My Husband Makes $110,000 — & I Gave Up My Job For Him

In our series Not A Trophy Wife, we ask women how they feel when they earn less than their significant other. We've chatted with a nonprofit worker helping her pharmacist husband flip houses, a woman who gave up her career in Thailand for her husband, and a marketing analyst dating an investment banker.
In our eighth installment, we chat with Laura*, 27, who gave up her $43,000 salary to move with her husband, 32, making $110,000.
How did you two meet?
"Well I had just turned 25, and he was 30, and we worked together back in D.C. He’s in the military, and I was working as a defense contractor making around $43,000. I was his contractor support. So our jobs were relatively similar, and it was definitely not love at first sight on my end. But after that we had some mutual friends, and we were socially hanging out and seeing each other, and it just progressed from there. We dated for about 11 months before we got engaged, and we got married about 13 months into our relationship."
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So you got married relatively fast, it seems...
"We decided to talk about what the future looks like early on in the relationship. Both my parents were in the military, so I grew up moving around, and you know, witnessing all that kind of stuff. By the time we started dating he already knew he was leaving the D.C. area in a year. So we knew we had a year to figure everything out. It definitely pressed fast-forward on our relationship. We talked about marriage pretty early on as well, maybe six months in — we both saw the relationship as being a forever kind of thing, not just, ‘Oh we’ll date and I’ll maybe come see you and maybe be with you and see how it goes.’ There was none of that. In May, he had asked me to move with him, and I had some hesitation as far as jobs and money, but I knew we would talk about all that stuff as things progressed and it got closer."
Was the marriage decision expedited because of the move?
"I will say this: The military is probably the only employer that gives you a lot of incentive to get married. It just makes finances and life a million times easier once you are married. Healthcare is free — you don’t have to pay any sort of premium, and there aren't any co-pays or anything like that. Dental is a very small fee each month. So the health benefits are a plus. They also give you a housing allowance, adjusted for what area you live in, but if you’re single you get less. And it’s not taxed at all. It definitely makes life less complicated, but it does force people to make decisions that maybe they weren’t ready for."
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I feel like you’re supposed to want it all — the family, the high power and high-paying job — but for me, I don’t really care.

Perks aside, getting married also meant maybe putting your career on the back-burner, right?
"Having been a contractor already, the companies I would work for are all going to be where my husband is stationed, wherever we go. But as far as upward mobility, I don’t really see that happening. You know, having some great career or becoming some CEO? I 100% don’t see that happening. But I also don’t want that. I feel like you’re supposed to want it all — the family, the high power and high-paying job — but for me, I don’t really care about having the super awesome career, because honestly, I haven’t found what I really want to do in life. But it was important for me to have a family, to get married, and the job was just, if it’s there, great. If it’s not, I’ll survive. My job doesn’t define me at all."
So what was your plan once you moved?
"So it’s been about a year in Alabama — we were expecting to only be here for six months before moving to San Diego, and there I could find a job. I felt like six months here would be too little time to start a job and leave. But then their ship was delayed, and by the time we realized the ship was delayed, it was kind of too late. So it’s been challenging because of that. Luckily, it’s also really cheap to live down here, and we’re being paid like we’re in San Diego, so we’re not struggling."
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Still, I feel like the transition from working a full-time job to staying at home can be a little rough. How has it been?
"It’s actually been pretty hard. It’s been boring and it’s been lonely. There aren’t many young people around here. A lot of the other guys that are my husband’s rank, most of them didn’t bring their wives with them, or if they did, they have kids and they’re a bit older than me, so we have nothing in common. And everyone is sort of spread out and no one really lives very close to each other; we’re not really near any military base. If we were in San Diego or back in D.C., it would be a completely different story. There’s a lot more to do and a lot more opportunities to be involved with the community, but here, when we moved, I knew absolutely no one. It was a complete culture shock."
How do you mean?
"My husband and I, when we lived in Arlington, Virginia, everything was walkable. We lived within walking distance of a Whole Foods, so if I was craving some Whole Foods guacamole, we’d just go on a really quick walk. Any restaurant you can think of was a short walk or an Uber ride away, and at night we’d go out in D.C. and get a jumbo slice afterwards. There’s no place to get late night pizza here at all. It’s really depressing. Here, we joke that any fast food restaurant you want is no more than a mile away. We have the same fast food restaurants one street over as there are two streets over from our house. It is the complete opposite of what we’re used to."
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I joke with my friends that I’m a housewife now. I’m a housewife. And I almost feel like I have to apologize for it.

So what is your day-to-day life like?
"I go to the gym every day. I’m no gym rat by nature at all, I really don’t like working out, but it’s just a really good way to eat up a part of the day and also get some of my aggression out a little. Then I do a lot of grocery shopping, which also gives me something to do. I clean the house, but you can only do so much cleaning in a day. And I talk to my mom a lot — she’s been really good about supporting me. But I don’t get a lot of human interaction in a day, and my husband doesn’t get home until really late. I joke with my friends that I’m a housewife now. I’m a housewife. And I almost feel like I have to apologize for it, especially with my peers, or other women my age. I mean, it’s a good feeling to know that we are financially stable and fine without me having to work, but it’s almost like I’m ungrateful that I get to just sit at home and do what I want all day. So sometimes it’s like, oh, yeah, sorry for being a housewife. It’s not my ideal job right now. But it’s what my circumstances have left me."
There’s definitely some judgment wrapped up with being a housewife nowadays — why do you think that is?
"I don’t know where I would even get that idea from because my mom was a stay-at-home mom. That’s all I ever knew. She drove me to school and picked me up and she was a housewife basically my entire life — and that woman was never not busy. There was always something to do. And even now when I’m gone and grown, she’s still busy. Growing up, I knew it wasn’t a pointless job and I knew it wasn’t freeloading. She was busy and she was doing work. So I’m not sure where I got the other notion from, but our culture does sort of think, ‘You’re not bringing a paycheck? You’re not going to the office every day? Then you’re not contributing.’"
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This one girl I know said to me, ‘Oh I need to marry a sugar daddy so I don’t have to work anymore... kind of like what you did.’

Have you felt that judgment at some point?
"Sometimes I find myself saying, ‘Oh I’m not working right now. It was so hard to find a job and we didn’t think we were going to be here for as long as we were.’ So I do definitely catch myself explaining myself further, rather than just saying, ‘Nope not working right now.’ Period. I mean I feel like people are judging me. And it’s like, I do actually have a brain. I think that’s a stereotype that comes with a lot of military spouses, especially the younger ones. The joke is you got married for the benefits and you never have to work a day in your life. No, I’m an intelligent woman and just because I’m not working right now doesn’t mean that I’m living off my husband, and think I have some free ride. I’m not a bimbo.
"I’ve also gotten the feeling from a few friends of maybe a little jealousy? And I hate saying that because I don’t want to assume anything. This one girl I know said to me, ‘Oh I need to marry a sugar daddy so I don’t have to work anymore... kind of like what you did.’ And I was like, Oh haha that’s funny? Is that what you think I did? Oh, gosh. And that’s when I say my whole thing about how being a housewife isn’t that great, and I apologize."
Have you felt different about the way you spend money, given your current working situation?
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"Sometimes I do feel like I’m not contributing much. I talk to my husband about it. Like, all I do is grocery shop and I make dinner and I make your lunches and I feel kind of like a mooch and I feel kind of useless. But that’s just me in my own head. Every time I’ve voiced this concern to my husband, he’s very quick to say, ‘That is not true, I know you’re not some mooch. You know you’re not a mooch. And I really appreciate you doing all the grocery shopping, doing the significant amount of cooking, running all the errands.’ He’s very clear that he’s very, very grateful that I do take care of the household things.
"We did have a conversation of what is well, not okay for us to use our joint checking account for. Like how much is too much. I have a fairly large amount of savings so I'm not too worried about having to tap into that. So for things solely for myself, I’ll pay for it. I get my hair straightened every six months and that’s like $400, and I've gotten it done twice since I've been here, but I paid for that because it’s not a necessary thing I need to have done, and it’s a luxury for sure. So I'm going to do that. But I've definitely bought clothes using money from the joint checking account and I guess more as a courtesy, I’ll say, hey I need some more workout clothes do you care if I get them. And the answer is always go for it. He does the same thing. Even though it's technically his money, if he wants to buy clothes he’ll run it by me. It’s more of a heads up, rather than an asking for permission if that makes sense."
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Have you found your feelings about not working changing over time?
"Recently I’ve definitely been more at peace with my situation. At the end of the day what really do I have to complain about? I have a husband who can provide for me and I’m a little bit bored I guess, and that’s pretty embarrassing to admit, but it’s not that bad. If people judge me for it, what do I care. I think there are a lot of other women out there like me that do feel the judgment from other women. Like the sugar daddy statement. But at the end of the day who cares? The only thing that really should matter is how you see yourself and how your partner sees you."
*Names have been changed and interviews condensed for clarity. Have a story you'd like to share? Email the writer at jessica.chou@refinery29.com.
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