According to two financial therapists at Kansas State University, expectations determine whether wife out-earning husband is a marital sore spot.
They say that when a wife is the primary breadwinner, whether it's a big issue or a no-issue in the marriage depends largely on expectations.
"If men and women have the expectation that it's OK for a spouse to earn more, it's not going to affect their relationship like it would if they go into the marriage with the expectation that the husband will have the job that pays more," said Kristy Archuleta.
She co-directs K-State's Financial Therapy Clinic, which blends financial counseling with marriage and family therapy. She works with Sonya Britt, a financial therapist at the clinic.
Archuleta said she doesn't see wives earning more money as a big problem among couples she works with. But it may make a difference how wives end up with greater earning power.
If it's always been that way or if it's a temporary solution to make ends meet, she said those expectations may temper any potential problems. Not so much if it's an unexpected and unwanted shifting of roles.
A study released in January by the Pew Research Center showed that 22 percent of men made less money than their wives in 2007 -- a shift from 1970 when it was just 4 percent of husbands.
The Pew researchers have said that the recession following the 2007 study will make that percentage increase.
If couples see the wife's larger salary as a potential minefield, Archuleta and Britt said husbands and wives should address any problems from the start.
"If things aren't laid out in the open, it creates a lot of resentment and distrust, and you start treating the other person with disrespect," Archuleta said.