You Need Help: Your Girlfriend Makes More Money Than You, Just Wants to Have Fun

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.


Q:

My partner and I have been together for five years and are engaged, I love her very much and we have a genuinely great relationship. The one thing that distresses me is money. My partner is earning more money than me and has always been better at saving and managing finances. She likes to spend this money on holidays, nice food, and memorable experiences. I can rarely afford to keep up with this lifestyle without accumulating credit card debt and have no savings to fall back on.

This has always been a pattern in our relationship and I have brought it up numerous times as problematic, not because I don’t want her to spend her money on nice things, but because when I say that I can’t afford to go on holiday with her or book a fancy hotel for her birthday, she always frames this as me not wanting to be romantic or adventurous. This is despite me wanting to save money for things like a house, where some delayed gratification is necessary, and despite the fact that she even wants a house more than me!

Recently she has moved to a different city for work and while we plan to live together again in the next few months, managing the rent on my own has made finances even tighter, while I’m also expected to travel to see her regularly. When I can’t afford to travel to visit her, she gets upset about missing me and questions whether I want to see her if I’m being reluctant to book travel.

Obviously this is frustrating, especially when I’ve asked her not to make me feel guilty for wanting to not get into (more) debt and trying to save money for our future together. She does get it when I bring it up and apologises, but her solution is then to spend the money herself on a fancy hotel room for her birthday, my travel, and so on, which makes me feel guilty about not being able to do nice things for her. I’m not particularly romantic either, so find it hard to figure out how to make it up to her with smaller gestures.

I don’t know what to do to make her see things from my point of view because it’s justifiable that she wants to make the most out of life while she can. She thrives on new experiences and it boosts her mental health to have these things. She’s said on more than one occasion that not going on holiday for a year would exacerbate her depression, which also makes me feel like refusing to spend money is contributing to her poor mental health. It also makes her sad to go away by herself though, as she would much rather be making those nice memories with me around.

How can I support the way she wants to live and not drown in debt?

A:

Friend,

I am so glad you wrote in to ask this! Firstly because money issues and sex issues are the main issues all couples face, and I want to reassure you that you’re not alone in having these worries and frustrations. Secondly because I make less money than my partner so I have a little bit of experience I can share with you. And thirdly because the way you wrote about this conundrum is so level-headed and full of a real sense of urgency to make sure both you and your partner have what you need and want for your mental health. That’s a great leaping-off point for addressing any relationship riddle and I feel confident y’all can come to a better understanding around money that will make both of you less stressed out.

Let me pull out the two things that jumped out most to me from your question. Neither of them are really about money.

When you say you can’t afford something, your fiancée frames it as you not wanting to be adventurous or romantic; or when you say you can’t afford to come visit her, she frames that as you not wanting to see her. That’s a thing that’s going to need some work, and I think it would be best if that work came proactively. By which I mean: Don’t wait until the next time she asks you to do something that’s out of your financial comfort zone to talk about this. It feels very necessary for you to say to your fiancée, “Hey, babe! I think there’s a better way for us to talk about money, and I would love it if we could find a good safe time to sit down and really hear each other about our financial realities and goals so we can make sure we’re supporting each other’s individual needs and empowering ourselves to have the best future possible!” (If you initiate that conversation over email, I would advise not making the subject a smiley face. My research suggests that comes off as sarcastic.) (Just a little side tip, you’re welcome!)

Of course, when you’re having a tough conversation it’s best to use “I feel” statements and avoid saying things like “always” and “never.” Just for one example, “You always make me feel like a broke bitch.” That is not a good way to say the thing you want to say. “I want you to have everything you need to be happy and mentally healthy, and I want to contribute to that happiness and mental healthiness, but sometimes when I tell you I can’t afford to do the things you want to do, I feel like you don’t hear the real reason, which is that it will cause me to go deeper in debt and that stresses me out and makes me feel like future me isn’t going to be in a good position to give us both the big things we want, like a house!” That is a good way to say the thing you want to say.

The other thing that jumped out at me is that you feel guilty when your girlfriend offers to pay for both of you to do the fun things she wants you to do. That’s some work you’re going to have to do internally, and oh, I understand how hard that is. Why does it make you feel guilty? Is it the way she offers? Because if so, that’s something to bring up in the conversation I mentioned above. If not, though, really: why do you feel that way? Is it because you grew up in a supremely patriarchal religious institution where you were expected to stay at home and have babies while your husband provided for you, and thinking about anyone “taking care of you” financially taps into that trauma? Is it because you’re afraid to rely on her financially because what if she leaves and you’ve lost the ability to take care of yourself? Is it because you’re afraid that she’ll grow to resent you for not being able to pay for half of everything? Is it because you believe you’ll be indebted to her in ways that aren’t financial if she pays more for things than you do? That it will shift the balance of power in your relationship? That it will mean you’re expected to do more housework because of internalized ideas you have about gender roles and money? That it will cause you to lose any sense of personal control over your life?

I’m just tossing out all the reasons I struggled for years to just accept the fact that my partner makes more money than me and that it’s totally okay. In fact, it’s very normal for one person in a couple to make more money than the other person!

Once you unpack why you feel guilty, talk to your fiancée about it. It’ll probably help her to understand more of where you’re coming from, and allow her to ease some of your anxieties, and permit you to begin working to let go of the guilt so you can just go to a nice hotel for her birthday and enjoy it!

On a practical, actual money level, it’d be good for y’all to sit down and talk numbers. How much money do you each make, what do your individual monthly budgets look like, how much money do you both want to be saving for your house, and then how much disposable income do you both have left, at the end of the day? If you have a hundred dollars left and she has a thousand dollars left, maybe you agree to pay ten percent for fun things and she pays 90 percent. It’s proportional! And fair! You each have the money you have and you’re a team and when you combine that funtime money together — no matter who put in how much — you get to spend it as a team!

I’ll leave you with Mr. Rogers: “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like ‘struggle.’ To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Be honest and compassionate with each other about who and where you are at this moment in time on your long and winding and ever-evolving relationship path; you’re gonna be great!

Yours most humbly,
Heather


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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Heather has written 710 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. My partner also makes more money than I do–like, double.

    But we have our finances combined and my partner is really into approaching our finances as a partnership. This doesn’t come without its own emotional navigation–I experience guilt in spending what sometimes feels like “our money” on something that doesn’t directly benefit my partner (a pint with a friend, a t-shirt that I see that I like, a book). It feels selfish–I know she feels the same way–but my guilt is compounded by the fact that I don’t contribute as much to our account.

    This is something that we talk about openly however and a lot of that guilt is something I have to work on within myself as she doesn’t actually make me feel ashamed of my personal spending habits. Though they are practically extinct as I can’t help but feel like there is subconscious score keeping (also just another anxiety to unpack through thought records).

    Advice wise, I just completely agree with Heather. If you two approach money and how personal you see it differently–then I think it would be good to first have a breakdown to show WHY you approach and feel about money differently based on just Straight Up Hard Facts. And then allow yourselves to have an open and vulnerable conversation about how that makes you navigate the world and your relationship due to your different circumstances and capacities.

    Best of luck!

  2. I can’t figure out if that Mr. Rogers quote was an intentional response to Heather’s newest AS title, or just the quote she would have used no matter what. I kind of think it’s the latter.

    Also, I laughed out loud at that side tip on smiley face subject lines.

  3. We use Suze Orman’s advice! We pay joint expenses (mortgage, groceries, Netflix, etc.) out of a joint account. The partner who makes 70% of the income puts in 70% of the contributions to that account and the partner who makes 30% of the income puts in 30% of the contributions. Easy and peasy. I recommend it!

  4. I feel like I need to offer a dissenting viewpoint because there’s a big point that everyone seems to have missed here. You’ve been with this woman for five years, and money has been a CONSISTENT problem? It’s not going away. It will never go away, no matter how much therapy you two throw money at it together, no matter how much financial advice about budgeting or joint accounts you try to implement. You’ve tried discussing these things and it hasn’t worked because she doesn’t have the capacity to understand them. You could track your spending for an entire month, every dollar, and show it to her as an illustration of why taking time off work and paying to visit her is a financial burden to you. Ttry it? Go ahead. I’ll wait. Did she look at it and whine that you never come to see her? Of course she did. You, like the things she buys with her money, are an object for her to consume. She doesn’t take your situation into account because as far as she’s concerned you have no situation. She’s like a toddler who thinks you literally stop existing when she cannot see you. She equates the spendng of money with love, so when you don’t have money to spend on her, she believes you don’t love her. And you cannot change that.

    The only way for this to work is for you to demand you both live at YOUR economic level, not hers. A house YOU can afford on your own if you have to, a car YOU could make payments on, vacations YOU could take without her. Once you make her do that either a lightbulb will go on and she’ll finally get it or she’ll decide being poor sucks and run for the hills. Either way, you’re not left hanging and it solves your problem. I know it sounds harsh, but trust someone who’s been there. This will never stop. There is no resolution. You will never be good enough. It’s normal for couples to argue over money every now and again, usually over specifics. But thinking that marriage and therapy can solve an ongoing difference in ideology makes about as much sense as people who think they can talk their way through one partner not believing in monogamy, or not wanting kids. Either one person ends up incredibly unhappy, or the relationship ends.

    Not all higher-income people are like this, but when they are, oh my sweet lord do they not want to change. I find it’s more common in people who were raised with more money, because they’ve never met any resistance in their life. People who scraped their way out can usually maintain at least an intellectual understanding of what not having that money was like. I solved this by just not dating above my income bracket, which isn’t necessary for everyone, but I got sick of fighting with people about how I had to actually go to work and couldn’t be constantly available for them. Remember that money is power, so people who make more money than you have more power than you and they will try to use it. But you have power too, you have the power to decide what you do with your body and time outside your job. Use it.

    You work too hard to survive to be constantly babysitting someone and their insecurities about whether or not you love them. If you’re not willing to have this argument a few times a year and have your love for her questioned every time you buy store-brand cereal, until you die, rethink marriage.

      • “When I can’t afford to travel to visit her, she gets upset about missing me and questions whether I want to see her if I’m being reluctant to book travel.”

        Her girlfriend disregards her financial situation and frames the writer’s inability to visit her as a sign she doesn’t love her, tying the writer’s love for her not to her words or actions when they are together but to the writer’s income.

        “This has always been a problem in our relationship and I have brought it up numerous times…she always frames this as me not wanting to be romantic or adventurous. ”

        Her girlfriend refuses to make accommodations for her partner, refuses to try to even understand her situation or where she’s coming from, and instead frames the willingness to spend money on her as a show of affection, again equating the writer’s lack of money to her lack of feeling for her. She also refuses to change or interrogate her own behavior to make up for the difference in income between them. A partner with less money should not be expected to travel to see a partner with more money as often. The writer’s girlfriend is demanding that the writer create equality in a relationship where none currently exists. The writer cannot magically make more money appear for herself, but her girlfriend expects her to. If she didn’t, she would have no problem being the one to travel or pay for the fancy vacation she insists on taking.

        “She does get it when I bring it up and apologises, but her solution is then to spend the money herself on a fancy hotel room for her birthday, my travel, and so on, which makes me feel guilty about not being able to do nice things for her. I’m not particularly romantic either, so find it hard to figure out how to make it up to her with smaller gestures.”

        Her girlfriend, again, believes that throwing money at a problem will make it go away. She apologizes not by asking what non-spending actions she can take to do better, or by trying to think of other ways to show affection, but by SPENDING MORE MONEY. Which the letter writer feels she must then ‘make up to her’, because this isn’t an equal partnership and her girlfriend spending money on her travel isn’t done in good faith.

        “She’s said on more than one occasion that not going on holiday for a year would exacerbate her depression, which also makes me feel like refusing to spend money is contributing to her poor mental health.”

        The letter writer feels like not being willing to go into massive debt to take vacations with her girlfriend is emotionally abusive to her girlfriend. That’s not okay. Telling someone they are abusing you or making you feel bad about themselves because you don’t make as much money as them is not okay. If her girlfriend wants to travel so much let her go alone, or with wealthier friends. There’s no reason she can’t and it’s not okay she equates the writer’s inability–or even lack of want!–to do that with not wanting to be with her. If travel really is that important to her girlfriend–which is fine if it is, she has the right to spend her money how she wants–she should be willing to do it alone, understanding she goes with the letter writer’s blessing to have a good time. If she is inisting the letter writer come even if she can’t or doesn’t want to, she’s not actually interested in the travel for its sake. “You’re hurting me by not being willing to wrack up credit card to follow me around the world” is not an acceptable way to treat your partner.

        “How can I support the way she wants to live and not drown in debt?”

        You can’t. Unless you start making more money or she makes less, you can’t. If you both lowered your standard of living you may be able to afford to take less lavish vacations together (less hotel, more hostel), but that would require her to come down to where you are and for you to come down further (depending on the writer’s status right now, that may or not be possible. She spelled “apologise” is an s, which makes me think she may be Canadian or in the UK, in which case she may have a better safety net than someone in the US). So either the girlfriend has to get over it, which she hasn’t in five years, or the letter writer needs to decide how often she’s willing to have this argument, because it won’t go away if it hasn’t already. There’s a difference between a bump in the road or a disagreemnt and an ongoing problem. An ongoing problem caused by incompatability between two people is unlikely to resolve itself.

        This letter wasn’t “how do we manage a lopsided dual income”, which is a reasonable question that lots of couples can answer and navigate very well for themselves. This letter was “my girlfriend equates love with money and I have no money, how do I continue to bend over backwards to accomadate her?” The writer hasn’t even asked if this is unhealthy, which is obviously is, she just wants to know how she can make this person happy despite this person not being willing to meet her in any of these discussions. All I suggested was that maybe she shouldn’t be trying at all. If it’s important to her girlfriend that the person she’s with be able and willing to go on expensive adventures with her, she should be with someone with the means to do that. And the letter writer deserves to be with someone who doesn’t make her feel guilty or forced into debt, no matter how much more or less money than her they make. They’ve only been together for five years and have no children or shared property. Cutting their losses should be pretty easy, pun intended. I don’t understand this obsession with making relatinoships work at all costs (again, pun intended). And frankly at the end of the day, NONE OF THIS MATTERS, because the fact that the letter writer isn’t happy, is being made to feel like a bad person, and feels forced or guilted into doing things she doesn’t want to do is enough reason to end the relationhip, regardless of the other person involved! If she’s unhappy she can leave her girlfriend, and that’s it! I know it seems obvious but I have been where she is and I literally believed I didn’t have the right to break up with her because she made more money. Literally believed I was not allowed until a friend broke through that and told me I could. I jsut want her to know that’s an option. Not staying with someone who makes you fel bad is an option.

        Life is short and you have value and merit on your own. Don’t be with people you constantly fight with or who make you feel shitty about yourself. If that’s harsh and unfair, fine, I’m harsh and unfair.

      • I said several times I was in a similar situation and that’s why I felt so strongly that the letter writer was being treated poorly and should consider ending the relationship. I stated in my reply that I know how hard it can be to assert yourself in a mismatched relationship, again, from personal experience. When people are struggling in a way that I have struggled, I respond by telling them how I met and overcame that struggle, knowing that sometimes certain ideas can be resisted initially but once planted can help people find their own strength and worth, once again, from personal experience. So is your point that I shouldn’t care about people who I identify with, or words or advice rising from a place of personal meaning or experience should be disregarded as disordered thinking? Heather also invoked her personal situation in her response, which I felt discussed some important things while missing the true nature of the question. You accuse me of having a disorder despite having been very upfront about personally identifying with the letter, but you don’t accuse Heather of the same thing. I’m just trying to figure out whose experiences matter and whose don’t. Or rather, whose RESPONSES to their experiences matter and whose don’t.

        • Yeah, I think it’s pretty obvious you were in a situation you’re reading as similar to this one and are responding to the question-asker about her girlfriend with all the anger and frustration you feel about what happened to you. Calling her a toddler was kind of a giveaway. 🙂

          Anyway, I also have been in a similar situation and handled it the way I wrote about here and it worked out super well for me. I always come to advice trying to give both parties the benefit of the doubt since what we’re seeing is one very small piece of one very large situation, filtered through the lens of the question-asker, and with some general tips about how to have healthy, positive communication in a relationship, assuming both people are in it with open hearts and open minds.

          This isn’t a court of law, you know? It’s not science. It’s just one human asking another human for a little bit of help navigating a really hard world.

          I’m sorry you were hurt so badly. It seems like a really terrible and demoralizing thing you went through. I hope you’re able to find some healing and your future relationship(s) are more fulfilling and full of reciprocal understanding about money things.

          • In my defense (it’s not actually defense, in some ways I am just a shitty person) I call a lot of people toddlers. My friend is going through his second divorce right now because he married a woman who expects monogamy, which he doesn’t believe in and has never practiced. I agree with him ideologically, but sneaking around and lying like you think cause and effect don’t exist and people can’t learn things is toddler behavior. Like “I broke this lamp and if I hide it behind the couch no one will notice it’s gone and nothing bad will happen”. And I told him that. But I also really don’t like kids, so I guess it’s the worst thing I can come up with to call someone?

            It just makes me so angry when people settle for someone for whatever reason. I told a friend last year to dump his boyfriend because he wanted somebody who was interested in his art and art in general and his boyfriend wasn’t. Break up with him! That’s never happened to me, but what’s wrong with you! There are men out there who like art, date them! And he didn’t even feel guilty or pressured, just sort of neglected. I can’t stand it. Relationships should make your life better, not be your main cause of stress. Conflict should cause you to ultimately grow together and become stronger, not be a constant and revolving source of stress. And it’s okay to be single. It’s okay to dump people, even if it will make them sad and even if they spent money or time on you. I feel like we don’t say these things enough.

            Thanks for the well wishes Heather and everyone, that relationship was years ago and money problems aside wasn’t all that awful. She wasn’t a bad person, she wasn’t mean or uncaring or anything, she was overall a nice person, she was just raised with money and always had money and couldn’t grasp the concept of it not being a near-infinite resource to a lot of people. You know, like a small child. 🙂 And it was only an issue because of who *I* was. She’s with someone now who’s able to available for her in the ways she needs them to be and they’re doing great together.

            Finally, I also stopped dating entirely about 18 months ago, and I’m much quicker to jump to “dump them” now than I was then. It was a revelation to start treating myself and not somebody else like the most important person in my life. That’s my main point. Don’t be with someone who makes you feel less important than they are.

            I’ll shut up now.

    • I also agree with K. I think that Heather’s advice was good and definitely worth a try to really talk it out fully but everything seems to be on the partner’s terms. It seems like the partner does whatever she wants and has had to be consistently reminded that the letter writer can’t keep up – being plagued with money worries is not good for mental health either! If they are in the UK travel is ridiculously expensive and the whole thing feels very one-sided to me.
      I really feel for the letter writer and I hope they manage to sort it out but if the partner doesn’t get it after one more try then I don’t think she ever will.

      • It’s likely that the LW’s girlfriend isn’t as bad as K’s ex, but I see some major red flags in that letter. The problem isn’t the income difference, it’s that the girlfriend seems completely out of touch with the LW’s financial reality and hasn’t made a real effort to empathize with her after 5 years. Her pouting about reluctance to book travel is totally unacceptable.

        The thing with a financial power differential is that it’s easily quantifiable and after 5 years it seems highly unlikely that they don’t have a sense of each other’s income. How does she not realize her partner is in debt? Yes, she has offered to subsidize some vacations, but it also sounds like she has expected her partner to share her lifestyle on her own dime much of the time. I don’t know if she lives in the UK, the US, or what, but as the great Cady Heron once reminded us, math is the same in every country. Not imposing debt on a partner who earns less shouldn’t be so hard.

    • I think that K’s answer really locked into some things that weren’t overtly said in the letter writer’s question, and I’d have to agree. I’m reading from the viewpoint of the person who made more money but my ex did the same things and money with love. We were long distance so if I wasn’t willing/able to buy her a ticket to visit every two weeks, I didn’t love her and she would throw a fit.
      It’s never about the money, it’s about the attitude around it and in Heather’s situation that attitude sounds more rational versus the letter writer’s

      • That sucks, I can’t imagine demanding someone buy me a ticket somewhere unless they complained constantly they never saw me. And you’re right, the money’s just standing in for differences in how they approach relationships. I’m guessing Heather and her partner approach relationships the same way, so they’re able to have conversations about money rather than talking past each other.

        • I’m gonna hop on the “advice from personal experience” bandwagon here too. 😉 I caught some of the same undertones K did in that letter and they reminded me of my first marriage, in which I felt like I had to walk on eggshells to avoid hurting my poor fragile man’s feelings. I stayed way too long because of course I couldn’t be the bad one who hurt this poor man who was just trying so hard to love me and who hadn’t done anything to deserve being left. I couldn’t have an honest conversation with him that led to a better relationship.

          Heather’s advice is, as she notes, written with giving both people the benefit of the doubt, and if K and the rest of us are misreading the letter and their relationship actually is basically healthy and/or both of them can be honest, open and vulnerable with each other, then her advice is great as always. (Personal experience bandwagon again: I can have this kind of talk with my now-husband and it works great – and it’s really only hard the first time; once you’ve set “honest about emotions and practical details, treating it as both-of-you-vs-reality instead of one-vs-the-other” as your default, it becomes habit and it’s easy.) So LW, if there is something in Heather’s suggestions you haven’t tried before and you trust it might work with your partner, go for it and good luck.

          But K is totally right that being in a relationship should bring out your best self. If instead it’s bringing out your “how can I contort myself for this person regardless of the damage it may do me” self…you deserve to feel like you can breathe.

    • I agree with K. I think it’s shitty to guilt trip your partner into spending money they don’t have to visit you. If the higher income partner was truly invested in the relationship and good at managing money, she would know that debt is not ideal, particularly if they are working towards buying a house together. LW is trying to be responsible with money and her gf is shitting all over that.

    • “demand you both live at YOUR economic level, not hers. A house YOU can afford on your own if you have to, a car YOU could make payments on, vacations YOU could take without her.” – someone asked this of me, and it’s been good (not easy). It also means I can contribute the ‘extra’ to awesome stuff like Autostraddle, it’s easier to save, we get creative, appreciate what we have, and rely a lot on relationships (e.g. staying with friends when traveling).

  5. Something seems up here if the partner’s idea of having a romantic/adventurous time always revolves around spending a lot of money.

    Isn’t the point of having a “romantic” time doing something that makes all participants feel…romantic – not stressed out by money worries?

  6. As the partner with the higher-income in my relationship, I think it’s important that the asker’s partner is communicating better with the asker about financial situations. I *totally* get wanting to travel and experience things with my partner, but I also know that my partner cannot afford a lot of the things I want to do. If I really want her there, then I am happy to pay for her with no expectations of repayment and I make sure to communicate that on a regular basis. My partner definitely feels guilty in these situations sometimes, and I totally get it. I have been in these situations when I was struggling financially and it’s hard! But if your partner loves you and wants to spend time with you/wants to have a future with you, then they need to communicate that better, as well as be understanding of your reality.

  7. What great advice! Everyone is going to have different practical solutions, but a thing that really helped in my relationship was to open a joint checking and a joint savings account and decide what percentage of our paychecks were going to go into those. For us it worked out that 30% into checking would cover all our bills and smaller date nights like movies or dinner out. 15% went into savings for vacations, new furniture, that kind of longer term goal. The rest of our pay went to our own accounts to do what we wanted, buy clothes, pay for our own cars, etc. it felt much more fair all around than trying to put in the same amount of dollars.

  8. Recognizing cross-class relationships I’m in as cross-class is super important for me. Any millennial whose budgeting isn’t dominated by paying off debt and who has a nicely paying job should look into whether they are upper class or upper-middle class (it is possible but rare to get to that point without family money). There are really deep, insidious ways growing up upper or upper middle class (and perhaps like me you were told you were ‘middle class’ all the while) affects how we think about money. Uncovering those implicit lessons has opened up beautiful possibilities and choices for me, for myself, for friendships, for partnerships. I recommend Resource Generation and their book De-Classified for anyone curious to figure out if you might possibly in fact be upper class and affected by upperclass money thinking. I was raised upperclass and unlearning a lot of that implicit stuff is hard but GREAT.

  9. I think if your partner OFFERS to pay for things, you should let her and not feel guilty about it. That way, she gets the thing she wants and can afford, and you don’t go into debt. She can decide for herself whether paying your way (or at least paying more than half) is a worthwhile expenditure.. Maybe the experience and the company is worth the money to her. These kind of money value judgements are very different between people who have money and don’t have money. Like, to us broke people it can be like “Oh god that’s so much, I can’t let anyone possibly spend that on me” but to a person who has money and the job skills to keep making money, they might find it perfectly reasonable to spend in order to have a companion on their adventures. Like, if you wanted to go out to eat with your really really broke friend, and you could easily cover the meal, would you want them to not go or go but agonize with guilt over the cost? Probably not.

    My partner makes (literally) more than 3 times as much money as I do and has zero debt. While I don’t make assumptions that they’ll spent money on me, I definitely don’t feel bad if they choose to. I guess I just think in a committed relationship each person contributes in their own way… and the person who makes the most money should probably pay a bit more for things, especially unnecessary things that they want in the first place. I try to make up for it and contribute in other ways.. Like, my partner paid for all of our plane tickets and hotel rooms on a recent trip to Japan, but I tried to pay for some of our meals and souvenirs. Also, I spent hours and hours and hours researching and planning activities and basically planned our whole trip.. Something that I’m good at and that my partner is terrible at. So, at the end of the trip we were both thanking each other for making it awesome in the ways that we’re both good at. Also, my partner pays more of our rent, but I do more of our housework… because they have money, but I have crazy person adhd energy that they lack. We all have different things we bring to the table!

  10. speaking from experience…

    it definitely sounds like the partners come from different class backgrounds. That doesn’t make the problem insurmountable, but it can be difficult. I was with a partner, and I was making more money (at times I was the only one making money), and that coupled with our different socio economic statuses growing up brought a lot of emotions in when I paid for things. I honestly did not care, growing up upper middle class, money never “meant” a lot to me, because there was never a time growing up when money caused problems. My parents never fought about money, my family was never in debt. As long as my partner and I weren’t going into debt, I couldn’t have cared less how she spent our money. However, she had a very different experience growing up, and she had a lot of feelings about me supporting her, feeling like it was charity, not believing that I didn’t care how she spent money. And there were definitely times when I suggested expensive dinners/travel/experiences and that upset her, because she couldn’t afford them, and she felt guilty if I paid. I probably could have been more considerate in some of those times.

    tldr: yes, talk to your partner about money, but you may also need to discuss class, emotional ties to money, childhood trauma, etc

  11. The emotional abuse that the question asker is enduring is ignored in this piece of advice. Her finances are being weaponized against her and that’s not cool.

    And the financial advice given about splitting things 90/10 is a slippery slope.
    On an adventure, if the hotel is split 90/10, what happens during a fight do you get kicked out if you only paid 10%? And does the partner that pays 90 get to dictate the entire itinerary?
    I’m also not sure how to split a house or car by those means.
    The risk of shifting the power balance is always there.
    Which, unfortunately for the asker, seems to be her case. The asker’s partner is holding her higher income over her head.

    If this is the situation prior to being married, what will the situation be when their finances are combined? The asker clearly already feels like they’re trapped in a financial power dynamic.

    K wrote a great set of responses.

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