Earning this much more than your husband will make him uncomfortable

JStone / Shutterstock

It’s been widely reported that Kim Kardashian earns three times more than her husband Kanye West. According to new research, that might explain some of his outlandish behavior.

Ladies, here’s another uncomfortable dichotomy about marriage, relationships, and earning power.

We’re deep into an age where women are expected and encouraged to earn their own money, even within the confines of a marriage. But you had better toe the line if you want a happy union. Because, according to a new study of U.S. data from the University of Bath, if a woman earns more than 40% of the household’s income, it makes the husband downright uncomfortable. More than this, it even causes them a good deal of mental stress.

In fact, men show the most stress and tension when they’re entirely dependent on their female partner.

It looks like men want things to be equal — but not too equal.

Methodology

The wide-ranging study took place over 15 years and involved over 6,000 American heterosexual couples. It found that husbands are the most anxious when they are the sole breadwinners, taking full responsibility for the household’s finances. As women begin to help out financially, their stress declines – up until the point where women are contributing 40%.

But as women cross the 40% increase, watch out – that’s when husbands become stressed out, worried, and uneasy.

“These findings suggest that social norms about male breadwinning – and traditional conventions about men earning more than their wives – can be dangerous for men’s health,” said Dr. Joanna Syrda, an economist at the University of Bath’s School of Management, in a release. “They also show how strong and persistent are gender identity norms.”

Sydra added that this type of gender-based financial strain on men could lead to negative health problems, like physical illness, not to mention mental, emotional, and social problems.

This problem isn’t going away: figures from the Pew Research Centre in the US show only 13% of married women earned more than their husbands in 1980. But by 2017 the figure was close to one third.

And with the economy gone topsy-turvey with many stuck in the gig economy, it’s no longer safe to assume that the male partner earns more.

“With masculinity closely associated with the conventional view of the male breadwinner, traditional social gender norms mean men may be more likely to experience psychological distress if they become the secondary earner in the household or become financially dependent on their wives, a finding that has implications for managing male mental health and society’s understanding of masculinity itself,” she said.

Just a little bit unequal is most comfortable

For the sake of peace on the home front – and gender norms – the findings suggest it may be better when wives are earning a little less and husbands are earning a little more. Just ask science.

In this study, wives reported their husbands’ lowest discomfort was when they were contributing 50% of the household income, while husbands reported the lowest distress when their wives contributed 40%.

“The fact that a wife observes to a lesser degree her husband’s elevated psychological distress when he is financially dependent on her may be simply because he does not communicate it — this may be yet another manifestation of gender norms,” Sydra said.

The research was conducted by Dr. Joanna Syrda, an economist with the University of Bath, School of Management and published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.