Are you an Undercover Woman Breadwinner? 3 Reasons you don’t want people to know (Read Time: 5 min.)

searchingThere’s very little research out there on women breadwinners.  As I flipped through study after study, what came up was the same thing:

Many women are resistant to talking about their breadwinner status out of fear of compromising their husbands’ masculinity and sense of self.

It’s an epidemic that can be seen article after article and study after study:

Women don’t want the neighbors, their friends or their families knowing that they bring in most of the income.


Here are 3 reasons:

  1. They don’t want their spouses feeling like sidekicks (rather than providers).  Even if it’s an absolute facade, many women breadwinners would rather keep their husbands’ self-esteem and masculinity in tact by playing down their success than owning their power and risking the loss of their spouse’s love and approval.
  2. They don’t want their friends and family reminding them why “he” still isn’t good enough.  There’s still a lot of people in our world who cling to the idea that the man should always make more, that he needs to be the provider, and that any man who doesn’t do that is an absolute loser.  Those kinds of stigmas impact women breadwinners as they try to keep the relationships with those people (parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers) in tact while also valuing what they have in their marriages.  However, when it becomes known that the woman is the breadwinner, people start to talk.  Parents start to give advice and friends start to look at both spouses funny  In fact, many still look at a stay-at-home-dad/high-powered working mom situation and think, “Why did she marry him?”  That stigma keeps many women breadwinners “in the closet.”
  3. They want to live in denial about the feelings of resentment, inequity and frustration being felt as a way to protect the relationship and avoid confrontation.  Sometimes, women breadwinners don’t make their status known because they’re still having a hard time understanding and accepting the relationship themselves.  Many women become breadwinners by circumstance (a spouse loses his job, gets sick, or she gets a fantastic job offer that she can’t turn down).  When it happens this way, many women assume that either their spouses will “catch up” or they’ll eventually lean back and their husbands will, once again, be the financial heroes they one were.  When that never pans out, resentment sets in and the only way to stuff that resentment down is to pretend like it doesn’t even exist.  But, ignoring the issue does not change it.

At the end of the day, there’s no reason to hide your power or to play small… not even for your spouse.  The woman breadwinner family dynamic is somewhat new but the issues that surround it are as old as time.  It’s important that all women breadwinners speak their truth, own their brilliance, and navigate through unexpected change and transition.  Does doing all of this guarantee a perfect outcome?  No, it doesn’t.  What it does guarantee is the opportunity to have a relationship and life a live that is both authentic and enjoyable.


The truth is always worth telling and living. 


One thought on “Are you an Undercover Woman Breadwinner? 3 Reasons you don’t want people to know (Read Time: 5 min.)

  1. SD

    I would add that for women breadwinners who are moms as well, that there is the stigma that we are somehow lesser mothers, and less committed to our children and families because of our working status.

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