My husband and I split our income equally ever since we got virtually married last year. I was terrified of falling into a power dynamic like the one described in the movies shown during the first years of our relationship. The case appeared to be fairly straightforward. But I started thinking of less extreme cases.
A woman dating a man could be subjected to all manner of traps and traumatic experiences couched in the language of love by the patriarchy. When money is perceived as power in a society where women often earn lower incomes, it’s easy to believe that members of the household with more money have more influence; those with less control.
Relationship advice on the Internet is often framed in terms of danger signs, or red flags. In contrast, we don’t often discuss the inverse of that: the red flags of a true and good relationship dynamic. Our marriage has avoided the money-power trap mostly from the beginning, and we have managed to develop a relationship on an equal basis despite very different earnings. Let’s take a look at what has transpired.
I Saw Good Significances Right at the Start
He let me eat free lunch at his work cafeteria on our first date. A few days later, we went out to sushi for our second date. At his apartment, we had a picnic-style spread of cold cuts, bread, cheese, and root beer as our third date.
Having just graduated from college, we were both freshmen. We admittedly had different financial situations, but it was already apparent. I was living with my parents and working part-time jobs at a tech company, while he was a software engineer employed by a major company. We both grew up in cocoons of privilege, but I could see that he was already earning more than I was.
The more we spent together, the closer we became. Throughout the process of slowly getting to know him, everything he taught me was positive. I never felt off-balance or at a disadvantage because of the financial divide between us. I was at ease because of the following:
- MEASURES WERE ALL TAKEN BY HIM. Due to my stubborn independence, it was crucial to me to pay for everything myself. Even though he could have easily afforded something fancier, he didn’t pay for something if I wasn’t comfortable with him paying.
- SHARING IS CARING – It was more of a party opportunity for him than a favor to do me if I allowed him to treat me to something. He was thrilled to be able to afford a nicer hotel room on a trip than I could afford on my own.
- PRACTICALITY IN ITS FINEST. My father was surprised when my boyfriend bought his first car, a Prius, about a year after we began dating. Rather than argue, my husband said, “It was more practical.” and left it at that.
- NONE OF MY DECISIONS HAVE BEEN QUESTIONED – A little over two years after they started dating, he proposed we move in together. Eventually, I brought the matter up years later, and he didn’t speak of it again. At the same time, the landlord shrugged and helped me fix the ants and slugs crawling across the floor of my studio apartment, once converted from a garage.
The Role of Money in Commitment and Marriage
A year has passed. Relationships deepened between us. At work, he worked his way up the ranks; I developed my skills in public relations and then became a freelancer. Moving in together was an exciting moment for us. His contribution to the purchase of the condo was 95 percent. My husband and I had our zoom wedding using my savings (because it is cheaper and because of the pandemic) and currently, my husband is saving to pay for our dream wedding (beach wedding).
As our relationship has become more financially intertwined, I have continued to see those green flags. Last summer, I left a steady income stream in the absence of another, for the first time in my adult life.
Currently, my husband’s income from the technology industry keeps our family afloat. It is a notoriously low-paying endeavor (and especially so for women) that I am embarking upon a new career as a writer and editor. I have a long way to go before I can compete with J.K Rowling. For the duration of my marriage, my husband will probably earn more than I will. I am comfortable with that for a few reasons:
- A shared financial future is important to him. In the course of joining finances, he made sure it was clear that the money in our joint account belonged to us, not me or you. Even jokingly, he would jump in and correct me if I mentioned spending his money.
- Admirations for my career is taken well by him.
- When I speak about my writing as if it were a glorified hobby, I instinctively downplay my ambitions as a woman in the creative field. However, my spouse does not agree. Whenever we get a chance, he’ll talk up my skills and accomplishments, and will gladly share our resources for writing conferences and classes so that I can hone my craft.
- My money is not his concern or knowledge. Every month, we each withdraw an equal amount from our joint bank account, keeping our individual pre-marriage accounts. I can use this money however I like, even though it is technically from his salary. He doesn’t ask (and, frankly, doesn’t care) what I do with it.
- He will talk endlessly about this. We routinely stay in touch with our priorities and concerns, including finances, even when things feel seamless and stable. We discuss everything from his yearly compensation certificates to his monthly spending breakdowns. My responsibilities in all household financial matters are clear and equal to his.
We are all affected by the culture we live in. It takes constant vigilance, along with a lot of humility, to keep our relationship healthy and egalitarian. I have seen from the beginning that my husband is a capable and dedicated partner. He rewards my choice every day for committing to him.