Differences in salary and the dream of developing a career can cause problems among couples. Learn how to overcome them.
Medical advisor Luz Amparo Salazar – Psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
Reaching professional goals (moving up in a company, getting recognition, having meaningful work) has become essential in the modern world and has led people to bring out the best of themselves with regard to discipline, creativity and responsibility. This has also brought some not so positive consequences as well, such as an ego that is impossible to fix, stepping over others without caring about the consequences and competing with each other in an unhealthy way.
These negative aspects are also found among relationships, where one can feel jealous of the other’s successes either because their salary is higher or because their professional life gets a lot of recognition. This is a growing problem among relationships that can end up destroying them.
Psychologist Luz Amparo Salazar recalls a couple that she worked with several months ago that had been going through this abyss for years. After they had their first son, she began to feel that her job was less important, as her husband was submerged in his own work responsibilities and she felt that her career as an engineer was dissolving into the tasks of being a stay at home mom.
“It is very common to find that one of the spouses feels like they’re leaving their career behind to take on the responsibilities of the home, which is what happened with this couple that I saw. The woman felt like she was the only one that had to leave her profession behind in order to take care of the baby, and that her husband, on the other hand, never became involved or never acknowledged that she was the one that had to make the sacrifice,” Salazar states.
Inequality throughout the world
This problem is related to the roles of the traditional Colombian family model, as well as to those of South and North America: the woman often stays at home to take care of the children and the man goes out to look for work and provide for the family. In addition to this problem, however, is income inequality. Last year, the U.S. Domestic Policy Council revealed that throughout the country, women earn 20% less than men. This percentage is only representative of white women, however; with African American or Latina women, this difference can be as high as 45%.
The case of Colombia is equally disappointing. According to Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE, Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica), women represent 41% of the entire national workforce, but only hold 34% of management positions. The salary gap is equally concerning, with the minimum at 28%.
“Inequality at the office turns into inequality at the home; where couples have disagreements about having enough time to develop their career and having better salaries; this is when the arguments begin. The first thing you can do to overcome these types of problems, in cases like the couple I mentioned, is to establish times where each partner takes care of the children, distribute schedules equally and collaborate together.”
Our expert also advises that it is important to distribute financial responsibilities as a couple, as whoever earns more should contribute more financially to the needs of the house. However, “One of the problems we see now is when women end up earning more than men. Men, however, often find their worth in their ability to contribute financially to the home; but, simply put, this is sexism.”
Marriage has often been compared to being a business, where both people have their goals: buy a house or car, have kids and give them an education. Maybe it is a good time to bring this comparison back, as in a business, whatever the circumstances may be, what matters is what each person can contribute to accomplishing their goals. Always remember that as a family, and as a couple, the motor behind great achievement is love.
The ideal situation is for couples to see these salary differences as something positive, to value the benefits this provides the family and to not measure happiness by the income they earn.