Often in relationships, we are drawn to those who are similar to ourselves. But the old adage “opposites attract” also rings true—people with different temperaments, passions, interests, and incomes fall in love. In fact, a recent study found that in 74% of people surveyed, one partner earned more than the other at the beginning of their relationship. Just as small bumps in the road occur when opposite personality traits push up against each other, partners who earn disparate incomes may find themselves running into problems stemming from that financial equality. Without care, those issues can turn into feelings of guilt and resentment, which leads to arguments. Here are a few tips for managing and supporting your relationship when one of you earns significantly more than the other.
Tip One: Put Everything on the Table
Surprises are fun for birthday parties, but it’s best to be upfront when it comes to money. Talk to each other about your goals, your attitudes, and your values in regards to money. If one of you aims to build net worth and become the next David Goggins, and the other person believes in living in the moment—even if that means having an empty savings account—you’re going to need to know. It’s perfectly possible to love someone who has a different attitude toward money. But your attitudes toward each other must be on the same page. The person who wants to work hard in a job they don’t necessarily adore because they want to retire early shouldn’t be expected to drop everything and go hot-air ballooning on a weekday. Likewise, an artist who would rather do what they love every day, even if it means struggling financially, shouldn’t feel shamed or pressured into being someone they aren’t.
Tip Two: Decide How You Want to Split Things
Decide together whether you want to split everything down the middle, and if so, make a budget based on the capability of the lower earner, not the higher one. It isn’t fair to expect to live a lifestyle above one of your means but also expect to split everything 50/50. If going out to eat and travelling is important and easy for one of you, perhaps it would be better to split things 70/30, or 60/40. Maybe one of you feels comfortable doing more work within the home or with the children, and the other feels comfortable working outside the house more. Understand that money isn’t the only way to add value, but be clear on what you consider equal contributions, whether that’s money, time, or just emotional support.
Tip Three: Be Willing to Compromise
While it is essential to communicate exactly what you feel, need, and want, and then make budgets, guidelines, and agreements… it’s also essential to stay flexible. It’s always most important to support each other emotionally. If one of you is going through a particularly trying period, it may not be the best time to pull out the calculator. Know that the favour or generosity, whether financially or through acts of service and quality time, will be returned.