Want to keep your high-earning wife happy? Do the chores

  • August 15, 2017

Husbands of women with high-status jobs should do housework to ensure their marriages do not end in divorce, a study suggests.

Researchers analysed professional women who saw themselves as more successful than their husbands to assess how these feelings changed in different domestic situations.

They found that the women who believed they had higher status positions were more likely to experience “resentfulness or embarrassment” if their husband earned less, according to the study published in the journal Organizational Science.

Alyson Byrne, professor of organisational behaviour at Memorial University in Newfoundland and co-author of the study, wrote: “Husbands, however, were unaffected by their wives’ status spillover feelings: they only experienced greater marital dissatisfaction and thoughts about divorce if their wives were outwardly unhappy with their relationship.

“Societal norms still suggest that in heterosexual marriages, husbands ‘should’ hold higher job status relative to their wives.” However, when husbands supported these women at home with domestic duties, such as cooking, cleaning and childcare, their marriages were more stable overall.

“This was not the case if their partner simply provided emotional support, suggesting that it is the tangible support that husbands provide to higher job status wives that matters more. We suspect that providing this type of tangible support not only allows wives to focus on their careers, but also denotes respect,” the authors wrote. Professor Byrne and Julian Barling, her co-author and professor of organisational behaviour at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, used nine criteria to assess wives’ feelings about their status compared with their husbands.

The study surveyed 209 women selected from executive leadership networks who were in heterosexual married or common-law relationships. They also collected information from 53 men and the results were compared with new answers recorded three years later to assess the long-term relationship impact. “Our analyses then showed that wives’ initial higher job status and feelings of status spillover predicted marital instability (but not necessarily divorce) three years later, reinforcing the importance of understanding this dynamic,” the authors wrote.

In Britain women represent just a sixth of senior executives at the largest listed British companies, according to data from 2016. New research found that the number of UK businesses with no women in senior management has increased from 36 per cent in last year to 41 per cent in March this year.