Should I Worry That He Earns Less Money?


(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.


Now, about your family and their feedback: This conflict is on you. They are up in your business because you invited them in by spilling the tea on what you and your man earn. They never should have been told that information, especially not about him.

Surely some of them have heard of or observed relationships in which the man treated the woman poorly because she made more money, and their naysaying about your upcoming nuptials is coming from a place of genuine concern. Others will never think anyone is good enough for their kinfolk, so what they're saying about your man isn't personal at all. If it weren't this issue that you gave them the ammunition for, then it would be something else to pick at. And still others just don't want you to be happy because they aren't.


Your job isn't to figure out who falls into which category, only to decide if your partner is right for you and if you are committed to this upcoming union. It doesn't really matter much what your family thinks of him; they are not marrying him. If you're marrying to please your family, then you should let them pick your husband.

If you need to talk out your relationship conflicts with someone, call a friend who is a good listener, is discreet and a helpful problem solver, not an instigator. Or you can always call a life coach or a therapist. The cost of hiring a professional is worth keeping your family out of your business.


Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at