Updated: Sep 5
Husbands and their partners may play different roles in their marriages, including financial support. The financial role of a husband in a marriage varies. It depends on the couple's values, expectations, and circumstances. It also comes down to the evolving work world.
Women are now breadwinners or earn around the same as their partners in 45% of American households.
The implications of the closing gender pay gap and large increase in female college graduates reach beyond the workplace. This blog post explores some academic research on the question of whether a husband should financially support his wife.
Financial support reflects different values and expectations
Financial support reflects the different values and expectations couples may have about their relationship and lifestyle.
Some couples may value traditional gender roles, in which the husband is the primary breadwinner and the wife is the primary caregiver. In this case, the husband may feel obligated and proud to support his wife financially.
Other couples may value egalitarian gender roles, in which both partners share the responsibilities of earning income and caring for the family. In this case, the husband and wife may both contribute to the household finances and may not expect or depend on each other’s financial support.
Research shows that financial values and expectations are associated with marital satisfaction and stability. Therefore, it is imperative for couples to communicate openly and respectfully about their financial values and expectations. It is also important to find ways to align or compromise them.
Strong evidence suggests the best way to do this is on a Money Date. If you're unsure how to have a Money Date or what it is, we have you covered: What is a Money Date?
Financial imbalances can generate power and control
Financial support can also generate power and control in a marriage.
Spouses who provide financial support to their partners may have more access to or influence over financial resources. This can create an imbalance of power that affects decision making, autonomy, and respect in the relationship.
Power disparities in marriage are associated with lower levels of marital satisfaction and higher levels of marital violence.
Learn the impact money has on the health of your marriage. Try this quick 10 question quiz.
Using money as a weapon of control is financial abuse
Money can be wielded as a potent weapon of control, leading to financial abuse. Financial abuse encompasses various strategies employed by perpetrators to gain power and maintain dominance over their victims through economic means. These strategies include limiting access to financial resources, exerting control over income and expenditures, exploiting financial dependence, and sabotaging economic opportunities.
Academic studies have highlighted the pervasive nature of financial abuse, revealing its profound impact on victims' overall well-being and ability to exercise autonomy.
Financial abuse functions as a coercive tactic, inhibiting individuals from leaving abusive relationships. It also perpetuates gender inequality, reinforcing traditional gender roles and further marginalizing women.
These findings underline the importance of recognizing and addressing the use of money as a tool of control. They urge the development of comprehensive interventions and support systems to combat financial abuse and promote financial empowerment.
Financial support creates economic pressure and stress
Financial support can create economic pressure and stress that undermines marital quality.
For example, some husbands may struggle with insufficient income, debt, unemployment, or financial insecurity. These challenges can affect their mental and physical health, emotional well-being, self-esteem, and relationship satisfaction.
Husbands may also feel ashamed or resentful to ask for or receive financial support from their wives.
Some wives may also face financial difficulties or challenges, especially if they have lower incomes, education, or work opportunities than their husbands. They may also feel guilty or frustrated relying on or demanding financial support from their husbands.
Economic pressure is associated with higher levels of marital conflict, lower levels of marital support, and higher risk of divorce.
Couples experiencing such stress should seek professional help. A helpful place to start is the Financial Therapy Association.
A modern approach to managing money as a couple
Values and expectations help shape couples' attitude toward supporting each other's careers. Take for instance the approach taken by Modern Husbands Advisory Board Members Zo and Aliyha Amani. Zo shared their approach to supporting one another on the Modern Husbands Podcast.
How to move forward
Dr. Kate Mangino, an internationally acclaimed gender expert, provided Modern Husbands Podcast listeners with a particularly profound yet simple piece of advice (episode released summer of '23). Ask your partner:
What do you envision in an ideal husband?
Is the ideal husband a breadwinner or contributor to the household finances? What role do they have in managing the home? What are the household chores you expect him to do?
This isn't just a question for your partner, but should be a question that is asked to you. What do you envision when you think about the perfect partner?
After understanding what is ideal, seek to understand how you can better work together.
Discuss your financial values, goals, and expectations with your spouse regularly and respectfully.
Choose a method of splitting money that suits your needs and preferences as a couple.
Review and revise your method of splitting money as your situation or needs change over time.
Communicate openly and respectfully with your spouse about your financial situation and decisions.
Seek professional help if you have financial difficulties or conflicts.
There is no right or wrong answer to whether a husband should support his wife financially.
No matter what you decide as a couple, what always matters is that a husband supports his partner.
Couples who learn more, save more, and spend more on what is important to them.
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Kroska, Amy. “Examining Husband-Wife Differences in the Meaning of Family Financial Support.” Sociological Perspectives, vol. 51, no. 1, 2008, pp. 63–90, https://doi.org/10.1525/sop.2008.51.1.63.
Kroska, Amy. (2008). Examining Husband-Wife Differences in the Meaning of Family Financial Support. Sociological Perspectives - SOCIOL PERSPECT. 51. 63-90. 10.1525/sop.2008.51.1.63.
Adams, A. E., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2016). Coercive control and physical violence in a nationally representative sample of women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 31(16), 2780–2809.
Stark, E. (2007). Coercive control: How men entrap women in personal life. Oxford University Press.