Ask the Relationship Expert: 'As an Entrepreneur, I Earn Much More Than My Husband -- and It Bothers Him'
What happens when running a business gets in the way of your romantic relationship, or vice versa? In this new weekly column, relationship expert Marla N. Mattenson responds to entrepreneurs with love dilemmas -- because the hidden power of successful businesses are the stable, loving relationships behind the scenes.
I own multiple businesses and love to hustle, and so I make significantly more money than my husband. He was raised to believe that it's the man's role to provide for the family, and I feel it's seriously affecting his self-esteem. How can I get my husband to not feel so emasculated when I pay for things or take him out?
Generous Lady Boss
Congratulations on your success! I hear this issue more and more from ambitious and financially successful women. We often fear we might have to dim our light in some way to make other people comfortable -- even our partners. The first thing you need to do is satisfy your own curiosity, because you could be projecting your own insecurities. Ask him how he is impacted by you earning more money in the marriage. Regardless of his response, you can use this conversation as a way to get closer.
If he is uncomfortable, while it may feel as though he wants you to dim your light so he doesn't feel emasculated, let's assume the best that the deeper part of him wants you to shine bright. Also, his discomfort is not your work, it's his. Your job is to keep shining out bright.
When you're really committed to each other, you are willing to have some very uncomfortable conversations, especially around money. If you have separate accounts, and the handling of finances is tit-for-tat, that may exacerbate his feeling of lack. But, if you have joint accounts and you're truly in it together with clear boundaries and expectations around money, then he will feel more included in the financial process, which leads to feeling empowered.
Most ambitious, financially successful women who are in a partnership with a man who doesn't make as much money rarely care about discrepancy in earnings. We care more about attention and time and feeling like we're in his thoughts. If he's feeling emasculated, he's wondering what value he brings to the relationship. So, help him shift his viewpoint to unlink value and money and invite him to start linking value with time, attention and tangibles that don't cost money (like wildflowers picked on a hike). We all love to receive heartfelt love notes, warm bubble baths and breakfast in bed. Be sure to give positive reinforcement for his genuine effort to please you, even if he may miss the mark. The effort is what is praiseworthy, and this will help build his esteem in a loving, authentic way.