Wife's Higher Pay Can Test a Marriage
                   By Joan E. Rigdon

                   The Wall Street Journal
                   PAGE B1
                   (Copyright (c) 1993, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.)

                  BLAUVELT, N.Y. -- Bond broker Tom McDonough works on Wall
                   Street, lives in this rustic suburb and, at age 39, relishes riding $10,000

                   Last fall he jetted to Bermuda for a week of executive meetings. But
                   when the executives filed into conference rooms, he joined 120 women
                   and two other men at question-and-answer sessions for spouses.

                   Mr. McDonough's wife, Ellen Hart, is a 44-year-old Gemini Consulting
                   Inc. vice president whose six-figure salary is more than triple his. Since
                   she's often on the road, he limits his own work hours and travel to care
                   for their seven-year-old son, Arthur. It's a role he loves, but it threatens
                   to swallow his career. Two years ago, he balked at Ms. Hart's chance to
                   transfer to London for a year because without a good job offer of his
                   own, he would have had to become a house husband. "I remember
                   thinking of myself as a nanny," he says.

                   Two-career couples are standard these days, and many of them count on
                   the wife's income to foot hefty shares of mortgage and college tuition bills.
                   But now a few women are doing what was unthinkable just one
                   generation ago: earning substantially more than their husbands.

                   These women are growing in number as they reach senior management,
                   successfully launch their own businesses or enter high-paying fields such
                   as medicine. Other women find themselves earning more as their
                   husbands are laid off during downsizings or reach career dead ends.

                   The income gap doesn't necessarily hurt a marriage, as long as the man
                   feels he's at least an equal. Hillary Clinton earned substantially more than
                   her husband, the governor, when she was practicing law, and he boasted
                   of her success.

                   But an income gap that clearly gives the wife all the power can undermine
                   or even end a marriage. A Manhattan financial consultant feels frustrated
                   because her finance-executive husband took too long to decide "what he
                   wanted to do when he grew up." She says she hates being the primary
                   earner because she has lost the freedom to take off a year to spend with
                   her children or work on special projects.

                   The woman resents her husband's lack of power because "we weren't
                   raised as women to think we were going to be married to losers."

                   Men resent that attitude. S. Ross Goodman of Hicksville, N.Y., says he
                   was happy with his job managing a discount store until 1984, when he
                   married Meryl Abramson, a computer specialist and
                   communications-company manager.

                   At her urging, he went back to school to learn computer programming
                   and took a pay cut to join her company. She also pushed for his
                   promotion to a job as local area network administrator. "She wanted to
                   be married to a professional," Mr. Goodman says. "I don't think I was
                   given a choice."

                   Ms. Abramson says she simply wanted her husband to reach "at least the
                   same level" that she had, or to be more ambitious. "I thought I tried to
                   build him up."

                   In the end, Mr. Goodman's ego was depleted by the "fact that I was
                   sitting in the breadwinner's seat," Ms. Abramson says. Mr. Goodman
                   counters that if anything, she was the one who couldn't stand his lower
                   status. The two divorced last summer.

                   But most problems caused by a woman earning more than her husband
                   are more subtle. For men, the switch can hurt their self image, especially if
                   they were raised to be Ozzies in the Ozzie and Harriet scenario. Many
                   men "can't tolerate the ego diminution of a wife who's more powerful than
                   he is," says Patricia S. Cook, an A.T. Kearney vice president and
                   executive recruiter who is also a psychologist.

                   For women, femininity can be undermined. On the surface, most seem
                   happy to live up to the Superwoman challenge. But "even the most
                   liberated woman has fantasies of being taken care of," says Manhattan
                   psychologist Barbra Locker.

                   In general, "it's an unusual couple" that can negotiate equal power, Ms.
                   Cook contends. At best, "the couple realizes that who makes the most
                   money is going to shift between them."

                   That's the case with Mr. McDonough and Ms. Hart. Although they
                   started out as financial equals, they have leapfrogged each other as each
                   tried on new careers and jobs. Mr. McDonough finds it hard to talk
                   about; he initially declined to be interviewed. He changed his mind, Ms.
                   Hart says, when she asked, "`Are you ashamed that I earn more?'"

                   In fact, Mr. McDonough boasts of his wife's success to colleagues at
                   Harry's, a bar in Lower Manhattan where he and other bond brokers are
                   regulars. But he says he has "been told outright by friends that they
                   couldn't stand to have their wives make more."

                   When they met at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., in 1975, Mr.
                   McDonough was an economics major and Ms. Hart was a psychology
                   teacher who marched in antiwar demonstrations. After graduation, he
                   landed work as an insurance claims adjustor, spending his days haggling
                   with auto mechanics over repair bills. But in time, Mr. McDonough's pay
                   edged past Ms. Hart's teaching salary.

                   The two married in 1980. A year later, Ms. Hart put aside her disdain for
                   corporate America and became a business consultant, helping to design
                   executive teams. Two years later, Mr. McDonough hit the big time,
                   landing a job as a bond broker with Manufacturers Hanover.

                   Ms. Hart, who had earlier resisted marriage because "I thought I might
                   lose myself," defended her independence by insisting on separate bank
                   accounts and splitting the bills. "I even used to know who owned what
                   stock," she says.

                   That separate but equal arrangement halted after she gave birth and quit
                   her job. Home for 18 months without an income, she began to feel like
                   her mother, stretching her father's paychecks.

                   "I felt like I had to be Ms. Frugal since it wasn't my money," Ms. Hart
                   says."Tom didn't hook into that at all. He kept saying `Whatever the
                   family's got, the family's got.' He didn't have one second of trouble that he
                   was the breadwinner and I wasn't. But I did." Her insecurity lingered until
                   she returned to work.

                   The 1980s reversed their fortunes. While Ms. Hart returned to work and
                   logged double-digit raises and promotions, Mr. McDonough's career
                   stalled. In 1987, new trading regulations capped commissions, forcing
                   him to sell more bonds to make the same profit. Then, three years later,
                   Manufacturers Hanover merged with Chemical Bank. He survived the
                   first round of cuts but not the second.

                   That's when Mr. McDonough realized his options were limited. With Ms.
                   Hart on the road several days a week, he wasn't free to choose work that
                   demanded travel, long hours or a lengthy commute. "Someone has got to
                   relieve the babysitter, and that person is me," he says. So he turned down
                   a banking position which would have required the family to move to
                   Rochester, N.Y., and took a lower-paying job as a bond broker at a
                   small Wall Street firm.

                   The specter of transfers still causes angst. While Mr. McDonough can't
                   consider one, his wife can, which would force them to rethink his career.
                   The issue surfaced two years ago, when Gemini offered Ms. Hart a
                   temporary transfer to London. Even if he had found a job there, he would
                   have had to find a new one in the battered U.S. financial services industry
                   after his wife was transferred back. "That was just too scary," he says. "I
                   thought of it as an unnecessary risk."

                   For Ms. Hart, the transfer was a chance to become a better business
                   consultant by learning how business is done abroad. And "every
                   weekend, we could have flown to Paris," she says a bit wistfully.

                   Spending money is tricky, too. Although the couple makes mutual
                   investment decisions, Mr. McDonough hesitates to say whether he's free
                   to spend at the levels Ms. Hart's income would allow. "You're the one
                   making more," he says, tossing the question to her.

                   That said, he discloses he's considering a big purchase: a Harley
                   Davidson Superglide motorcycle that starts at $10,000. "A man at my
                   station of life deserves to trade up," Mr. McDonough says.


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