The Pros & Cons of a Wife Bonus

It’s the topic that just keeps on giving! First, we wrote about the new book, “The Primates of Park Avenue” (actually, we imagined several responses to the book about rich men giving their wives bonuses for “good performances” in poem form). Then we had to feature The Best of #WifeBonus on Twitter — because it was pretty hilarious. After that, we featured Johnny’s defense of the wife bonus: basically that these are consenting adults whose riches most of us are just jealous of. That sparked a thoughtful exchange between Johnny and new visitor, Matt — which we’ve saved from new-site-technical-snafu-hell and preserved here for your enjoyment:


Fair point, Johnny–there’s always the question of envy. I think what people are reacting to, though, is the fact that the wife works in all of these ways to support her husband. It seems to me they’re both contributing meaningfully to those earnings, so why is he the only one in control of them?

I earn most of the money in our household, and my wife does more of the dealing with kids’ pick-ups, etc. But all of our earnings go into a joint account, which she doesn’t have to ask me to access. If either of us were going to make a big expenditure, we’d run it by the other… but as far as I’m concerned, she has every right to spend what she wants when she wants. We don’t have a spare $50k lying around, but if we did, I’d feel exactly the same way. Why should I get to decide whether she “deserves” it or not? It’s our money, not mine.


That’s how I roll too, Matt, but I don’t think the mega-rich get that way by being generous and nice when it comes to money. Especially not with their wives! That’s the one person who stands to take the most from them.

Also, I’m glad you trust your partner that much – I trust mine too – but so did most now-divorced people when they got married. Any divorced man – which at this point is half of all men who got married – will tell you to protect your assets. They wince when you say, “… MY wife is different. MY wife is honest and I trust her.” They did too, once.

It’s easy to discount the advice of unhappy cynics when everything is going great for you, but their numbers are too vast at this point to ignore them. At least 50% of guys, and the odds are worsening, will wind up paying out tons of money to a once-loved woman who is now an enemy.

Not criticizing your choices, because like I said, I’ve more or less made the same ones. But I’ve always been the type to play with fire. I consider myself an informed and calculating risk-taker. I get very nervous when I watch one of my friends proceed down the same path from a place of naivete.

I don’t blame any man who keeps his finances separate from his feelings.


Eh, who wants to walk around not-trusting–especially their partner? Life’s short, we’re all leaving this planet without any money (or anything else), so honestly, I’d rather trust completely and be wrong than sit there sweating and holding the purse strings.

Sure, it’s possible that anyone could get financially hosed. They might get cheated on. All the worst things you can imagine may happen. That’s why we have this whole systematic, patriarchal control and domination over women that’s been going on for millennia. Our fragile male egos can’t take the thought that they might be unfaithful and/or screw us over somehow. So look what happens: men try to control women, over and over, in every part of the world. They keep them from going to school, driving, voting, showing their bodies in public, owning property, earning the same as men–you name it.

I honestly think wife bonuses fit squarely into that same paradigm, which is why I have a problem with them. I also have a problem with someone keeping their wives from accessing joint funds–especially if she’s doing more of the household work, child-rearing, etc. and doesn’t have the same opportunity to earn in the workplace.

Yep, my wife may some day leave me–of course it’s a possibility. I choose not to go around worrying about it, though, as it’s 100% out of my control. All I can do is love and support her, and yes… trust her with everything we have. Between living like that–with love and faith (the non-religious kind, in my case) or attempts at self-preservation at the expense of her equality and sense of personal freedom, it’s a no-brainer.


Here’s the crux of the disagreement: I do not agree that we have systematic, patriarchal control over women. I’d say we HAD that, but that paradigm has been totally up-ended. Not talking about the whole world here, just where I live.

So what I see isn’t financial oppression, but two free adults, who could each do whatever they wanted, voluntarily entering a mutually pleasing agreement that either of them could walk away from – profitably, in the woman’s case – at any time.

I agree that the male ego can’t handle the thought of female infidelity, but I put financial screwings in a totally different category. That’s not ego. That’s material. Money is a limited resource that most people work hard for. How a person handles what they earn isn’t something I feel it’s my place to judge.

Also, what makes you so sure she’s shut out of the money on a regular basis? “Bonus” to me implies that it’s extra money on top of the usual money. I doubt that deprivation for the rest of the year is a problem that these women face.


Sure, money is a limited resource that people work hard for. And when those people have someone picking up their kids, folding their laundry, making sure the house is run properly, etc., there’s a shared effort behind those earnings. One person “handling what [he] earns” by making sure his partner has less access to it is controlling. Money means freedom and power, and making sure you have more access while another has less is a means of control.

The mere use of the word “bonus” (which is always awarded by a boss to a subordinate, by the way) tells us all we need to know about the financial power dynamic at play here. We can imagine that the women in this situation share an equal amount of access and control over their own financial situations, but I’d wager that’s far more often not the case. A Wall St. guy at a friends’ barbecue mentioned to me two weeks ago something about his soon to be ex-wife, telling me he was going to ensure she walks with nothing if it’s the last thing he does. Do we really think, in that world, that he’s an exception? I don’t think so. In any case, having the option to battle your husband in court is not the same thing as having equality during the marriage.

We can certainly agree that people feel they have a right to keep what they’ve earned. I just happen to find that sort of self-preservation selfish and controlling when there’s a supporting partner. As you said, though, most people don’t get mega-rich by being generous and nice when it comes to money. On that point, I couldn’t agree more.

One Comment


    Inequality turns people on. Guys pay dominatrixes to mock their dicks, women have rape fantasies… has anyone considered that maybe these women find this arrangement not only materially rewarding, but sexy?

    Class and financial i
    nequality has been at the heart of female fantasy from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Jane Austen to Pretty Woman to Fifty Shades. Ever read a romance novel (by far the best-selling type of novel)? I have. The protagonist is almost invariably a woman of modest means who gets swept off her feet by a mega-rich guy.

    “But those are fiction!” you may say. Doesn’t matter. You can tell as much about a person from their fantasies as you can from their reality.

    I’ve read your naughty books, ladies. I have plumbed the depths of your un-feminist fantasies in ways most guys never will. Wealth is a huge part of female fantasy. Those women are living the fantasy. Can’t we just be happy for them?

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