What Happens to a Marriage When She Makes More?

A provocative book by Dr. Dawn DeLavallade candidly addresses the impact of the growing earning power of women on families and marital relationships.

Dr. Dawn DeLavallade, author of She Makes More: Inside the Minds of Female Breadwinners

Dr. Dawn DeLavallade addresses the thorny issue of wives who out-earn their husbands–a growing trend in today's economy.

Can marriages thrive when she makes more? According to a great book by Dr. Dawn DeLavallade, more than 26 percent of marriages today feature wives who out-earn their husbands–and that figure is likely to grow. DeLavallade’s book, She Makes More: Inside The Minds of Female Breadwinners, candidly addresses the impact of this trend on families and marriages, including interviews with women about how their assumption of the breadwinner role effected their husbands, for better or worse. Some ended up divorced, others cope in a stressful marriage, and still others found a way to make it work to strengthen their relationship.

Of course, many high-achieving, high-earning women who choose to maintain their single status, whether as never-marrieds or ‘never-marry-agains,’ also admit to experiencing a void, even though they are more than capable of providing for their financial and material needs. Cathy Hughes, the multimillionaire founder of the Radio One media empire, poignantly described the dilemma during a riveting one-on-one interview with Black Enterprise Editorial Director Sonia Alleyne at the 2013 Women of Power Summit in Orlando in February: “Many of us women are married to our businesses and our careers, and [it’s] not warm. And it’s not a good look.”

On the other side is the I-can-do-bad-all-by-myself-camp, choosing to live and even parent alone rather than be saddled by a relationship with a man unwilling to find ways, perhaps including but not limited to income generation, to contribute more fully and completely to a healthy marital partnership, his ego and society’s expectations not withstanding.

Thankfully, Dr. DeLavallade goes beyond defining the challenges along the spectrum between each of these extremes, to offering solutions that can provide great discussion points for spouses who want their marriage to thrive regardless of who brings in the most income. One of the most important: the need for husbands to play a leadership role when it comes to financial literacy and managing family finances. Dr. DeLavallade believes it is critical for marital partners to shift their posture away from competing via paycheck to teaming up to execute a strategy for family wealth, even as the amounts and sources of income inevitably change during the course of a marriage. For this and other reasons, it’s important that men, as well as women, read this book.

The reality is, most marriages will likely have to deal with this dynamic at some point, even if it’s just temporary, due to a variety of trends Dr. DeLavallade identifies in her book. The author, a medical doctor, faced this challenge herself when she became the primary breadwinner as her husband was laid off from his corporate job before eventually launching a thriving business.

Be sure to add She Makes More: Inside The Minds of Female Breadwinners by Dr. Dawn DeLavallade to your reading list. You can also learn about the book and its author on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SheMakesMore.

Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert,  personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.


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  • I’m getting a lot of feedback (via social media) from men who say they would be totally fine with a wife who makes more money than they do. However, the reality seems to indicate that it’s easier said than done. I am also one of those men that have always said that I could handle a relationship with a woman with a higher income. However, except for a 3 month period of freelancing during my first marriage, I’ve never experienced this phenomenon.

    Most men say they can handle it, but when they actually are in that situation–well, not so much. I have to say that Dr. DeLavallade’s book really challenged me in this area. For example, how comfortable would I be assuming more of a “house husband” role in a marriage, in order to be a committed partner to my breadwinner wife? (It never even dawned on me to pick up more slack at home during the aforementioned 3-month period of working from home while my then-wife commuted to her 9-to-6 five days a week.) And how would I handle the reactions of family & friends who would be critical of a man assuming that role in a marital partnership? As I said in my review, it’s as important for men to read She Makes More as it is for women. I’d love to hear from people, both women and especially men, who have experienced this in their marriages. What say you? Can men handle it? Or are we full of it?