Should I Worry That He Earns Less Money?

Ask Demetria: Despite your family's concerns about your mate's salary, it doesn't mean he'll cheat.


(The Root) —

“I’m 28 and make $100,000 per year. My fiance, 31, makes $50,000. He’s a great guy and we have a true partnership, but my family is telling me to reconsider because he makes less. They say that men who make less than their women tend to eventually cheat and treat their wife poorly. Is this true? Can I do anything to avoid this?” —T.V.

Your family members might have come across a 2010 Cornell University study that found men who earn less money are more likely to cheat, up to five times as much when they are completely dependent on their partner for financial security. That same study also found that men who make significantly more than their partners were likely to cheat, too.

If you want to increase the likelihood of a man not cheating, then according to the study, you should earn 25 percent less than he does. Oh, and both of you should be churchgoers and college-educated, both of which lessen the likelihood of infidelity but don’t eliminate it.

When it comes to relationships, we’ve all been bombarded with these kinds of statistics. We should take note of them to be informed about trends and possibilities, but we shouldn’t go around living our lives by what the numbers say. Fortunately, people are more complex than percentage points.

If you’re going by what a study says, then do something idiotic like quit your six-figure job and go find work that pays around $38,000, so your man can feel like a breadwinner and be faithful. Or you could do something equally crazy like drop the “great guy” you found and the relationship you describe as a “true partnership” — because, you know, those are so easy to find — and go in search of a man who makes around $140,000 and hope that for the next 30 or so years until retirement, your salaries grow at the same pace.

Then again, you could just do something entirely practical and logical like let love rule — not statistics — and marry the man you adore who treats you well. If the enduring recession should have taught us anything over the last few years, it’s that jobs come and go. Being the breadwinner today (20 percent of women are), or even being employed, is no guarantee for tomorrow.

Marriage isn’t about for now; it’s about forever. If his current (and quite respectable) paycheck is of great concern to you — which I’m not entirely sure it is; you seem to be hyped up by your family — then you should rethink getting married.