Lately, my spouse and I have been struggling with finances. I work a full time fairly well paying job with decent benefits while my spouse has spent his time at home raising our children and going to graduate school. This is a decision we made together, though really didn’t know just how challenging it could be. As medical bills, car payments, and heating expenses rose our ability to cover everything dropped. Meanwhile, I’ve been dating a man who makes a better income and is in a double- income- no -kids situation. The disparity between partners incomes whether married or dating is prone to cause issues and strife.
How couples deal with and discuss finances has a big impact on their relationship, how they’re treating each other, their stress levels around the children, heck even how often they’re having sex. I feel like if there is one thing that drives a wedge between people the most it tends to be money. Who’s making it, who’s spending it, what’s it being spent ON? And even couples who have been together many years can still have differing views on if you should spend extra on the organic vegetables, or if Billy really NEEDS another pair of sneakers right now.
For me, first there is my husband Allan. While we both agreed I’d work because I made more while he stayed home, he finds being a stay at home dad less than fulfilling. It is difficult for him to overcome the age old social indoctrination of the man providing for his family. The tougher our monetary situation gets, the more he feels like he isn’t ”doing his part” and is riding on my coat tails. I value his time with the children, and around the house, but I cannot make him appreciate it the same way.
”I should be DOING something.” He always says.
”You are”, I’ll reply motioning to our three children, and he’ll give me an eye roll while turning the thermostat down on the heat to conserve.
Allan and I agree it’s time for him to look for work outside the home, but it doesn’t stop the complications between us. I have to keep myself from pestering him too much about how many jobs he’s applied to, while also bolstering his ego that he WILL find something. He has to try not to sink into a depression about the lack of work and not resent me for being able to provide for us all while he cannot. With the first job interview he got we ran into a heated argument, I was feeling frustrated and said he’d have to take it, he already knew that and just wanted a little compassion. For a long time, I’ve felt like money spent on food could flow like water, because everybody needs to eat. Allan always felt I shouldn’t be so free with the grocery budget but let me be heavy handed with it. Here, we’ve managed to compromise and I’ve started to buy non-name brands (big step for me, its true) and cut down in some areas. Allan in the meantime, is looking for work and trying to keep a positive attitude, which isn’t always easy.
Then, there is my boyfriend Jim. Jim is married with no children and he and his wife both make higher than average salaries. They have the ability to take foreign vacations and buy both needs and wants without too much fret. Where this comes into trouble for Jim and I is that while he can front pretty much ALL our time together, I can cover very little and feel badly about it. When we started dating, Jim and his wife were not on a particular budget and he spent money left and right. When I was with Jim there were no money worries. We went out to eat, and out to shows, and pretty much had a grand old time. More recently, especially with them both dating, they have created a monthly budget for their own personal expenses. I feel like the specifics aren’t really my business, but it has affected the way we spent time together.
Jim and I still make plans and do things I couldn’t personally afford, but it’s not easy. Just as Allan feels he is relying on me, when it comes to my secondary relationship I feel like I am relying on Jim. It weighs on me a little to have him cover every meal and every movie and our upcoming trip to the city, though he does it humbly. And with a guilty sigh, I miss when we did even more activities and were less restricted. Even if Jim and I were single people dating, the disparity of our incomes would greatly effect who could contribute what. He’d still be covering more, because he makes so much more, and I’d still feel badly about it. I want to suggest we try a new steak restaurant, but in my mind I’m seeing that as asking him for something expensive when really I just want to do something new with him. Financial conversations are strained and a little awkward when we discuss what we can afford. Are we staying at the Ritz or the Super 8? It’s not really up to me, because it’s not my money.
I suppose I am not sure what the compromise is when you’re dating. As a married couple, you view the money as ”ours” (at least we do, I know some couples don’t) and can make the decisions together. But when you’re dating, there is more of a ”˜his and hers ”˜ and if you can’t have an equal input into financial activities, how do you do it with no guilt, resentment, or discord? My spouse and I can battle out our budget together, my boyfriend and I? I’m just not sure how the dating world does it but try to enjoy each other and not let the financial woes get in the way.