Octagon Session: Marriage and the breadwinner

On this week’s episode of The Octagon Session…

The Octagon: Welcome to The Octagon. We appreciate your taking time out to join this chat session which is one of the first of many conversations to go on This session will end at 5pm. We have two moderators in the room who will only offer guidance where necessary. Please feel free to openly share your thoughts and experiences. Let’s begin with some introductions before going into the discussion. Can everyone let us know who they are and share a bit about what they do? Thank you.

Tolu: Hi everyone, my name is Tolu. I’m married with 2 beautiful kids. I’ve been married for 3 years plus but dated for 14 years on and off before marriage. I’m a Marketing Director for 2 F ‘n’ B brands and I love talking about relationships.

Alex: My name is Alexander Umole, I am married for 10 years with my wife Sola. We have 2 lovely girls. I work as minister/pastor with a church in Florida.

Uju: Hello everyone, Uju Okoye here. Public health physician in the US. Community advocate and entrepreneur. Always seeking ways to partner up and empower. Married for 6 years to Obi with one amazing child.

Kelo: Hi everyone, my name is Kelo and I’m married, no kids yet. I run an online youth culture publication, an online fashion store amongst other things.

Joshua: Good evening. My name is Josh. Speaker and consultant based in the UK. I trust y’all are doing great.

The Octagon: We can begin and then the others will join in. According to a research study, on the average, a larger percentage of adults said they agreed it’s generally better for a marriage if the husband earns more money than his wife. Their argument is usually related to issues of respect, egos, either party having to ask for funds, the kids feeling one party is ‘richer’ than the other, etc.  Do you think it’s important who earns more ? What’s a family man to do to keep his marriage strong when she earns more? And how can a breadwinner wife best keep the love alive?

Alex: Someone said humorously that it takes finance to run romance. I agree that money is crucial to relationships.

Tolu: The male ego is the bigger question. Another factor is upbringing of each person. Everyone has their expectations of what a marriage should be and that’s why couples need to discuss before getting married. Money is not the issue, its dealing with the money issues that’s the problem.

Uju: True. But in some cases, say if the man is in a field that is naturally lower paying. For example he may enjoy working with teenagers in impoverished communities, and she is in a naturally higher paying field. The problem may be behind the mine” thinking and not thinking “ours”. I think people set themselves up with expectations by looking outwardly instead of inwardly. Stop the comparisons to others, culture or otherwise.

Kelo: I think this boils down to our cultural “orientation” and the setting in which we were raised. I’m Igbo and the norm is that the man takes care of his wife and the wife is the one who he has chosen to “eat” his wealth.  So if the man fails to live up to this provider role society has created for him, he’s seen to be slacking.

Uju: Kelo, I am Igbo as well, and that same attitude sets people up to fail. I can’t imagine how stressed out that would make any man, struggling to step out into a field that he is passionate about, if it’s not as lucrative for a period of time.

Kelo: I agree with you Uju, I’m just creating the context

Alex: But in a marital situation the question of cultural orientation is key.

Joshua: It is a major factor and i’d say that our culture does play a prominent role in dictating that. In this part of the world, the notion of a man being the breadwinner isn’t as rigidly followed as compared to our culture. Many men are “house husbands” here and are okay with it. But not within our cultured men. However, I do believe that it can cause a bit of discord. As men we thrive as providers and sometimes we’d feel displaced when or if the roles are reversed.

Tolu: House husband in Nigeria is unheard of but it’s happening big time. Some men have been put in that situation not by their own doing and some men are outright lazy.  I believe a man should provide for his home and his wife should also help him as much as she can. At the end of the day, it makes life even better for both.

Uju: Tolu that term “house husband” can easily be misunderstood though. Nowadays many people work from home and make a lot of money doing so. Someone that doesn’t understand that may think otherwise.

Tolu: Uju that’s not house husband oh! That’s a businessman.

Uju: Ah Tolu, but the sad thing is there are some women who will prefer the image of the man actually leaving the house to provide, so as to suit society’s expectations.

Joshua: The key thing is that he’s working. Regardless of location.

Uju:  Okay. Can we explain what it means to provide?

Tolu: Making money available for the family (school fees, hospital bills, food) the necessities.

Uju: So the man should pay for any and everything. Then what does the woman do?

Tolu: Noooo I believe that is wrong , leaving the house doesn’t mean providing. There are men who go for “Meetings ” upon “Meetings” with nothing to show for it.

Uju: Briefcase with tie and endless meetings, and no money for rent.

The Octagon: It’s exciting the things we have established. In a society like ours with deep cultural influences. What’s a family man to do to keep his marriage strong when his wife earns more?

Tolu: In today’s society, women need to support their husbands, things are not the way they used to be. Unless you want the man to steal which is a no no. When a woman earns more I think she has more of the work to do because when it come to the male ego women need to tread carefully. Some men can not stand the fact that the woman is the provider.

Uju: It takes wisdom, maybe they can set up a family business together, which will now help increase his income. What happens when the man loses his job? Won’t he be happy that the wife even has income to sustain them in the meantime?

Joshua:  I don’t think men should be intimidated by their women earning more. ‘What’s mine is yours’ but with a sense of pride, a man should at least cover his role as man and father regardless of his wife’s pay check. It’s about respect at the end of the day. The problem starts if the woman starts to rub it in his face or lords her paycheck over him.

Uju: Yes Josh, which is why Tolu said it’s our attitude behind it that’s the problem.

Alex: I am curious to hear comments on 1 Timothy 5:8. “For if a man does not take care of those who are his own, especially those who are members of the household of faith, this one has renounced the faith and is worse than those who are unbelievers”. Some translations say “if anyone” – probably includes spouses too

Uju: Very interesting Pastor Alex! I like this version of that scripture. It comes down to love and respect for me. You can’t say you love someone, if you aren’t trying to make sure they are okay. You can’t say you respect someone if you are belittling them because you so happen to have more money.

Tolu:  I totally agree it’s a 2-way street but in some parts of the world, some men can not handle the fact that the woman is the provider. It has really destroyed a lot of marriages. The woman has to be wise and still respect her husband as the head and the man also has to check his ego

Uju: Well said Tolu. So it boils down to individual personality and character issues that should be dealt with. Both parties need to use wisdom to assist with that.

Kelo: The level of wisdom to be exhibited by a woman that earns more than her man or if her man is not earning at all will be on King Solomon’s level. Because anything she does or does not do is seen as an affront. Give him money with left hand – problem. Give him money with right hand – problem.  She’s quiet around the house – she’s proud because of her paycheck. She’s vocal – proud because of her paycheck. Lose – Lose.

Tolu: Yes and it takes experience and Time to attain that level and PRAYERS. You need a MATURE man to handle that situation right. Maturity is fundamental in marriage.

Alex: And maturity is really never ending, you keep growing everyday.

Kelo: I’d lost all my money from a failed business venture and my wife has had to hold me up.

Uju: Kelo, thanks for sharing. There is strength in joint partnerships, which is what marriage is about!

Joshua: Can I share with you guys a quick scenario? So I had just finished delivering a seminar and it was time for Q&A, a man stood up and asked my opinion on this predicament. A man’s landlord had consecutively increased the rent to their house to almost twice the amount in over 2 years and his wife was persuading them to move, but he liked the area for accessibility and schools for the children. So he sought out to the estate agent who wouldn’t budge as instructed by the landlord. To cut a long story short. He did a lot of research to find his landlord and contact directly, only to discover that the landlord was his wife. What do you guys think he should do?

Alex: It’s alarming that his wife kept it a secret from him. Sounds like a page from a home movie. But things like that do happen.

Uju:  Wow Josh, they obviously have a bigger issue. I am speechless. What people should also realize is that kids are watching. You don’t want to raise a son, who lords over everyone because of his money, and a daughter who runs to every man who tosses money her way. It seems in previous generations, men and women were okay with starting off low and building together. Now in society because of these expectations, the man expects to be on top as the provider and the women expect them to as well.

Joshua: The law favours women here a lot. Men are easily emasculated, many of our Caucasian friends have such a different view of marriage than our traditional brothers.

The Octagon: Going from the angle where the relationship is built solidly on “what’s mine is yours”, do you believe in joint accounts ? If not, why? What are the pros and cons?

Alex: When we started out married, my wife earned more than I did. But it didn’t matter because my wife generally is very respectful. Trust Yoruba women! Again we had joint accounts from the start, and it was not a matter of who earned what but we pulled our resources together and worked with a monthly budget and individual spending limit. Pros – unity and combined earnings can lead to higher investment power. Cons- one person may feel they are bringing in the most income and thereby losing. And the other one may be a spender.

Uju: For practical reasons especially, they make sense. In some cases, individual accounts may have already been created in the past for loans and all. More than even joint accounts, but planning ahead. What if one party dies early? People need to take that into consideration.  What about inherited debts? As a society, I don’t think the younger generation of Nigerians consider these things.

Tolu: Personally, I believe in a joint account for a purpose or goal (buying a house, school fees).

The Octagon: It is apparent that a lot of the issues surrounding this is rooted in orientation and culture. Is there anything that can be done to ensure that in the future this is less of an issue? What arm of the society should be responsible for championing this?

Uju: I think that should be us, through conversations like this on public and private platforms, with friends and family.

Alex: Dave Ramsey talks about this situation. For budget, I recommend

Joshua: We should educate the youth on principles and how to be responsible individuals. There is a great misconception flying about the media these days and what makes marriage and relationship work. And to see how they interpret things is very concerning.

Tolu: I believe we need to teach our children, instill values in our young boys and girls. A lot of what you see today from men and women is what they either were taught or what they learnt from watching their parents. Another key point is couples understanding that they are not competing against each other. It’s “them” against the world … No ones sees what’s going on in the house, all the world sees is what you show them. We are meant to complement each other when you don’t have and I have =We have and vice versa it should never be I have, you don’t have, marriage has made us ONE.

Uju: I love that, Tolu. The world sees what we show them. If we show a balanced seesaw, that’s what they see. They don’t see how many times it wasn’t balanced!

The Octagon: We will be ending this conversation in 5 mins. Can everyone share some last points?

Alex: Like someone said, couples are not meant to compete but complete!

Uju: For me, it will be to know yourselves and discover what works for you both. It’s a joint venture.

Kelo: I’ll echo Uju here; know yourselves and discover what works for you.

The Octagon: Thank you so much for being a part of this conversation. We will definitely like to have everyone back in other rooms in the future. 

Visit to read more conversations. Follow @theoctagonroom to engage in the conversation. If you’re passionate about a subject, and would like to be part of the Octagon Panel, send us an email at [email protected].

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