Wives shame husbands for making less money

By Pham Nga   August 20, 2023 | 05:00 am PT
Wives shame husbands for making less money
Finance and career are the two problems that put the most pressure on men . Illustration photo by Pexels
For several months now, Nguyen Duc has been sick of coming home from work every afternoon just to argue and hear his wife complain about how much money he makes.

Duc, 37, is an administrative worker for a state-owned company in Hanoi, with a monthly salary of slightly over VND7 million ($295). His wife Ha is the department head of a private company, and her monthly income is 4-5 times higher than her husband's.

When Duc receives his salary, he gives his wife VND5 million, enough to pay the monthly mortgage for the house. He keeps VND2 million for breakfast, gas, and other expenses.

All other expenses in the house are covered by Ha. The family’s financial situation is not wealthy but also not poor. However, to Ha, her husband's salary being only a quarter of her own is unacceptable.

"Are you planning to stay in the same place for the rest of your life? When you see other people change houses and buy cars but you don't even have enough to feed the family, don’t you feel anything?" Ha repeatedly told her husband.

Duc tried to apply to other places, but the salaries were not better and the jobs were not stable. After listening to his wife constantly complain about money and criticizing him for being incompetent, Duc became depressed. When he got home, he just wanted to lie down instead of helping his wife with dinner and taking care of the children like he usually does.

"It's not that I don't want to try. Every man likes to bring money to his wife," Duc said.

According to Duc, he has never asked for anything for himself. He goes to work in the morning and goes home in the afternoon, and he avoids meeting friends to save money. But his wife always blamed him for "not being worthy of a man." They have been like strangers for a month because they argue every time they communicate.

Two years ago, Minh Hoang, 45 from Thanh Hoa, and his wife calculated their income for the year after receiving bonuses for the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday. It showed that he only earned less than two-thirds of his wife's salary.

"I feel like I'm one level behind my wife," Hoang said.

As a professional in business who often comes to work early and leaves late, Hoang still has a lower income than his wife, who has flexible working hours. "I didn't feel happy during that Tet," he admitted.

What made Hoang more stressed was that his wife showed her income to her parents and then told his parents that she had to work hard to take care of the family. His parents were not happy and scolded him for letting his wife do all the work.

The progress of gender equality in Vietnam has created more chances for women to participate in all aspects of society, getting good jobs and promotions like men. Wives with higher incomes than their husbands are not uncommon. According to a study in 2021 by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Thi Minh Thi, families with women being the highest earner account for 15.5% and the figure is climbing.

Bui Thi An, chairwoman of the Hanoi Intellectual Women's Association, said that women are increasingly respected in society, so in modern families, if they have a higher income than their husbands, it should be considered normal.

"In the past, men have always been considered the breadwinners in the family. This mindset is so deeply rooted that it’s difficult for men to accept and be happy when their wives earn more than they do," An said.

According to research by the Institute for Social Life Research Institute (ISDS), finance and career are the two problems that put the most pressure on men both in rural and urban areas. Nearly 25% of survey respondents admitted they feel pressured in their lives. Of these, more than 80% feel pressured about their financial status and nearly 70% feel pressured about their career.

In the study of Assoc. Prof and Dr. Thi, more than 44% of respondents believe that the role of breadwinner in the family belongs to men.

"The expectation of being the breadwinner can be a mental burden for men because not all men are fully capable of taking on those responsibilities, especially when at the moment women are playing an equal role in society and competing with men in the labor market," the study said.

Not only in Vietnam, but this kind of pressure also exists in many countries. A study by the University of Bath (UK) in 2020 showed that men often feel stressed when they are the breadwinner of the family. But the stress amplifies if their girlfriends or wives contribute more than 40% of the family's income. If a man is financially dependent, the level of mental issues that he faces will be higher.

According to An, while men put financial pressure on themselves, women and the majority of society also have that mindset. Many wives, like Hoang's or Duc's, didn’t behave properly, causing their marriage to deteriorate.

Hoang said that his wife not only told everyone about him having a lower income than hers but also constantly urged him to switch jobs. She even complained to her friends and asked them to find a new job for him, even though Hoang explained that his current job was better than average.

"The way she talks to me is also very disrespectful. Not that I'm too sensitive, but even my daughter agreed and wondered why mom was talking to dad with such a tone like that,'" he said.

According to psychologist Kim Thanh, men who don’t determine their value based on money will not be affected when their wives have higher salaries, and they will even see it as a good thing for the family.

Others try to express their masculinity in a positive way. Hoang tried to work overtime, got outside jobs, and worked at two companies at the same time to get more money. Thanks to that, Hoang's income for the past two years has increased steadily and has even doubled that of his wife, who can’t say anything about him now.

Experts advise couples to understand that each person has a different value in contributing to the family, not just money. When the wife's income is better, the husband should be happy about it and do more housework for her.

"Women with good income will do more good than harm and understanding that depends on the perception of the couple in the relationship," Thanh said.

An said that in modern families, women with higher incomes than their husbands need to be normalized by society, the husband, and the wife themselves.

There were times that Duc laid hands on his wife when she crossed the line and tried to emasculate him. For the past few months, he hates going home partly because of his wife and partly because he feels more sympathy and respect from a female colleague who has just joined the company.

As for Hoang, when his income got better, he felt more confident and respected by his wife. But he also admits that his love for his wife has reduced.

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