“My husband and I have been married for five years and we have two kids. Recently, I received a promotion and now make significantly more than my husband. This increase in my income has become a strain on our relationship as he believes that, as the head of the household, he should be making more when I believe he should see it as “our” money that will allow “us” to live the life we dream of creating for us and our children . How should I handle this issue?”
First and foremost, congratulations and God is good! How many of our readers would pray that more money is added to their list of “problems”? This new financial picture in your household is evidence that not every blessing comes with universally shared elation, but they all come with an added level of responsibility and stewardship
As a relationship-minded person and professional, I think you have to give prayerful consideration to the relationships that are being agitated by this circumstance–your relationship as husband and wife and the relationship you each have with money.
Six years ago, my wife and I were in a very similar situation. Not only did a career opportunity double her salary, I simultaneously lost my income as the result of a corporate merger and subsequent layoffs. While it equated to no loss of total household income, it represented a significant shift in our family dynamics. Oh yeah, she gave birth to our second child less than a year later as well. My wife now felt pressure she had not felt before as the principal provider of a family of four and it made her somewhat anxious.
As the leader in my home, I was quickly reminded that I was not the provider for my family. Ultimately, neither was my wife. I, like many of us, had become so caught up in the pursuit to provide more and more resources that I forgot to acknowledge who the source is. It was then that God prompted me to rethink how I value myself. In my mind, it had been according in large part to how much money I earned. I had to retrain my mind to measure my worth according to the leadership I provided for my family. I think it is clear that the two of you need to do the same. Understand that this issue is not solely your husband’s any more than your salary is solely yours, so you must seek to gain a Godly perspective in the midst of this just as he ought to.
While the word of God speaks very clearly about a woman’s work within the home as a priority(Titus 2:5). It also gives weight to her contribution to the financial stability in her home(Proverbs 31). Simultaneously, she is called to submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22). The book of Genesis also refers to her as a “helper” when describing Eve, the first wife. Sounds difficult to hold onto and execute each of those expectations all at once in today’s world, doesn’t it?
The good news is that you have correctly identified your husband as the head of your household. So let’s consider how and if that connects to the concept of income. Understand that headship is not about monetary compensation. While it is certainly about provision, a man is predominantly charged with providing leadership and wisdom in his role as the head. Moreover, a husband is given the task of loving his wife as Christ loved the church. What that means in this circumstance is using a sacrificial approach that gives thoughtful contemplation to other passions, desires, and gifts that add value to the body/home. This thoughtfulness and leadership may very well be demonstrated by setting the direction of the family while his wife is the primary income earner.
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that may present the church to himself as glorious–not having stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one had ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, for we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:25-30)
Just as salaries can and should be renegotiated when our objectives and responsibilities change, our relationships often need to be renegotiated for the same reasons. However, we must be mindful of those things which remain constant–the husband is the leader, and the wife is the helper. Those titles represent our identities. When you are dictating what you do, then you are operating in your identity. “Primary breadwinner” is a role. When what you do dictates who you are, then you are operating in a role. There is nothing wrong with playing roles and changing them. But don’t confuse your role(s) with your identity.
So here are a few questions that I think the two of you need to answer for yourselves individually and then come together to discuss as a couple. These will help you understand your relationship with money:
- What are my first memories of money as a child and how did they affect me, positively and/or negatively?
- What behaviors did I learn about money from my parents?
- Is it important to me to maintain a lifestyle similar to or better than that of my peers?
- How many people depend on me financially and how does that make me feel?
- Do I feel comfortable depending on someone else (including my spouse) for money?
- If I had more money than I needed, what would I do with my money?
- Does money create stress between me and the people closest to me?
- How would I describe my perception of faith in relation to finances?
- Can I identify why I answered the previous questions the way I did?
- How do I believe my spouse will answer these questions and can we have an honest conversation about them?
Please understand that my wife and I are still praying about and working towards an appropriate biblical outlook of our roles in this marriage and our finances. The world and western culture are continuously giving us messages about the importance of monetary gain and its standard for the measure of a man and woman that are contrary to the will of God. This is a process for us and will be for the two of you. Six years later we are still working on being in His will with regards to our finances, our distinctive identities/roles as husband and wife, and how the two do and don’t relate to one another.
How should you handle this situation? You will find this consistent response to related questions in this monthly column–pray and seek God’s will in His word. In addition to that, be the help to your husband that God designed you to be. Allow him to be the leader he is meant to be to you. Ask him to work with you to understand the non-negotiable dynamics of your marriage (his leadership and your help) and to try and work through negotiation of the change in circumstances. A good place to start would be for the two of you to ask one more question-Now God has trusted the two of you with greater resources, what does he think god would have him do with the added income to display his leadership/wisdom and your family’s faithfulness?
Lastly, keep in mind that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy6:10). You and your husband may have no evil objectives in any of this, but the enemy surely does. It is who uses the world to teach us to value ourselves according to money and accumulation. Don’tallow your relationship with money to cause damage to the covenant relationship you have with God and each other.