When He Makes Less

While my new book, When She Makes More, directs advice towards breadwinning women, it is also a celebration of the wonderful, supportive men who love them.

Edward Coambs is one of these amazing men. He wrote to me a short while ago saying that after viewing my short trailer for the book, he became quite emotional. His wife, a dentist, makes more than him. After they had their first child he felt the need to step off the corporate track and become a full-time stay at home parent. “It has been an incredible journey for the last three three years… To say that our family has felt stress in the most unusual ways is an understatement,” he told me.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Edward’s honest feedback. I asked if he’d be willing to share more about his story for my blog and he generously agreed. Here is his story, a man’s reflection on what it is like to be in a relationship with a woman he loves, who happens also to make more.

Edward’s story begins here:

Little did I know how a trip to the pool hall would change my life forever. That night, a group of mutual friends introduced me to the love of my life: a stunning, captivating woman in her last year of dental school. I had never met anyone like her. At the time, I was the Average Joe: a firefighter  completing my undergraduate degree in business, and I was mesmerized by the professional path she had chosen.

My wife and I have now been married seven years. She has since started her own dental practice, and I have gone on to complete two graduate degrees. Despite all of the encouragement and support I have gotten on my journey, I have always felt a bit weird about having a wife who makes more than me, but I seldom express my own feelings of inadequacy.

While I would love to see myself as some super self-confident guy, I struggle at times with my sense of self and being the provider for my family. You see, doctors typically receive a certain level of dignity and respect because of their profession, and I sometimes feel I’m in the shadow of that. The only way that I could figure out how to step out of that shadow was to continually educate myself – hence the two master’s degrees.

“Despite all of the encouragement and support I have gotten on my journey, I have always felt a bit weird about having a wife who makes more than me, but I seldom express my own feelings of inadequacy.”

I have had plenty of guy friends say they would love to be in my position. Yet, I feel like they really don’t understand what it is like when she makes more. While our culture is starting to be more conscious and accepting of female breadwinners, for me, there have been many explicit and implicit messages about the role of the man in the family. They have only been exacerbated by me stepping off the corporate track and becoming a stay-at-home dad and full-time graduate  student. As a result, I entered two new worlds. First, I became totally reliant on my wife to provide for our family. Then, I found myself serving as “Mr. Mom.”  Talk about feeling out of place. During this season of life, it took a lot of patience, energy and support to maintain my sense of masculinity.

 I found myself serving as “Mr. Mom.”  

Talk about feeling out of place.

My wife has never made a big deal out of making more money then me. She has always provided me with the greatest levels of respect and dignity, especially in the simple things, like letting me pay for dinner on date night. Okay, I know that seems superficial, but it has helped me maintain a sense of masculinity. When she makes more, it really causes you to think about what it means to be a man and challenges our traditional view of men’s and women’s roles in marriage.

Up until this point, I’ve focused on my wife the dentist, but she’s also my wife the woman. Fortunately, I fell in love with the woman. What I have come to see over time is that my wife looks to me for nurturing, love and support – not money. Because her expectations of me are in line with what I can offer, we have a very healthy and enjoyable marriage.

Ed Coambs is a Certified Financial Planner and the founder of Marriage and Money Matters which help families build a financial house that matters.

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