Do Women Breadwinners Play Coy about their Achievements for the Sake of their Partners’ Ego?

As I was writing “Female Breadwinners” I had a coaching session with a client that reminded me why this was such an important topic to discuss openly. I had spent the afternoon with Raina, who worked at an investment bank. She was delighted to talk, enthusiastically saying the coaching work we’d already done together had paid off! After holding her ground in negotiations, and asking for more than she would have accepted, she was awarded a larger bonus than anticipated.

In passing, she mentioned: ‘I need to be careful about how excited I am when I tell my fiancé, Rafiq. I know he’s proud of my achievements, but I think he feels slightly threatened by the fact I earn so well.’  Raina and Rafiq had met on an MBA programme. While she had gone straight into financial services, he had recently set up a small start-up consultancy. She continued: ‘His company isn’t growing at the pace he would have liked and I think he feels slightly competitive with me. No doubt, he’ll be happy I’m bringing home more money. But there will be a small part of him that will resent that it’s not him bringing it in.’

Certainly many of the women I spoke with, particularly if they were early on in a relationship, didn’t think they should brag about their earnings to their boyfriends and partners. They mentioned resentment and slight jealousy, and tactics for downplaying their success.  I am pleased to say that as these women aged, they became more forthright in owning their achievements outright. True, there is a confidence in your worth that often comes with age. Plus, after a couple had been together a long time – they tended to operate more as a team, which also made her successes feel more like a team celebration.

But I would warn that if you find yourself routinely downplaying compliments from others or your latest promotion in order to not threaten the ego of your partner, consider if it is the right relationship for you. Playing the ‘little woman’ serves no one, and will make you resent him in the long term.
I wrote “Female Breadwinners: How they Make Relationships Work and Why they are the Future of the Modern Workforce” to get under the skin of what goes on for this growing group of women. To reserve your signed copy, at an introductory discount click here.

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