What happens when your wife makes more money?
The above question is one that I get asked very often as I travel especially when people realize my wife’s profession (family physician). I have alluded to my belief on the above issue several times in other articles; however, I think I need to deal with it directly and of course using biblical principles as guide.
I wrote an article sometime ago on “should men listen to their wives” in the article I said men and women are equal before God and my friend Dr. Arowolaju wrote a rejoinder, saying that men and women are not equal. Since his rejoinder, I’ve been questioned at least three times (at conferences) on why I did not reply him. First, I’ve decided not to reply rejoinders (no matter how bad I want to – except I’m compelled), secondly, a rejoinder is the person’s opinion just like the original article is my opinion (it is wrong to condemn opinion, you might not agree with it – opinion is different from fact) and thirdly, I expect people reading anything (book or articles) to always overlap the writers view with their own principles and values.
In answering the question of what happens when your wife makes more money, I still believe that men and women are equal before God whether a husband or wife makes more money (see Galatians 3: 28-29). At creation God did not create the woman as a second rate creation or lower echelon than man like He created animals lower than humans. In Joel 2: 28, the bible promised that God’s spirit would be poured out on all flesh (women were not excluded) and this was fulfilled in Acts 2: 17-19. I was recently asked this question at a conference or maybe it is a statement “women are made from the man’s rib which means she is a spare part, and spare parts can be replaced”.
What is different between the man and the woman is our roles and this should never be confused with a woman being less of a being than the man. The same holds in a situation of aggressive wives and passive husbands. The role of the man is to be the head of his house, irrespective of whether the wife makes more money (headship by position, not to boss her- The man is the first amongst equals) and for the woman to submit herself to the man’s leadership in the marriage institution (I’ve written two articles on the role of men and women – please refer to them for details). The confusion between the roles and being a second class creation has messed up the world for centuries. Many cultures of the world have taken the man’s role as being that of the superior to a subordinate (not leader among equals), payment of exorbitant dowries in many cultures have not helped either and the domination of the man over the woman was maintained because women were largely uneducated.
Education of women brought out the injustice done to the women in the name of culture and sometimes in the name of the Bible. In the name of culture, women were denied basic God given rights and freedom. Let us take the marriage of a man to more than one wife, we all know that was not the intention of God at creation, He said “therefore a man shall join with his wife and they will become one”, the person who started polygamy is Lamech (Genesis 4) and it was done as an act of disobedience to God. Subsequent marrying of more than one wife was a sin and it is still a sin (it also supports the man’s dominance), In Matthew 19, Jesus repeated “for this reason a man shall join with a woman and they will become one”. Treating a woman as a second class creation is a sin, not given a woman the right to vote, drive, express her opinion especially in a marriage, are all not right.
I know that the women’s liberation movements in western countries have gone overboard with their seeking “freedom” for women by claiming that God is Patriarchal for making man the head of the marriage institution, by saying that women should not submit to the authority of the man in the marriage institution, and by saying that they don’t need men once they are professionals (that has proven to be a lie). This has compounded the challenges couples face when the wife makes more money.
In many cultures of the world, the leadership of the man is tied to his ability to provide financially for his family and in some other places the leadership is maintained through physical beating of the women (to put them in their place) or other demeaning things done through verbal or emotional abuse. When the woman makes more money, or the woman can physically harm the husband or the woman does more of the abuse either verbally or emotionally, then man’s leadership of the home is threatened or even usurped.
Leadership of the home is much more than finance or physical strength (they are part of it), the man should lead the home in every aspect possible, spiritually – leading devotion or prayer times, leading going to church (my 11 year old just came back from camp with 8 questions about God that I gladly and proudly answered). Leading emotionally – should listen to every member of your family, if you are blessed with more girls than boys, then you need prayer for more grace (I have 2 boys and our 6 year old niece is spending a good portion of the summer with us, now I pray for people with girls). This should have nothing to do with whether your wife makes more money. You need to take the time and listen to your wife as well, that’s how God made her. Leading is also social, while as the man you might not determine or even care about where to visit, but based on the family budget you can determine how much the family have to spend on vacation that year and let your wife and kids determine the place. Social leadership also include taken the initiative to attending the kids school functions (try as much as possible not to miss piano recital, soccer games, ballet, swimming competition, S.M.A.R.T. meet, spelling bee etc).
Intellectual leadership is involving your wife and children in current affairs discussions, worldview discussion, their academics, and other brain tasking events. My family loves, the game channel (who wants to be a millionaire specifically) and discovery channel, especially the animal trivial (It’s a good learning channel), by the way my wife and 11 year old are both crossword puzzle junkie and he recently taught mom how to play “sudoku” puzzle, which he is proud of. For most of the above leadership roles you don’t have to make the most money in your home to be the leader.
Let me share from my personal experience, I met my wife at the University of Ife (Terra Choral Group) she soon returned to the US to continue her education. After graduation and youth corps, I got a job in the transportation industry and before I left Nigeria in 1992 my income then was more than what a physician in Nigeria earned. Upon coming to America my first inclination of how much a doctor make was at a reception given in our honor by my in-laws church, I remember clearly the reverend woman approaching me and saying “she’s going to be making a lot of money now you know” (she was a first year medical student then). It was later that I realized that doctors make more money than most professional people, especially myself as a first degree holder.
Before that encounter (with the reverend) Ola and I had started a joint account. She ran the account for the first two years. I took over the family account because we both determined that I was better with keeping to strict payment schedule. There was never a time that our finance was ever my money or your money.
We had several arguments on the budget, on what to give one family verses the other, on excess spending, long distance calling, etc but I don’t remember the argument ever being you are spending your money or don’t touch my money. We saw each other’s income as one (which is what the bible says). In residency, she earned more than I did for a couple of months, then I changed company twice in 18 months and this put my income on top again till she started to work as an attending, when she doubled my income. Things became complicated when I resigned to move to Omaha, I earned half of what I was earning in NJ and then in another year I earned zero, resigning to go into full time ministry. Today, God is blessing the ministry, but it is still far from being the primary income for our household. In the past five years of the ministry existence and six of my wife earning more money, I’m still the leader of our home like I was when my income was the only one. My leadership was never based on my income (whether my wife makes more money or not) but on what I believe the bible wants me to do.
When you make more as the woman
I thank God for education and the scripture regarding the woman’s standing as a creation and biblical role.
Addressing the question of what happens when you as a wife makes more money, I do not believe that as a woman that you are a second class creation I however believe that the woman’s role at home is to submit the leadership of that home to the man (regardless of your position or title outside the home). I know many at this point would say wait a minute, you don’t know my husband? The question you should be asking is how can I submit to my husband even with his personality (aggressive husband, passive husband or a passive-aggressive husband).
Submitting to your husband does not make you a doormat you are being obedient to God. Submission is also not what we’ve been told it is, it is not being told to sit down there without any opinion, and it is not being put under a glass ceiling. Submission is having an opinion, sharing the opinion and willingly deferring your opinion (sometime facts) to your husband’s authority and praying that he makes the right choice with the help of God.
Whatever you are going through right now does not change the above principle. As a counselor, I’ve been privileged to be part of many circumstances that sometimes my personal opinion is different from what I know the Bible says, but I know without a doubt that circumstances don’t change Gods eternal principles. If you are married to a man who procrastinates, and who doesn’t have any ambition and holds you back etc, remember you cannot change him with your mouth but with your character in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.
One important thing that I’ll like to share with you as a godly woman is, if you have a good suggestion for your husband, it is very vital to note that how you deliver your good suggestion is more important than the suggestion itself. Many husbands (me included) will not take our wife’s opinion into consideration if we feel she was disrespectful with the delivery (it’s an ego thing). So part of your submitting skills is to learn when and how to get your message across to your husband without him feeling berated (you might think it is trivial but it will save you and your marriage many headaches).
The Bible is all about obedience and reward, when a woman against all odds submits to the husbands leading, there are rewards, it might come in form of obedient kids, blessings in your own life and definitely crown in heaven.
P.S. There are times when tough love needs to be applied in a marriage, I’ll suggest you work with a counselor, your pastor or faith based professionals to determine when this is to be applied (tough love does not mean disrespect).
When you make less as the man (When your wife makes more money)
A couple friend of my family recently decided that the man should stay home with the kids while she works because they just had multiple births (a good daycare would cost too much) and she earns a lot more money than him. While chatting with my wife I told her that I see their reason economically, but I would still advise the man to do something that brings home “something” or “anything” Ola could not understand me, she said taking care of the kids is already a lot, which I agree with (I was the primary caretaker of our son for years), but to me there is something about the man earning something.
Many of us men believe that the care of kids is the woman’s job and bringing home the bacon is the man’s job, things are now upside down because that belief is now being challenged in many homes all around the world. I believe it is time that we start to evaluate societal roles of the husband or wife (not clearly defined by the bible).
As I have stated above your leadership of the home should not be tied to whether you or your wife makes more money, your leadership should never be abandoned because she makes more money, it is always difficult to resume leading your home if you have been complacent or absent for a long time as the leader (many women find it difficult to let go of leading if they have done it for years).
The ideal situation would be for both of you to have a joint account from the day you get married and with time build trust based on negotiation (it took Ola and I about 3-4 years to get the budget and joint account thing down without argument). Also, if there is ever a time that you make more money, don’t treat your wife like she is a maid, counting food money into her palms or letting her run after you for her toiletries money. The money coming into the household should always be our money not yours or mine.
When decisions have to be made in your home, I will advise that you consult with your wife first, contrary to what many of us grew up with, it does not make you less of a man. Asking for your wife’s opinion makes you a smart man, because you are weighing your options and even the bible says plan succeed with many counsel. God has given your wife a unique ability to see things differently from how you see it, and a combination of both your points of view is always a home-run for your family. The fact that your wife makes more shouldn’t be a hindrance to getting her consult. When you ignore her opinion either because you think it is stupid or based on how she brought it up to you, then you are left with just one point of view – yours and may I suggest that it might not be the best in some circumstances.
Never give up leading your home even when your wife makes more money and please note that you can maintain your leadership in other ways (see what Christ did in John 13) rather than through any form of abuse.
What the couple needs to do in a situation when a wife makes more money
A godly woman understands that when there is a stalemate on any issue in the home and decisions have to be made, then she defers authority to him (and prays that he makes the right decision). At the same time a godly man understands that a smart man seeks the wife’s opinion on issues because two heads are better than one, and if you have sounded things by your wife like I have (and most of the time does) – it will save you a lot of money or time (you won’t have to repeat any task or get lost).
Sit down and set goals or vision for your family together (see article on setting a family vision), carefully weave your individual visions into one family vision with both of you being selfless (God first, Others second and I’m third).
– What types of house are we going to buy and where?
– What school are the kids going – private of public?
– How much should we send home to each family?
– When do we start building at home (country of origin)? Who should help – family or non-family members?
– College fund? When and How?
– What church should we attend?
It might take your family sometime to blend your visions but please never give up, the benefit of getting it right far outweigh giving up in the later part of your life and marriage.