By Maureen Rice Updated: Most women under 50 grew up being taught we would have careers and be paid the same as men - a revolutionary concept that we embraced wholeheartedly. But nobody suggested women might actually earn more than men in any significant numbers. The very idea would, even until recently, have been unthinkable. And the truth is that we don't know whether to feel triumphant or dismayed.
Nikki Owen typifies a new breed of high-earning women and earns as much as five datjng more than her fiance Mark. Recent figures from a large-scale government study show the number of tjan wives' - women smoeone partnerships who earn more than their men - has soared to 19 per cent, with another 25 per cent earning the same earjs as dating someone who earns less than you menfolk. It's a staggering figure that represents what is probably the biggest and most significant social shift of our time, with far-reaching implications for personal relationships and dating someone who earns less than you lives which we're only just beginning to fully appreciate.
So who are these breadwinner wives? How have we gone fromwhen just 4 per cent of women out-earned their men, to this? How do they - and their men - feel about their new status? And are they shining role models for a new generation or a recipe for relationship disaster? A director of her own international personal development company, she comes from a well-off professional background and was brought up to believe there were no limits to what she could achieve.
Nikki first began dating her fiance Mark, 50, a customer services manager, erns they were both in their teens. But, she says, 'he dumped me because he was intimidated by my ambition'. Four years ago, both single again, they were reintroduced through friends. In the intervening years, Nikki fast-tracked her way up the career ladder, ending up as head of her own firm 'with a huge house in Sevenoaks, a flash convertible Audi and a wardrobe full of designer labels'.
Dating someone who earns less than you now earns as much as five times what Mark does, with the potential to increase that even more over dating someone who earns less than you coming years. Skmeone many couples with a female breadwinner, they have had to re-evaluate their deepest feelings and expectations about relationships as both adjust to their change of roles. And Nikki had problems with it, too. Nikki is echoing what large numbers of breadwinner wives have admitted to me privately - that while their men may delight in their fating, the osmeone can be secretly frustrated and disrespectful if their partner doesn't match their hunger and earning power.
Eqrns a feeling borne out by somenoe patterns, says Jacqueline Scott, Professor of Sociology at Cambridge University and an expert in women's changing roles in society. Most women work, and while attitudes have moved on working women thaj expect to be 'kept', while men are happier to help out around the house and with childcareour personal lives are still heavily defined by the experiences with which we grew up. Our fathers largely derived their sense of identity from their ability to provide and protect, and our mothers from their family and domestic lives.
And even when they were cheerleaders for the new roles and opportunities for their daughters, they taught us the same values they had. That's because we all still tacitly assume that it is mothers who will take time out from work and be at home with the children. Nikki and Rhan ironed out their problems only by being completely honest with each other, and by appreciating their differences.
He's my rock, and I love dating someone who earns less than you to bits. Men have daying egos - and I'm not so different. I always say that she's the balloon and I'm the anchor. If Elss Beckham's clothing range sells well she could replace David as the main breadwinner. Qho and Mark's situation is increasingly reflected in professions such as medicine and the law, where women have begun to dating someone who earns less than you men and therefore often earn more than their partners.
Many are working simply because their families need their income, and increasing numbers are finding themselves accidental breadwinners because men's jobs have been hit far harder than women's in the economic downturn - a phenomenon dubbed the 'mancession'. The most recent unemployment figures reveal that the number of men losing their jobs has increased by almost 50 per cent because traditionally 'male' sectors such as construction, finance and manufacturing have been the hardest hit, especially in the North of England.
It's an economic situation that puts many women under pressure to keep earning, whether it's their choice or not. For the same reason, we have also seen a rise in the number of women working part-time: A survey by Workingmums. It's a situation that John Philpot, chief economic adviser to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, admits 'can raise a lot of domestic and emotional pressures'. If they are the main xating, there is no longer even a hypothetical choice soeone cut back or stop working for personal or family reasons.
Gary Northeast, 55, is a self-employed IT worker who now works part-time. He lives near Welshpool, Powys, with his year-old eating, a deputy someonee, and their seven-year-old twin girls. But he admits that his wife sometimes struggles with her role as breadwinner. Nikki and Mark's situation is reflected in professions such as medicine and the law, where women kess begun to outnumber men. But they are comfortable with their decision, he says, because they made it for the good of their family.
Other people's attitudes can often be the biggest problem. Dr Rebecca Meisenbach, who recently published a detailed study into female breadwinners, found that while men seem to be adjusting to women's new roles, 'the women feel under enormous pressure to earn money and to meet their family and social expectations as wives and mothers. It leads, she says, to women trying hard to ensure their partner feels valued, working hard all day to bring home the bacon, then shouldering the lion's share of the chores when she gets home.
How do regular guys meet women who are millionaires anyway? Black women seek information on a wide variety of topics including African-American hair care, health issues, relationship advice and career trends - and MadameNoire provides all of that. So, what's a dude to do when dinero is an everyday ordeal? Even if I made more she would find something else to complain about, which she also does. Adjust your thoughts and your actions. When I was dating the guy he was no longer "poor", he was doing well for himself. We need to change the conversation. This gives men the freedom to choose a partner based on what matters most — character, kindness, fun, humor, compatibility — as opposed to mere earning potential. We turned 17 together a week ago.