Alpha Wives, Beta Husbands

February 17th, 2014

Are you the breadwinner in your relationship? Are you making more money than your husband? Are you frustrated and resentful, or are you proud and grateful? Could you be with a man if you were the one working and bringing home the bacon, and he was the one organizing playdates and park excursions? I have a few coaching clients currently in this position… they’re called Alpha Wives, or Breadwinning Wives. And they exist in large numbers today.

alpha wives

Let’s look at the facts. Women are holding some of the highest-ranking positions in society today, and our success has been increasing each year. I discuss this topic in my book.  Angela Merkel, #1 on the 100 Most Powerful Women’s list 2013, is the Chancellor of Germany (Forbes). Other women in the top 25 on this list are Sheryl Sandberg (COO Facebook), Dilma Rousseff (President of Brazil), Indra Nooyi (President PepsiCo), Virginia Rometty (CEO IBM), Ursula Burns (CEO Xerox), and Anne Sweeney (President Disney & ABC Television). Wow. Women are running Corporate America! No more info required. So, with this increased power and higher earning potential, it is not uncommon today for the woman to be out-earning the man. In fact, it’s becoming a trend. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in recent years, 33.5% of wives earned more than their husbands.

So how are these Alpha Women, Beta Men fairing as couples? Now while many women look at these stats with pride, many of these 33.5% feel it to be an awful burden. Some of these women are overly exhausted, resentful and suffering. I spoke to women who said, that despite knowing what they were getting themselves into when they married a man who they knew would not earn as much as them, they still can’t help but still fantasize about the Knight in Shining Armor, showing up, sweeping them off their feet, and then paying for the $400.00 pair of Gucci shoes that go on those feet!! Some women feel simply resentful and angry to be the breadwinning wives. I interviewed one nameless woman, who ended a relationship because she was “Tired of constantly reaching in my pocket. I am from the generation where a man takes care of his woman, not the other way around.”

But, for another couple of women I spoke with, they were okay bringing home the bacon… and then frying it too!  One mom told me she wasn’t “cut out to stay home,” and it works “brilliantly,” with her husband caring for their little baby girl while she practices law. For me personally, despite being a very modern-thinking  woman, I am not on the fence here. If I am to be honest, I don’t think I would want to be the primary breadwinner in my family.

But I am always in awe when I look across the street. There lives a beautiful family. Mother, father, three well-behaved handsome boys. The portrait: dad in the driveway, playing basketball and hockey with his son. Except, it’s not a Sunday afternoon. It’s a Tuesday at 10:45AM. Mom is nowhere to be seen. In fact, she is a doctor at a prominent hospital here in Montreal. They are a lovely couple. And it works for them. I have spoken to both of them separately… he walks the kids to school, buys the groceries, and plays with the little one while the two bigger boys are in school. She is a happy, fulfilled, busy doctor. All parties say they’re happy. I watch in admiration while this patient, loving, devoted, stay-at-home dad cares for his boys. I give him “kol hakavod,” or all the respect, as we say in Hebrew.

breadwinning wives

I always wondered how Oprah, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears felt. In fact, if you watched the Oprah / Whitney Houston interview a years ago, you saw how Whitney wrestled with the notion of out-earning her husband, rapper Bobby Brown. In fact, she said she would often lower herself emotionally to his level to make him feel at ease with himself. She almost belittled her own success, to stay at par with his. When you think about it, it is sad. Being a “Sugar Momma,” as they’re also sometimes called, is not always sweet.

But during my talks with a couple of these breadwinning women, I got the picture that they are not the only ones struggling here. Many of the Beta men are struggling as well. Not every beta man is happy in his position (like my neighbor is). Many are just as resentful of their wives, and even jealous that they get to jet off to work, with the household responsibilities falling on their shoulders. Or better, if both partners are working, but the woman is out-earning the man, this can cause tremendous friction in a marriage as well.

woman outearning man

So how does this effect marriages today? Well, all of this has two effects: Studies show that with women earning more money, they can afford to be pickier about their spouses, truly finding the right match and therefore having a positive impact on the divorce rate. But on the flip side, now with women having higher earning potential than ever, it makes it easier to leave an existing marriage, therefore spiking the divorce rate. There are really two sides to this story.

But I want you to take a moment today, and think about the following: If you were out working, paying all the bills, and when you arrived home, your house was clean, the kids were bathed, dinner was waiting on the table, would you feel so badly about being the breadwinner? It’s an interesting thought.

So I ask you, would you want to be the breadwinner of the family? Are you an alpha wife? If you are, are you fulfilled and proud, or do you find yourself at your breaking point?  Can you provide some advice and support for other alpha wives drowning in the double standard of bringing home the bacon, cooking it, and just trying to make it all work?  This is my goal for today’s Blog. To help a woman somewhere, struggling in her situation.

Until next time… Happy President’s Day, Happy Family Day and Happy Random Acts of Kindness Day,

Erica3

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6 Responses to “Alpha Wives, Beta Husbands”

  1. DaisyNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been the Alpha earner in our family for years. My husband has no problem with the balance. His dad, however, had a hard time accepting that my income tops his son’s. It’s more a generational concern than a gender concern in our family.

    Both my husband and his brother married strong women, professional women. I think his parents are still scratching their heads and trying to figure us out.

  2. Tracy GibbNo Gravatar says:

    I wouldn’t mind being the alpha wife but I wouldn’t want my husband referred to as the beta because he was home with our children. If it was the other way around and he called me the beta when I was a SAHM, I probably would throw a punch (just kidding but I definitely would think about it). I think it takes an extremely strong confident man to be a stay at home parent.

  3. LizNo Gravatar says:

    I am the breadwinner. I don’t like the term alpha wife; that implies one role is more dominant than the other. I think if we stop worrying about what others think of us, things become a lot easier. I’m good at work. My husband is good at home. Gender shouldn’t dictate who brings home the bacon and who fries it up in a pan.

  4. I’m pretty comfortable with earning more than my hubs. He works full-time and makes a good living, too. If he were a stay-at-home dad, I might feel more pressure as the sole breadwinner. Honestly, who wouldn’t — man or woman? Supporting a whole family all by yourself is a big load to carry.

    That being said, I don’t act like an “alpha wife” (maybe Hubs would disagree ;) ) and believe it’s important for partners to treat each other like equals. If one person feels more “important” in the relationship, that’s a dangerous imbalance.

    Great topic — interesting to hear your perspective via your clients.

  5. Rachel HarrisonNo Gravatar says:

    NO NO NO!!!!!!! Don’t want to be an alpha wife. Too much pressure.

  6. Non AlphaNo Gravatar says:

    I have a part time job and don’t earn that much money but I would hate being an alpha wife. I am old fashioned in that I want to respect my man for being the man of the house and that means supporting us.

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