According to a new research, being the sole breadwinner of a family comes with more than just the responsibility of financing the household. The study, which was conducted by University of Connecticut, USA, revealed that the health and psychological well-being of the sole male earner were adversely affected over a period of time.
Traditionally, men are the breadwinners in India. Experts suggest watching out for the signs in order to identify the condition and control the damage.
Clinical psychologist Tanushree Bhargava says, “You can find out his mental state from the way he talks about his problems, or the way he reacts to situations.” The signs include severe fatigue, mood swings, angry outbursts, irritable remarks, anxiety and depression. “The stress of this burden can lead to various chronic health problems,” adds Bhargava.
A fine balance
The survey also revealed that men whose wives earned almost as much as they did were “happier and healthier”. Bhargava says, “When your wife earns as much as you do, you both share the burden. This affects your happiness and health. But then, the perspective of the man could also decide the outcome.” Perhaps that’s why it isn’t as simple when it comes to women earning more than their husbands. There have been enough cases in India of men feeling insecure because their wives are earn more.
Nonetheless, the survey claims that it is better for a woman’s psychological well-being to be earning as much as her husband.
Having said that, experts believe that well-earning women, in India, have to walk a fine line to make sure they aren’t bruising any egos. She adds, “Make sure your husband doesn’t lose his self-respect because you earn more. Take all your decisions with his consent. Set financial goals together. Share your children’s responsibilities with him. Get him to do household tasks, and split all your expenses.”
Case study 1
‘I was on the brink of a mental breakdown’
I have been married for six years. Three years into our marriage, my wife told me that she was pregnant. We decided to go ahead with the unplanned pregnancy. My wife was working at that time. But five months into the pregnancy, she decided to quit her job. Our expenses were increasing because of the frequent tests my wife had to undergo. Our income had shrunk too, because my wife wasn’t working anymore. Though I had some savings, they were for our future and for emergencies. But by the time our child was born, I had already started using up my savings, and additional expenses for the newborn weren’t helping. Money had become so important that I had started travelling by bus. I bought a second class railway pass. By the time my baby was two, my savings were over. I started borrowing money from my friends. My office didn’t increase my salary, and I couldn’t jump to another company as the job situation was bad. I was on the brink of a mental breakdown. This was when my wife offered to start working again to make ends meet. Thanks to both our salaries, my life is now stable. I have even repaid my debts.
Nirav Shirke*, 34, marketing professional
Case study 2
‘My husband felt he had let me down’
I have been married for the last three years. When we got married, my husband and I were making almost the same amount of money. He was making slightly more. But, a year into our marriage, I changed jobs because our expenses had shot up. I was suddenly earning almost twice as much as he did. Soon, I was taking care of most of the expenses at home. I never realised then that something was brewing in my husband’s mind. Whenever I would pay the bill at a restaurant or buy clothes for him, there was a change in is demeanor. If I wanted to buy something expensive, which he usually wouldn’t have bought for me, he would tell me that I was wasting money, or that I was flaunting my wealth. Before getting married, my husband had promised me that he would give me the best of everything. But since the exact opposite was happening, maybe he was feeling like he had let me down. I never asked him the reasons for his changed behaviour. I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire. So, I decided to change myself. I stopped splurging and let him take the lead. After a while, his behaviour changed. He would buy what he could afford, and for what he couldn’t, he would ask me to pool in. Now I know where I went wrong.
Majula Vora*, 29, banker
* name changed on request