Because men generally make more money than women, today's economic crisis has created more lay offs for men—and more "stuck in the same old job/same pay" for women.  Furthermore, since men still put more of their "identity eggs" in the work basket, when a man loses his job or has to work for less pay and status, he is also likely to lose some self-esteem.  Regardless of who earns what, both men and women need to abide by what I call "Income Etiquette."  Here's a short list of the top problems and how to manage differences in pay and work responsibilities and status.

1.  Problem: I am taking over too many economic decisions.

One of my women clients said to me, "The person with the wallet runs the show."  It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that whoever makes most the money has the right to make monetary decisions.   

Solution:  Don't let your higher income overflow into your relationship decision-making. Get on an equal footing in major family matters such as which home or car to buy and how to handle the checkbook.   Develop a list of preferences and ideas, share them and move directly to solutions.  Don't get caught arguing about who said or did or wanted what in the past. 

Instead, swap viewpoints when trying to solve a problem.  Here's how it works.  Each pretends that you are the other person.  Now explain your feelings and dilemma about the issue from your partner's viewpoint.  As you build empathy, you minimize blame and arguments.  Now see if you can come up with a new, more inclusive solution.  Always play it forward—especially since you are now living in a new present.

Finally, budget together. Just how much money do you really need?  If possible, allow each other some discretionary spending so that you each feel that you don't have to "ask" the other if you can buy a new shirt or skirt.

2.  Problem:  I resent having to be the Main Income Earner as well as Chief of  Emotional Relationship Management.

Women who work often say they that come home to their second jobs of cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning and child-rearing.  Even if the man is more involved with the children or is a stay at home Dad, many women still feel that they are responsible for bringing up issues about the relationship, children, in-laws, holidays, school issues and family in general. 

Solution:  Regardless of who works or whose salary is higher, all couples must participate in what I call Ask and Tell.  Each partner must take responsibility to Ask their partner "What's wrong?" and "What can I help you with?" and to Tell the other person "What's bothering me" and "I need help with..."

Now is also the time to get more flexibility in gender roles.  Divvy up the household tasks fairly.  For example, for each task that a person likes to do, he or she has to pick a less desirable task.  You can also switch off and adjust according to changing schedules and needs. Develop a consistent approach so that children know what to expect.  You don't want to create an environment where your kids can "play one of the other."  Despite their whining, complaining, grunting and door-slamming, children really do like and need consistent rules.

Finally, plan holidays and discuss "hot topics" such as what to do about your in-laws together.  One way to avoid the unproductive "You Said and Did" trap is to apply the exercise in the first problem about power.

3.  Problem:  Work is taking over my life.

When you are the main income earner, it's easy for anxiety to increase.  Job security seems to be more important than the relationship or family.  Soon, you find yourself taking on more assignments and tasks in order to make yourself more indispensable at work. 

Solution:  Put a limit on your work.  Remember, it's not necessarily how much you do but what you can deliver.  If you take on too much, you might be reducing your effectiveness.  Businesses still run on productivity.   Learn to say no and stay focused on doing your best.

One strategy that has worked for many of my women clients is to schedule a meeting with your supervisor or division head and tell them what you can do for the company or department.  Your forethought, ideas and care for your job and organization will shine through.  These efforts can increase your ability to be more in charge of your time and to have more of it for your partner and children.

Finally, be sure to build in a healthy life style.  If you get up just 35 minutes earlier, you can work in a fitness regime.  Good health habits yield a more positive and calm attitude and energy for you and your family.