Does the Breadwinner in a Relationship Set the Boundaries?

Couple with money

In the past, the breadwinners in a relationship were typically men, but times have changed, and according to research, women are almost just as likely to be a breadwinner nowadays.

Unfortunately, regardless of who the breadwinner in a relationship is, being the breadwinner can make things complicated. It also comes with extra responsibility and stress because being the sole provider can be challenging when you need to cater to another person’s needs and wants.

Additionally, the breadwinners of a relationship and household often need to create a healthy balance that can be challenging to achieve. They can also feel they must set boundaries, which can add further fuel to the fire and cause countless fights and arguments in a relationship.

To avoid troublesome situations, many people in relationships wonder: Does a relationship’s breadwinner set the boundaries? In our article, we’ll answer this question and discuss why being the breadwinner profoundly affects a relationship. In addition, we’ve also provided a few handy tips on how to set long-lasting healthy boundaries in a relationship when you earn more than your partner.

How Does Who the Breadwinner Is Affect a Relationship? – Setting Boundaries

So how exactly are relationships affected by who the breadwinner is? The answer to this boils down to whether you are male or female. Let’s delve deeper than the surface on this one.

Statistically, if the woman is the breadwinner, they sometimes lose respect for their partner and often finds their partner less attractive. On the male side, they will often feel they have more dominance and a boosted ego with a need to try and control the money.

This is because we get taught from a young age that money equals power, and power can lead to controlling behaviors, aggression, and a superiority complex. This is especially true when one partner earns significantly more than the other.

Also, when one partner is the breadwinner, maintaining a respectful relationship can be tricky when no parameters are set. Yet boundaries in a relationship shouldn’t be established only by the breadwinner but instead by both partners to ensure equity. After all, when equity is absent, it can cause a swift end to romance and the relationship.

This is why both partners need to set aside their egos, sit down with each other, and communicate. And remember, although essential to sustain a decent lifestyle, money should not be at the forefront of the relationship dynamic. Both partners should be on equal footing in respect and value regardless of whether one earns more than the other.

Does the Breadwinner Set the Boundaries? – The Answer to Your Question

Regarding whether the breadwinner in a relationship sets the boundaries, the answer is yes and no. Ultimately, as the breadwinner, you will need to be able to tell your partner when you are unable to afford something and when you cannot. You will also have to be upfront with them and tell them what you’re willing to pay for and what you want them to cover.

Even though you earn more as the breadwinner, it isn’t fair that you be delegated most of the payments unless you want to be the one paying for everything. However, there are nuances to this rule. For example, if your partner is in college studying and can’t cover expenses or stays home with the children so that you can work, you would naturally need to cover most things until the dynamic changes.

Ultimately, you both should be setting clear boundaries. As long as you can respect, sympathize, communicate, and compromise, navigating the relationship should be smooth and easy despite the stress. Being the primary provider is no easy thing, especially mentally, so take it seriously and don’t try to be superior just because you earn more.

Top Six Tips on Ensuring a Healthy Relationship as the Breadwinner

Ensuring a healthy relationship as a breadwinner can be challenging, especially if you want a harmonious one.

Fortunately, you can follow a few tips that make setting boundaries less scary — and one that’s guaranteed to ensure a healthy and prosperous relationship with your partner. See below to learn these tips so you can enact them and save your relationship before it’s jeopardized over how much more you earn.

1. Identify What You Both Need and Want

In a relationship where one partner is the breadwinner and the other earns less, it’s essential to identify what you both need and want. Sometimes the breadwinner can try to dictate what their partner needs or desires because they hold the metaphorical ‘purse strings.’

You want to avoid doing this at all costs because it is disrespectful to your partner and can create many relationship problems down the line.

Luckily, a simple conversation with your partner can help you, and they understand what you both need in your day-to-day life and what you would like that makes you happier.

For example, you can discuss what groceries should be bought and how much money should be used to pay off debts and for outings together instead of doing it alone as the breadwinner.

You would be surprised by how much smoother your relationship will be when your partner doesn’t feel like you are lording your money over them.

Couple talking about money

2. Understand Your Limits and Stick To Them

One of the essential tips you must follow is to understand your limits and stick to them – especially when it comes to time spent making and spending money.

When looking through statistics, the household’s breadwinners will more often than not work themselves quite literally to death. Usually, it comes from having too many jobs or signing up for way more overtime than their tired bodies can handle.

While it is important to sustain your income, things tend to catch up with you, and before you know it, you will be dealing with health issues that can put tremendous strain on your relationship.

So take time off wherever possible and ensure you get adequate time to sleep, and concerning finances and limits, it boils down to keeping within the assigned budget.

This means that if you (the breadwinner) have set aside money for all your wants and have spent it all, don’t spend further than that. This can be hard and frustrating but rest assured, if you want it, it will still be there when you have funds available next month.

This should also be applied to your partner. Set a clear limit on how much they can spend on the things they want. Ensure that you exercise discipline with those limits, and you will be far happier for it.

3. Know When to Ask For Help

There will be times when you, as the breadwinner, will feel the weight and burden is too overwhelming, and you will reach the inevitable breaking point. This is when communication and compromise are crucial.

You will need to swallow your pride and be unafraid to sit down with your partner and family and ask for help. Asking for help will lead to finding solutions together and getting the assistance you need to get through your rough patch.

Some examples of solutions your partner can undertake to help out financially include:

  • Your partner can work a part-time or a work-from-home job to cover more minor expenses to take those off your plate.
  • You can cover cheaper expenses while your partner puts more money into the necessities.
  • Your partner could get a full-time job to be on a more even playing field financially, which will alleviate some of your stress as the breadwinner.

Ultimately, asking for help will lead you to divide the responsibilities financially, which will likely give you some relief. It might also create a new relationship dynamic where financial burdens are shared with your partner – even though you are the primary breadwinner.

4. Take Pride in Your Achievements but Don’t Over Do It

The fastest way to kill your relationship as a breadwinner is to take too much pride in your financial achievements. This applies especially when your partner doesn’t work or earns significantly less income than you.

Essentially, as a breadwinner, you must share your achievements without putting down your partner. Avoid saying things like, ‘I’ve been promoted, and my job is way more stressful than yours’ or ‘you only have to pay for x, and I have to pay for everything else, thank goodness I got a higher income.’

Comments like this are not only hurtful and demeaning but also unnecessary. If you genuinely love your partner, you shouldn’t try to one-up them or succeed by placing their achievements in the shadows. So be careful what you say when boasting, as guarding your words can go a long way in the grand scheme of things. After all, you should never make your partner feel less than others.

5. Try Not to Be Too Controlling over Money

Financial abuse is a real thing. Unfortunately, you can easily fall into the ‘financial abuser category’ when you are the primary or sole breadwinner. Being financially abusive is when you control every aspect of the relationship’s finances, including whether or not your partner works and how they spend their income.

You likely don’t want to be seen as financially abusive, so you need to try not to be overly controlling regarding money.

This means you must try not to ask too many questions when your partner asks you for money to get something they need.

Remember that it can be humiliating enough to ask. Be financially supportive, open, and tentative to your partner; they will do the same when they can – trust us.

Additionally, you can put a few solutions in place that ensure you aren’t financially controlling or abusive as the primary breadwinner. 

For example, instead of making your partner ask you for money for everything they need, provide them with an allowance for your partner.

Setting a budget for how much a breadwinners partner can spend.

Moreover, another excellent solution is to never demand that they keep receipts and track every penny they spend for you to see.

Essentially the less financially controlling you are, the more peaceful your relationship will be – even if you’re the sole breadwinner.

6. Always Keep Each Other’s Perspective in Mind

The last tip we will leave you with is always to try to see things from your partner’s perspective and vice versa. Often, as breadwinners, we get so wrapped up in the stress and how we feel that we forget to change our mindsets and look at things from our partner’s point of view.

Let’s look at a couple of examples that detail why a breadwinner needs to keep their partner’s perspective in mind when setting boundaries:

Example one: When a mother needs to stay home while the father works, sometimes tension occurs when the mom needs a break after the dad gets home. This is an exceptionally touchy topic since the mother often stays home to care for the children and the household and doesn’t get paid for it. Yes, the husband may have worked a full day, but so too did the mother, and it can be easy to forget or disregard this fact.

Example Two: When your partner asks for something they need, you immediately get frustrated because it will cost money. Understandably, you are a little stressed, but huffing and puffing while snapping at your partner only makes them feel worse for not being able to bring monetary value.

In situations like these, you need to remember that although you’re the primary breadwinner, when setting boundaries, you need to involve your partner as they have a perspective too.

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