On Tuesday, a shocking study revealed what some had long suspected: that domestic violence rates rise up to 35 per cent when women out-earn men in the relationship.

The study looked at data from more than a decade of Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys, and found the violent consequences of bucking the gender norms were present across all ages, income groups, and educational backgrounds.

My wife and I talked about it over breakfast that day, with the consensus between us being that (yet again) women can’t catch a break these days. Damned if they’re not making money, damned if they are.

But the report was notable, to us at least, because the financial situation reflected our own to a T. My wife Jen works as a healthcare worker. Her pay is modest, but it’s stable work that you can safely bet will be around for years to come. While everyone was working from home last year, for example, she was diligently going to work every day.

I however, work in media, and have spent years either between short-term gigs, or trying to run the freelancing hamster wheel long enough until it produces money. She handles the rent, bills and other necessities, and I make what I can to contribute when I can. In short, the scales are very heavily tipped in her direction.

But, we make it work. Which, truth be told, makes this recent study all the more saddening. This means that there are men out there that are so consumed with toxic, fucked-up feelings brought upon by traditional gender roles that they take it out on the one they love.

And that’s what’s the key to all of this is: it’s society’s gender roles playing out on a small scale, festering inside the heads of men. It’s the feelings of guilt associated with not feeling like you’re contributing the household. It’s the feelings of emasculation knowing that you don’t “wear the pants” in a relationship. It’s the feelings of jealousy that their career is able to provide at a greater scale than yours.

They’re all feelings amplified by a society that’s fed us the idea of the “breadwinner father, housewife mother” dichotomy, where men are meant to be the big, strong earners, working full time, five days a week and women stay home, and tend to the home while they’re gone. It’s existed for so long that it’s not only a tv trope, but one big enough for the freakin’ Marvel Cinematic Universe to lampoon. And, frankly, this isn’t exactly a great model to base everyday life off of to begin with.

And here’s the thing: these feelings of guilt, emasculation, and worthlessness: they’re not uncommon. Hell, even I’ve experienced them from time to time. No matter how woke someone is or claims to be, it takes a long time to unlearn something that society has told us isn’t just the normal way, but the only way.

The important thing to note, however, is that this image of how gender should play out in the home doesn’t actually reflect reality. According to a recent US study, as much as half of heterosexual couples now have a woman as either an equal or the primary earner in a household. Not to mention the many queer couples and families out there in relationship that don’t fit neatly into the heterosexual norm. These issues may be a social construct, but they’re not society as we know it today.

Not to mention, that a lot of this is ultimately a function of a society that forces us to measure our self-worth based on how much money we make. It’s another thing we’ve been force-fed from a young age, as men: the idea that unless we are making enough to not only live comfortably, but comfortably support everyone we love, we aren’t worth much at all. Which is also, equally, toxic af: there is so much more that we can all offer the world aside from our ability to produce or procure cash.

There’s no easy way solution to any of this; we’re talking about trying to dismantle decades of social conditioning, after all. But there is an imperative to find a solution: to make the world a bit better, and most importantly, a bit safer. Not to mention, all of this helps, albeit indirectly, to close the gender pay gap.

The major key is to talk about these issues, if you’re facing them. Talk with mates, family, with a therapist, or even your partner (you’re there to support each other, after all). Discuss the things that are eating you up inside. You might find that someone else in your inner circle is in a similar situation, or that your fears were unfounded. And frankly, nobody’s self-worth should be tied to how much money they do or do not earn, no matter what self-help guide or LinkedIn post tells you otherwise.

There’s no excuse for domestic violence and emotional abuse. Ever. Let alone in situations where you feel slighted by what is, ultimately, just an antiquated and fucked-up set of ideas. But there are ways to stop it at the start. That includes doing a lot of learning, a lot of work, and some soul-searching. Because, at the end of the day, your self-worth shouldn’t be tied to how much they earn, and if yours is, that definitely isn’t your partner’s fault.

Albert Santos is a writer, copywriter, and former game show champion on the specialist subject, ‘Batman movies’. You can find him on Twitter here and Instagram here.

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