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Dear Dr. Love: My wife makes more than I do and it bothers me. I am happy that she's got a good job. But I feel conflicted about not being the bread-winner and it's starting to affect our marriage. What should I do? -- Emasculated Male

You're not alone. Area psychologists told Dr. Love that what you're experiencing is a common, '90s issue in many marriages. Especially as husbands and wives rely upon two, even three or four jobs to pay the bills.

But there's a silver lining, according to Susan Davis, a Buffalo psychologist, who's found that a healthy tete-a-tete among couples often resolves the salary spat.

"Though the issue may be uncomfortable, sit down to a nice dinner with your wife and say, 'I have these feelings and I don't like them,' " Dr. Davis advised.

"If you try and make the feelings go away, it never works. Once you name the beast, it's a little easier."

Talking through this concern is vital to a loving relationship, so Dr. Love hopes the dinner chat works. But if it doesn't, if you still feel that the size of your paychecks matters, then think about seeing a counselor. Go preferably as a couple but by yourself, if necessary.

Why a counselor or therapist? Mainly because a good therapist will likely help you resolve your feelings quickly -- and before they mushroom into more invidious issues of power and control, causing even more pain in your marriage.

If you don't want to see a therapist, then you can ask yourself three questions.

One: Is lack of money -- not your wife's salary -- the real issue? If it is, then you and your wife should try to spend less money now and, together create a long-term plan to save and earn more down the road.

Two: Is your wife putting pressure on you to earn more? Perhaps she feels uncomfortable making more than you do and simply needs to share her feelings with you.

Three: Do you feel less manly because she brings home more bacon? If so, then the psychologists Dr. Love spoke with suggested that you rethink what determines your self-esteem?

"In our society it's very common for men to grow up and be taught to equate their self-worth with the amount of money they make. That's a myth," said Amy Beth Toublieb, an Amherst psychologist.

"Your worth as a person has nothing to do with how much money you make."

Stephen Koscherak, a psychologist at the Condrell Center in Orchard Park, added that marriages run on much more than money.

"Good marriages also involve caring, consideration, emotional support, problem solving, parenting, commitment and hard work," Koscherak said.

"Each person brings different strengths and skills to the relationship. Focus on the special things you provide to your wife that make you a valuable husband to her."

Problems with life, liberty and the pursuit of the opposite (or heck, same) sex? Write to Dr. Love, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240

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