It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Not Interested in Being a Super Breadwinner” who wrote in back in September, 2020 about her concern that she made significantly more money than her boyfriend of six months and worried that, if they got married eventually, this detail might affect their dynamic and she would eventually resent “having to do it all” – “make the money, put dinner on the table, and be super-mom” to afford the lifestyle she aspired to. “I don’t seek an extravagant lifestyle,” she wrote. “I want a 3-4 bedroom house with a patio and rooftop (~$600k in our city), I would like to work part-time once I have kids (or maybe even take one to two years off work), and I want to send my kids to a Jewish private school.”
She asked: “Is this a situation that can be rectified with the right approach, or do I need to choose between accepting life as the super-breadwinner or breaking up due to financial incompatibility? Is my concern valid, or is it shallow for me to think this way? Your perspective would be greatly appreciated. ”
Now, 2-1/2 years later, she writes in again with an update:
Thank you so much for responding to my message back in 2020. I thought I had replied and thanked you, but clearly I hadn’t! I’m so sorry about that. I found this especially impactful from your response:
My tl;dr advice: If your concern about your boyfriend’s salary and career ambition is the only/main issue in your relationship, it would be premature to move on. Spend some time discussing long-term goals with your boyfriend and what kind of joint income would be necessary to finance said goals. Check your own sexism. Instead of questioning how emasculated your boyfriend would feel by having a wife who earns a lot more, think about how YOU would feel having a husband who earns so much less. Are you sure it’s your boyfriend’s resentment you’re really worried about? How has your own socialization affected your vision of what a family should look like – what a marriage should look like – and how might that vision affect your pursuit of happiness? As you learn more about your boyfriend, it might be time for you to unlearn some of your own conceptions.
I did do some self-reflecting and was able to reframe why I was so concerned, and some of it did come down to my own conceptions about male/female roles and to reframing my expectations around what household income I would eventually have (compared to what I actually would need for the lifestyle I desire). I am happy to report we got married a few months ago and we are now expecting our first baby! My husband did recently get a new job as well! The income is similar, but there is a lot more upward mobility, which is exciting for both of us. That said, his getting a new job no longer factored into my satisfaction the way I once thought it might, and it became more about his career advancement and less about the actual paycheck. I couldn’t be happier in our marriage.
Thank you for your very leveled response which validated my concerns while also providing a different perspective. I was a little worried I would be super-judged as materialistic or greedy (like in some of the comments, of course :-)).
Oh, I’m so happy for you! Mazel Tov on the marriage, and best wishes on an easy pregnancy and labor. What an exciting time! Thank you for your update and sharing your good news.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
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