A Fragile Balance of Power: Making It Work When Only One of You Makes the Money
For centuries, the cultural norm of the husband bringing home the bacon while his wife tended the homefront tipped the scales of relationship power firmly on the side of the man. Culture has taken enormous strides in the past few decades, however, and has left an entire generation of women expecting more balance in their relationships -- but not really sure how to achieve it. Women in the workforce has helped, but that isn't a practical solution for every family. And when Mom is the breadwinner while Dad stays home with the kids, the problem is often amplified.
Be Honest About Your Expectations
Whether your work situation is about to change or you simply feel like the balance of power in your relationship needs to be more balanced, the two of you need to have an honest conversation about what you expect from each other and from yourselves. You may find that you have very different ideas about your roles in your relationship. Clarifying -- and finding a way to agree on -- expectations now can head off problems in the future.
Be Flexible About Your Expectations
When you spend your days juggling a newborn, a toddler, and a never-ending pile of laundry, it can be easy to plop Baby straight into your partner's hands the minute they walk through the door. Similarly, it can be easy to feel like you shouldn't have to do any housework even on the weekends when you spend your days making the money that houses, clothes, and feeds the family. While you definitely should help each other out, expecting things that you didn't explicitly agree on will only set you up for disappointment at some point.
Make Money Decisions Together
Of course, you talk about the big things -- buying a new home, when and how to get the car fixed, saving for retirement. But even the small decisions, such as how often you should go out to eat or how much to spend on school clothes for the kids, should be a joint decision. Only one of you may make the money, but how it is spent affects you both.
A stay-at-home mom or dad can easily feel powerless when they are financially dependant on their spouse. Make an effort to communicate about your needs and expectations, and that fragile balance can bring harmony to your relationship rather than drive a wedge through it.