The story of unequal pay: How I came to make more money than my husband

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On my first date with my would-be-husband I said, “You didn't tell me we're getting dinner.”

“I'm hungry,” he said.

So we went to dinner. He ordered a hamburger, fries and a milkshake. I ordered water.

Months later, when it looked like the relationship was serious, I told my would-be-husband, “You were a sociopath for not offering to pay for me that night.”

He said, “You didn't ask.”

“Ask?!?! Are you kidding me? I just left graduate school because I ran out of money and you just got promoted to a video game producer! You should pay!” I was screaming.

He didn't scream back. And he couldn't understand why I didn't ask for what I wanted at dinner. Those were two reasons that I stayed with him. Another reason was that he was doing video art that was shown in New York art museums. I was a grad school dork. He was an art-crowd hipster. I felt like my ship had come in.

I got a job writing for a large company and after watching Tano project manage, I convinced my company that I could do that, too. After a few years together, our finances were on par and we found ourselves applying to similar jobs.

One week, we both applied for the same job at GeoCities. The company was hot at the time, and a little unreasonable given the fact that employees were harder to come by than jobs (ahh, those were the days). In order to get through the interview process, I put up with a lot of corporate bullshit. No only did Tano refuse to put up with it, but he wrote a letter to GeoCities explaining that they asked for so much information from perspective employees that he should get paid to go through the interview process.

That was the turning point in our careers. I started making more money than him. I got funding for my own company. He got laid off and spent his unemployment money funding a new video project.

He became more and more successful as a video artist (read: no money, exciting parties), and I became more successful as an executive (read: lots of money, boring parties). The income disparity became larger and larger until it was clear that I would be supporting us long term.

We started planning our future so that my husband would stay home with our kids and his video editing equipment, and I would continue working as a software executive.

Then Sept. 11 hit us. I was a block away from the World Trade Center when it fell, and weeks later, my company went bankrupt. My husband's way to deal with the trauma was to volunteer at human rights organizations (read: Save the world). My way to deal was to get pregnant (read: Save my eggs).

I never planned to stay home with the baby. It just happened. First there were no jobs in the software industry. Then my husband landed his dream job at a non-profit. And then I fell in love with being a mom.

So we took a huge risk: We decided to give up my large earning potential as corporate climber, cut back our expenses drastically, and live off his entry-level non-profit salary.

My friends said, “He's finally making more than you. Doesn't it feel good?” My mom said, “When will he get a raise?” As usual, I ignored the comments.

But I got bored. I wanted to be in business again. So I took a small freelance writing job I had and got a babysitter for a few hours a day so I could grow my freelance writing. After a few months, I was making more money than my husband, again.

Now I understand that I am inherently good at making money and he is not. When I first met him, I needed money, and he had enough for a hamburger, which made him a good guy for me to date. Now that I have confidence in the workforce, I need the things money can't buy; my husband is interesting, kind and a great dad, and I feel lucky to have him. Sure, we all wish we could marry a millionaire, but you can't have everything in a spouse, so I made sure to get the important things.

7 replies
  1. TJ
    TJ says:

    By not buying dinner for you, he probably endeared himself to you. Seduction gurus like Mystery and Neil Strauss say never to buy a woman drinks or dinner on the first date.

  2. jcutter
    jcutter says:

    I am in the same boat. I have been supporting my husband through a very early (early 30s) disability retirement from federal law enforcement and career change, starting a business change for the past 2 years. He has a pension, but it could cover our house payment and nothing else. He does have health insurance for us though. Anywho, I am the breadwinner and in a miserable career. I am having Baby #1, and I think that will be the impetus for change. I wish that I had a neurologist hubby sometimes, but he is a wonderful husband, and I think a great dad to be. We’ve been together since I was 18 – 14 years. I would rather be with him a million times over than anyone else. I have to remind myself of that whenever I get frustrated.

  3. Ken Jennings, Author of Make Money Online
    Ken Jennings, Author of Make Money Online says:

    While I make more money than my wife, I would say in our group of friends it’s pretty evenly split 50/50. But what’s a bit unusual is in the cases where the wife makes more in our circle of friend, she makes quite a bit more than her husband, while the guys seem to make just a bit more. I’d say in many ways things equaled out, maybe not in all cases but it’s geting close.

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