Dual Earner Couples– The Challenges
“I FEEL my husband should do the work, and he should bring home the money,” suggested one man. “And when he’s over working, he should sit down and rest for the rest of the day.” Yet, in spite of obviously strong sentiments, his wife work.
Some men therefore become quite depressed, or hypercritical, grumbling that their wives have become too independent or that their home just isn’t as clean as it used to be.
And when a woman earns more than her husband or obtains a high-status job, what can result? The Journal of Marriage and the Family further reported that where wives have ‘higher occupational attainment,’ “such marriages were more likely to end in divorce. Claimed Psychology Today: “For some underachieving husbands whose wives are overachievers, premature death from heart disease is 11 times more frequent than normal.”
Sincerely, wives, however, must at times fight their own battle with resentment. Though well knowing their husband’s economic plight, they may still wonder, ‘Why should I have to work? Shouldn’t he take care of me?’ Furthermore, she may be worried by what psychologist Dr. Martin Cohen calls the biggest source of stress among working women—“guilt over not doing enough—of not being as good a wife and mother as their mother was.”
” It’s My Money, Not Yours”
Said one husband: “Our worst problem was money. Just the sheer lack of it, the total overwhelming lack of it.” True, a second income might ease this pressure, but often it also creates new problems.
Explains Ed, a young husband: “When we first got married, Ronda was making about the same amount of money that I was. And when she started making more money than I was, subconsciously I had this she’s-better-than-I-am feeling.” The second salary also seems to tip the “balance of power” more in favor of the wife. She may understandably feel she is now entitled to more of a say as to how the money should be spent.
However, most men, are reluctant to share this control. “He would make me tell him, every day, how much money I needed for that day,” recalls one wife. “And I really hated that.” A husband who is incompetent with money or who, worse yet, squanders their funds, fuels this resentment. Complained one Tanzanian woman: “The money is spent on drinking, not on us or on the children. We share the work, or do more of it, but he takes all the money telling us it is his—that he earned it.”
Coming up with an arrangement that satisfies both partners, though, is not always easy. Ed and Ronda, for example, agreed to put both their salaries into one bank account. “But when it came to spending,” recalls Ed, “her eyes were ‘bigger’ than mine. The more money she made, the more she spent.” And some wives would retort that it is their husbands who have the ‘big’ eyes.
THE SOLUTION- To Money Problems
‘It’s not fair,’ grumbled one husband. ‘My money is the family’s money. Her money is her money.’ Does this sound familiar? Writer Susan Washburn notes: “Conflicts over monetary matters are often vehicles for expressing other tensions in relationships.”
For example, many couples spend hours debating what money is “yours,” “mine,” or “ours.” The problem here, though, is not a faulty budget but a selfish view of marriage.
Another problem in marriage that may manifest itself in the form of a “money fight” is a lack of communication. One wife complained: “We were operating independently of each other. We just never talked about what we were spending until the bills came. Then we wouldn’t talk, we’d fight.”
Principle- LOVE does not look for its own interests.
When married couples follow these principles, often any number of financial arrangements can work effectively. After sitting down and talking matters out, some couples decide that each mate should have a certain amount of money and be responsible for certain bills. Or they might try this couple’s method: “We put our money together, and the wife does the actual bookkeeping and paying of bills.” The success of any such schemes, though, will hinge not so much on their design as on the quality of a couple’s marriage.
Principle- Be CONTENT and have a simple eye
Two-income couples must therefore keep clearly in mind why both of them are working. Should it not be to provide for the family? Avoid cultivating “the love of money” helps and encourages the couple to keep material expectations modest. Excessive spending is less likely to be a bone of contention when couples are not afflicted by material ostentation and “the desire of the eyes.
“Role sharing.” It sounded great in theory. It was thought that when wives worked, husbands would naturally do their share of the housework. Maybe, women could at long last enjoy the luxury of relaxing after a day’s work! But, alas, “role sharing” has thus far often proved to be mere theory!
Researchers in Canada similarly found that “in the families in which women have full-time employment, women still devote approximately three times as much time to housework and child care” as do their husbands.
Nor is the picture much different in Europe or in the developing nations. Working wives are thus burdened with what amounts to two full-time jobs. No wonder, then, that the authors of Mothers Who Work say: “The most critical issue in working mothers’ lives is time.”
Mornings and evenings can be frenzied interludes for the working wife: waking and dressing the children, fixing breakfast, rushing the children off to school, heading for work—only to return to hungry children and a hungry husband who may have deposited himself in his favorite chair. Researchers call it “role strain.” She calls it sheer exhaustion. Says one woman: “My life is like a delicate well-built house of cards. One thing goes wrong and it all collapses.” And the larger a family is, the more strain the working wife is likely to feel.
Something’s got to give!’ a working woman may feel like shouting. And often what gives is the quality of her housework. Recalls one wife: “It got to a point in our house where there was never enough food in the refrigerator or no one could find any clean socks. My husband was getting angry with me, but I finally threw up my hands, sat down, and cried.”
Even the marriage itself can give. Said another working wife: “My husband and I both find that our relationship suffers not because of lack of love or desire, but simply because after the demands of work and the children have been met, there is often little energy left for each other.” So what is the answer? What is the key to success for working couples?
Usually the wife ends up doing the lion’s share of the housework. What, though, if she begins to resent this? She might approach her husband and tactfully say, as did one woman, “Look, we have a little problem here.”
Often men simply don’t know what is involved in running a household. Perhaps together they could outline what must be done, and what it would be nice to do. Perhaps some tasks are unnecessary or can be done less often. They can work out who does what, perhaps according to personal preferences or abilities.
But should a man do ‘women’s work’? It is not a threat to manhood to help his wife do house chores. Husbands today are often similarly moved to help when they realize that there is a need. Says one husband: “I pitch in and help with the housework. I admit that at times I don’t really want to. But since we both work, I think it would be unfair of me to do otherwise.”
A problem may arise, though, if the wife expects perfection from her mate, forgetting he is but a novice at domestic chores. (“George! Don’t you even know enough to clean the sink when you’re finished with the dishes?”) Perhaps some patient assistance would be more productive.
It simply may not be practical or possible to keep the home as spotlessly clean as it may have been before. “When I was home all day,” recalls Betty, a working wife, “it seemed as if all I did was clean.” But with her entry into the working world, standards of cleanliness had to be adjusted. “We still keep our home clean,” she said, “but it’s a bit more ‘lived in’ now.”
FINAL THOUGHTS FOR DUAL EARNER COUPLES
These are but a few of the challenges two-income couples face. Yet success is possible when couples do the needful and follow godly principles.
However, pressures will continue to be brought to bear. Then having secure jobs and adequate income may seem more important than ever.
Warns one couple: “You can build up a false security in your job. You can figure, ‘Well, I’m working and my wife has a job and we can make things work.’ But that’s just a false security, because at any time your job can disappear. What you need to do is remember that God is there to support you.”