The internet has broken over the now-confirmed new relationship between singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and Chiefs star Travis Kelce. Despite Kelce’s hefty NFL salary, Swift’s net worth trumps his almost 25 times over.
Heterosexual relationships in which women out-earn their partners are becoming more commonplace today. Globally, 40% of households now have a female primary breadwinner; in 1960, this statistic sat around 13%.
Although this change is promising when viewed through the lens of gender egalitarianism, research is steadily showing that this sharp gender bend might be causing all kinds of marital and relationship problems.
How Income Disparity Can Hamper A Relationship
Various studies over the last decade have examined how disparities in partners’ incomes can affect relationship satisfaction and outcomes. Overall, the findings are unfavorable for couples with female breadwinners. Research shows three ways relationships, specifically those in which women out-earn their partners, can suffer:
Cheating and infidelity. A study published in the American Sociological Review found that men with partners who earned more than them were more likely to cheat. Contrastingly, it was also found that women who earned more than their partners were less likely to cheat. The author explained that a man who is dependent on a woman may feel threatened, and the infidelity could act as an attempt to restore the balance of power and equity in their relationship. On the other hand, the author explained that female breadwinners are likely more faithful to neutralize the threat that out-earning their partners may cause.
Relationship satisfaction. An article from the Journal of Marriage and Family showed that relationship satisfaction diminishes for both men and women when shifting from dual-earning to female-breadwinning households. Surprisingly, the authors found that this effect was only partially influenced by traditional gender-role attitudes; even partners who were progressive in terms of ideas about conforming to societal gender roles were less satisfied in a female-breadwinning relationship. In fact, participants expressed most satisfaction in cases of male-breadwinner, female-homemaker households. This emphasizes that no matter how open-minded a partner might be, traditional values regarding income and divisions of labor seem to reign supreme in relationships.
Arguments and hostility.Research published in the Journal of Financial Therapy found that women who out-earned their partners were less likely to view them as meeting their expectations in the relationship. It also found that these women used more hostile and blame-like language when describing arguments with their partners and were less likely to have a “togetherness” outlook when navigating conflict within their relationships. The authors explained that partners’ differing stances on expectations, the division of domestic labor, goals and values within a relationship can exacerbate the stress that a female-breadwinning couple already experiences.
Are Couples Like Taylor And Travis Doomed?
Despite the gloomy findings, a gender-role contradictory relationship like that of Swift and Kelce isn’t necessarily doomed. The prospects for these relationships ultimately boil down to the quality and fulfillment of the bond between the partners themselves.
In terms of financial, satisfaction and emotional needs, a person’s dependency on their partner can greatly impact the quality of their relationship. Psychologists Janae and Barry Weinhold, prolific researchers and writers in the area of intimacy and interdependency in relationships, explain that dependency can be broken down into these three styles:
Codependent relationships. This is more than the cliche idea of having a clingy partner. A codependent relationship usually entails one partner who is overly dependent on the other, to the extent that they will bend to the other’s will in the hopes of keeping them around longer—often to the point where they no longer acknowledge boundaries.
Counterdependent relationships. This is the polar opposite of a codependent relationship, and it can be just as problematic. This dynamic entails someone who is terrified of becoming too close, dependent or trusting of their partner—mostly out of fear of losing themselves or being hurt. These relationships usually entail one partner feeling trapped and the other being pushed away.
Interdependent relationships. This is the Goldilocks zone. This dynamic involves both partners cherishing the bond that they share while simultaneously having a strong sense of self. They both view their partner and their relationship as essential, but each honors their own individuality, too.
In terms of income disparities between partners, these dependency styles can make or break how your relationship pans out. In female-breadwinning partnerships, the quality of the relationship can be mediated by how both partners depend on one another.
The relationship may become codependent, with the man becoming overly dependent on the breadwinner. This dynamic leads to higher chances of hostility and relationship dissatisfaction, research shows. On the other hand, the relationship could become counterdependent, with the man pushing away in the hopes of regaining balance and equity. Research also shows this to be linked to infidelity and cheating.
However, if each partner is grateful for the bond they share while also nurturing their individuality, both can flourish. A partner should never be what completes you—financially, emotionally or otherwise. Appreciating your partner for everything they contribute to the relationship while also recognizing what you bring to the table as an individual is key to a healthy and loving relationship—especially those that are gender-role contradictory.
When discussing the budding relationship between Swift and Kelce, a source close to Swift mentioned that she “wants a guy that is into his career, does his own thing, but is also supportive and understands her, and Travis Kelce fits those qualities.” Swift’s proclaimed preferences in a partner shed light on the importance of interdependence within a relationship. While being a female breadwinner can challenge the relationship values most are used to, it all comes down to appreciating what your partner brings to the relationship as well as your own sense of self.