Tag Archives: Marriage

When Your German Wife Makes More Money than You: Lessons from an American Expat in Germany

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“It’s not a contest, Dear.” — Photo Credit:
Vladimir Pustovit (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pustovit/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Copyright.

As you know, I am a graphic designer from Portland, Oregon. After my German wife and I were married, I dropped everything — including a house, car and full-time job — and moved with her to Hannover, Germany. Overnight, I morphed from a gainfully employed agency designer to a nervously self-employed freelance designer, complete with panic attacks and night terrors in which my home mortgage  — personified by an accountant with the head of a bull — would chase me down and stab me repeatedly with a rolled-up copy of my credit report: “You’re gonna miss your next payment, you little bitch. And you’ll probably miss the one after that too, because you don’t have a steady source of income. You’re just a worthless little piece of monkey shit, aren’t you? And your wife is too nice to tell you, but your breath always sucks.”

Luckily, it all worked out. I built up a client base filled with awesome, inspirational people — most of whom found me through this blog — and I’m enjoying the hell out of working for myself. (Company policies include: “Casual Monday-through-Friday,” “Pantless Skype Sessions” and “Mandatory Pilsner Sensitivity Training.” [Our HR department has been trying to crush this last one for years.])

You know what else came as a pleasant surprise? When my wife finished her Referendariat training and landed a job as a full-time Gymnasium teacher. That’s when her income level shot past mine like a lubed-up piglet on its way to the teet. Not only did she earn more money in Euros — which, at the time, were way stronger than US Dollars — but she earned more after taxes. (Unsolicited Expat Tip of the Day: Most Germans think of their paychecks in terms of net income. They lack the requisite sense of entitlement to think of pretax money as their money. We Americans like to focus on the exact amount Uncle Sam is stealing from us, crank up our blood pressure a notch or two, then simmer through the rest of the day in impotent rage. It’s tradition.)

Anyway, when my wife landed her job, suddenly she was the primary earner, and I became a trophy wife with fake tits and an adorable hobby / business venture. You might think this would crush a real man’s ego, but if you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m not a real man at all. I loved her new pay grade! Where we simply split our financial obligations before, now we could do things on a sliding scale. And the peace of mind was the best part; I knew if I ever had a bad month, she could cover the difference and save me from taking it in the shorts.

Of course, the power dynamic has shifted a little; I can’t just shoot down every purchase decision and Ebinizer Scrooge my way through life anymore. My wife has her own money, so the other day when she suggested we get our wedding rings engraved, I refused, saying I would not be spending any more money that month. To this, she replied:

“But maybe I can spend money. I am the bread maker now.”*

*Of course she meant “bread winner,” but I like her expression way better. 

If you would like to read another classic Denglish post, check this one out: My German Wife Explains the Optimal Weather Conditions for Seasonal Allergy Attacks

Unsolicited Marriage Advice from an American Expat: Be a Good Listener and Your German Spouse Will Thank You

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“What’s that you say, dear? I’m having trouble hearing you over all this dysfunction.” — Image Credit: Sue Clark (https://www.flickr.com/photos/perpetualplum/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Copyright.

My German wife and I have only been married since 2012, so I’m not an expert or anything, but being a good listener seems to be a pretty important part of marriage. That is, if you want to stay married, I mean. If you’d rather catapult yourself through a sudden divorce, go ahead and let your eyes glaze over whenever your spouse starts talking to you. Hold your thumb down on the TV remote, steadily increasing the volume until the sound of her voice is drowned out entirely. You’ll be on your own in no time.

But being a good listener doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually do anything. In fact, the less you do while your spouse is talking, the better. When it comes to daily communication — like when you tell one another about your respective workdays — listening is really all about being present. Face your spouse. Keep your eyes open. Nod every once in a while. Maybe throw a grunt or two in there. It’s so easy! By merely being present (in body, if not in mind), what you’re actually doing is allowing your partner to vent. You’re refraining from doing or saying things which might hinder the verbal diarrhea your partner so desperately needs to spray you with. Just square up to that fire hose and take it in the eardrums.

Obviously there are times when you need to actively comprehend what you’re hearing and then offer up some kind of response, like, “Yes, honey, it sounds like that woman on the train was being a bitch. That bitch.” — but those times are pretty rare. On a daily basis, most people just need to unload their emotions onto something slightly more animated than a freshly painted wall. This is why, when my wife comes home and tells me in vivid detail all about her day at work, I just shut my dirty hole and watch her talk. And for this small amount of effort — 9 times out of 10 — my German wife will reward me by wrapping things up with a sigh and saying:

“Thank you for your open ear.”*

*Translated directly from the German saying, “Danke für dein offenes Ohr.”

If you would like to read another classic Denglish post, check this one out: My German Wife Struggles to Organize A Traditional Swiss Raclette Dinner in America