"In some family structures, neither the male nor the female ego plays a major role," says well-known psychologist and author of Shatter Your Glass Ceiling, Cecile Gerricke.
"It's becoming more common for a man to use the vacuum cleaner as well as the lawn mower and to empty the washing machine or dishwasher without being perceived as somehow emasculated."
"But some men find it impossible to swap these roles," says Gerricke, "especially men who are stuck in traditional attitudes, who believe that a man's role is to make money and a woman’s role is to make babies and stay at home.
"For these men, the size of their home, the type of car they drive and the schools their children attend represent their success. A man like this will almost definitely
experience conflict when 'traditional' gender roles are turned upside down and his wife or girlfriend actually earns more than him."
"A man who can't make the gender shift often feels like he has failed in the traditional role as provider," says Gericke. "This leads to low self-esteem, which, in turn, causes him to lash out at his partner."
Such a man accuses his wife of having affairs with a colleague; he questions every function she has to attend and is suspicious if she has to work late. Some men start accusing their wives of everything from frigidity to promiscuity.
"A successful woman who is involved with a man with low self-esteem, who can't handle her financial success, can get very depressed by the belittling accusations that her partner makes," says Gericke.
If you earn more than him and it causing tension, try these practical steps:
Don't shut him out
In these trying situations, successful women are often forced to adopt a very businesslike approach. "This may be necessary to ensure their success in their careers but it
does little for their personal relationships," adds Gericke.
"They develop an ability to "shut off" and refuse to discuss the situation. Her partner, who already feels emotionally uncomfortable, then experiences a further emotional blow from his wife’s distant attitude."
Making the relationship work
"Money is often the excuse for a couple to argue," says Cecile, "when in fact there may be underlying issues. Times have changed and women don't need to apologise for earning more but they must also be sensitive when they deal with their partner who may have a fragile ego.
"Men need to see the fact that their partner is doing
well as a positive thing and not as a threat to their masculinity. Couples need to celebrate each other's strengths and successes."
Communication is vital
A couple must discuss the problems. The man has to have an outlet for his feelings and the woman should understand that she needs to be sensitive in not making him feel useless and inadequate.
"Men are very touchy in the arena of earnings," says well known psychologist, Dr Bernard Levenstein. "His partner earning more than him can really undermine him. It takes a lot of maturity from a man to handle this situation.
If a woman is earning more, she must be hyper-aware of her partner and his needs. The most effective way of dealing with this situation is for the man not to see earning capacity as a reflection or direct sign of his potency. Go out of your way to make him feel potent and never ever throw it at him that you earn or pay for more. This is a sure way to make the man feel inadequate.
Start with an open and honest discussion. This must take place without any accusations of 'you do this' or 'you do that'. Rather use the 'I' message.
Instead of saying, "You are aggressive", say, "I
experience you as being aggressive". Then it is not an attack but a subjective experience.
Listen to what your partner is saying. The imago-technique can be used very successfully in such circumstances.
The imago-technique requires that person A is allowed to talk without person B interrupting; person B only listens. Person B must then summarise what he heard from A. A then answers and says whether what B heard is what A actually meant.
The process is then repeated and B talks while A listens. In this way they are prevented from yelling at each other and both parties learn to really talk to each other.
Is money ever an issue in your relationship? How do you address it? Talk about it in the comment box below.