What to do when a wife forges ahead

Hello everyone,

Again this post is a reply/ comment to this email from a husband who was unsure on the effect of wife’s promotion on their relationship at and outside of work. I am going to answer this question in three parts legal implications, relationship at work, relationship at home.


I have a few questions for you, How big is your company? Most of the companies these days, at least here in the US require you to disclose if you have a close relative working for the company. Did you/your wife disclose this information? You did not mention if you both worked in the same department earlier, if you were working in different departments earlier and she became your boss as a result of the promotion, then its her duty to inform the management ( not because she is a woman, but because she holds the higher post now)  about having a close relative report to her and either find another department to head or have you report to another manager.

This will solve a lot of problems

  • Although your wife will still rank higher than you on the company’s corporate ladder, you and her will not have to deal with each other day in and day out.
  • The good work you do will be judged purely your ability to do it and not due to the fact that you sleep with the boss every night.
  • Will reduce gossip and claims of favoritism by the other members of the team, many people still doubt this, but if people don’t get along when working towards a common goal the end product suffers.
  • It will save you / your company  a lot of money in lawyer’s fees and time if the other employees in your team decide to sue for sexual harassment ( sexual harassment is  not just physical, it’s inclusive of something called as ” hostile work environment”  simply put it means that the a coworker/boss/company intentionally makes it difficult  or impossible for a person to do their job).
  • Apart from the criminal complications you might also be at risk of being sued in civil court.
  • Will help you in the future by not being a bad mark on your employment history.

Implications on your relationship at work

You did not mention anything about your wife’s qualifications or job experience or even how well she did while at your company, during this past year. I also realise that sometimes people who work in departments that create products and services which make money for the company do get better rewards than those departments which cost money. Sometimes excellent workers get laid off, just because their department was no longer deemed necessary and some not so hardworking people ride the train to success on the backs of other successful people. Now I’m not implying thats the case with your wife,but it is to make you feel better knowing that these things happen fairly regularly. And, it could even be the case that your wife is was at the right place at the right time.

I agree  when you say that the dynamics of your relationship will change with you and your wife going from co-workers to boss and subordinate. Let us say that your wife was truly deserving of the promotion she got and, the only way to avoid, you not reporting to her will  be to deny her the promotion she so deserves, then both of you need to learn how to navigate this new relationship.

Even before your wife accepts the promotion, both of you need to have a chat about how your relationship is going to be at work. You have to realize that earlier just being two co-workers you could share information or even inside jokes. But,  going forward your wife might not be able to share everything about her work with you,  even if she wants to.   No, you cannot ask her what happened during meetings, the decisions she makes etc, as it would make it difficult for her to do her job and she might even resent you for it.  You need to know that in some jobs maintaining confidentiality is of utmost importance,  and it is also an ethical and legal requirement. It does not mean she does not love you or care for you.  Its just a new  job requirement for her.

I think you should address your wife just like how you used to address her before she became your boss, but you should respect the position.  She is the boss, she may/ will have the final say sometimes. You have to respect that.  If you undermine her authority, so will the other team members. You have a choice here, to make things awkward for you, her and other team members or to appear confident and comfortable in your wife’s success and actually may be even proud of her. If it makes you feel any better, just as the saying goes that there is a woman behind every successful man, maybe its your love for your wife motivated her to do her best work. Maybe she did not want to fail you.

Changes on the home front

Your wife should definitely discuss her job offer and how she intends to proceed, with you. Although the final decision is hers to make, she should take your input, feelings and the way your relationship will change  into consideration. This is not because she is a woman and she needs your permission, but because you both are a  two person team working towards the goal of a happy, healthy and harmonious household, any decision that effects both of you should be made jointly. The same rule applies to you too.

Finally, you also need to keep the following in mind, that although women have made great strides in the past few decades , the average woman worker earns less than her male counterpart for the same job, takes more time off due to childbirth illness etc, gets fewer promotions and has to struggle or work twice as hard to achieve what the male can, even easily sometimes. Often times when a man refuses a promotion stating his family as the reason, he is seen as caring and people feel pity for him. He is seen as a martyr. But if a woman refuses a promotion or is unwilling to say travel often for her job, stating her family as a reason, then she is seen as unprofessional and at times it could even be the death knell for future promotions and career advancement.

Please discuss this with your wife, given the way the majority of desi women are raised, she is probably more conflicted and confused and does not know how to approach you. You mentioned that you loved your wife dearly, so don’t let this become a road block to your relationship.  All relationships change over time, sometimes we notice the change and other times we don’t. Make your relationship stronger by becoming more confident  yourself and letting your spouse shine.

Leave a comment


  1. Niranchana

     /  January 29, 2012

    She is well within her rights to ask for a divorce now, as she is now higher up, and you have the inferiority complex.
    In case of that, step aside as a graceful man from her life and let her marry a man of her status.
    Do not stand in the way of a modern woman.
    Whether she wants a divorce or not is her prerogative – you have no right to refuse if she does not feel she should live with you anymore.

  2. Ananya

     /  January 29, 2012

    And you have to promote a person – your husband and another person are the candidates – both equally qualified in every aspect and performing equally – equally deserving of promotion, but you can promote only one – who would you promote?

  3. Ananya

     /  January 29, 2012

    Hey, how about the disciplinary action part?
    If he felt you were harsh on him, and said that at home, how would you handle that?

    If you knew the tonight that you’d be taking a disciplinary action tomorrow, (and let’s spice it up here, he is in a romantic mood tonight), would you let him know or hint?

    If there was a meeting about his performance with other managers and he is anxious to know what went on, and asks….. how would you react, especially if his performance is not very good?

  4. Arun Prakash

     /  February 18, 2012

    “Your wife should definitely discuss her job offer and how she intends to proceed, with you. Although the final decision is hers to make, she should take your input, feelings and the way your relationship will change into consideration”

    So, if the husband cannot be convinced, would you still say the same thing? He is not abusive, he is a loving person, just that he feels utterly uneasy. Won’t you say the woman can give him that cushion and respect his feelings?

  5. Arun Prakash

     /  March 2, 2012

    I am newly married. I work as an administrative officer in government. My wife was working in the same department as a superintendent. She wrote the IAS after marriage and she is now training to be district collector.

    I am just worried about how to behave with her. She is now higher up than me and my job, although not directly reporting to her is controlled by her.

    Should I call her madam all the time and obey her? Should I give up my grip in the home and become her door-mat? Should I always calculate what I talk to her, because she is superior?

    If she wants to, she can put me in any trouble, in her capacity as a collector.
    Since I am newly married, I am afraid.

    When I try to talk to her about this, she seems dis-interested.

    She at times asks me at home if I have finished so and so work, where my files are etc…. She sometimes says in a joking mood “First try to get a promotion, then you can ask me all this etc”., when I ask her about her office day……. She says that I need to remember the fact that she is above me in social status and rank.

    When her male colleagues come, they don’t even talk to me at home. They just say hello, ask if she is there, and go into the house. She asks me to go outside MY OWN HOUSE sometimes when they talk. I feel humiliated.

    What do I do?

    Am I being too sensitive? Or is she wrong? How do I handle?

  6. BD

     /  March 3, 2012

    I have a doubt:
    //Again this post is a reply/ comment to this email from a husband who was unsure on the effect of wife’s promotion on their relationship at and outside of work. I am going to answer this question in three parts legal implications, relationship at work, relationship at home.//

    You had a link on the word ‘this’ that takes one to IHM’s blog. How do you do that? How do you put the link on a word like that?

    Thanks……. 🙂

  7. Malavika

     /  March 3, 2012

    To the wife:
    If you must take the job, then read below:

    Marriage and work is a hard combination at best. When a woman has become more successful than the man in a relationship, some men have issues with it. It is only natural for the man to want to be the “higher power”, and the larger income. If you do anything to constantly remind him that you are the “higher” of the two of you, it will destroy your marriage. If there are things at work that you cannot share with him because it must remain “among management”, then do not mention it at all. (don’t comment about something that happened in a meeting if you can’t share the details, and then tell him that you cannot tell him.) Share as many details of your day as you can without putting your own job at risk. (avoid “showing him that his status is below”)

    If he needs to come to your office for part of business, make it as comfortable as possible. Don’t act like a boss with him. Start your conversation with “how is your day so far” . If you need to give him an “order”, try making it a request, such as “would you please complete this report by noon tomorrow.” Actually, that kind of management attitude will go a long way with all those under you. Nobody likes a boss with an attitude and kindness always gets faster results. If there are other people in the room, don’t show favoritism toward him, but don’t treat him any worse than you would any other person just to make it look like you won’t play favorites. Don’t let the position go to your head, and your job and marriage will both work itself out.

  8. Malavika

     /  March 4, 2012

    Dear DG: The wife has as much obligation to protect her husband, love him and care for his emotions as does the husband towards her.
    Why do people not understand that? Why do they insist that in this case, the wife MUST go ahead of her husband in career, if he is clearly not able to take it? Is a wife not obligated to be considerate to her husband?
    Answers, clear, candid and concise, please? 🙂

  9. BD

     /  March 5, 2012


    Let us say a lady who is a home maker discusses her thoughts on her going to work. Before marrying she had no intentions to work. She has now not decided to work, but is discussing with hubby. She may have to work above him, if she has to work.

    If he asks questions like:

    1. How will you treat me, if you become my boss?

    2. How will you treat me if you earn more than me?

    3. I feel hurt to think I may have to work under you/overshadowed by you…..

    4. Please sweetheart, understand that I cannot take it if you become my superior……

    5. I feel insecure, when you have to be my superior in job/social status/authority…. whatever…..

    Will the average lady start losing her respect for her man or even start to dislike him if he expresses his fears and apprehensions about the possibility of her being superior to him, in accomplishments or job or salary or fame?

    Will their relationship spiral down if he expresses himself? Should he keep quiet and not express? How should he express?

    Just curious about what women think

    • BD

       /  March 5, 2012

      I mean, will she start seeing him as a man without confidence or manliness? In Tamil, kevalamaa nenaika aarambipaalaa? adhukappuram madhika maataalaa?


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