18, 2010

I completely agree that that woman traditionally handles the majority of the household and childcare responsibilities and when she is the breadwinner, it builds resentment as she's already feeling like she's pulling more than her weight and then she goes home to start all over again. I think the article is correct that when a woman is a breadwinner, she does possibly pick a different type of mate but I don't think it's a necessary an accurage deduction to make as often times, she builds up her rank throughout the marriage and had already chosen her mate. Perhaps they are happier because they have more money and it's already been proven that money is one of the number one issues among a marriage. I am the breadwinner and I am responsible for 99.5% of the household and child care. If I didn't work, I'd be fine with that but because I do, it should be shared. In summary, I'm not happier being the breadwinner but I'd be happier if the chores and responsibilities were split even.