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What to Do if Your Partner Makes More Money Than You

Is it true that the person who makes more money in the relationship wields more power? Well, that is only the case if you let it happen. By Lianne Choo

what to do if your partner makes way more money than you?

When I say, “make a lot more money than you,” I do not mean your loved one’s paycheck surpassing yours by a few hundred bucks. I’m talking about a difference of thousands of dollars. Heck, I’m talking about your partner having to check a whole other box when filling out airport arrival cards.

It is not uncommon for couples to face financial problems, not because there isn’t enough to go around, which to be fair, happens all the time, but because one makes significantly more than the other. This article has got nothing to do with gender equality and being an independent woman and all that jazz.

Whether you are in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, there is no denying that you will be stuck at one point or another, because you do not know how to handle having a partner who makes way more money than you.

This article hits really close to home, because I’m in that exact position. As a writer, I am certainly not in the same salary bracket as my fiancé, who happens to be a regional manager at an international corporation. Not only does he get to enjoy a relatively mind blowing monthly paycheck, he also enjoys an expatriate package that covers his rent. He is also lucky enough to receive full medical and dental coverage from his company, not to mention he’s fully paid for relocation services, should he up and move to another country within the same corporation.

Am I jealous? Sure thing. However, him working hard and being able to provide a comfortable life for himself is all thanks to his hard work and perseverance. As large as our salary divide is, there is no denying that I am wholeheartedly proud of his achievements. You should be feeling the same way about your partner.

There is no denying that our difference in income has been a problem. For example, I’m unable to contribute as much to savings as he does, and this poses a problem in the grand scheme of things. What do we do when it is time to build a life together and buy a home? Will the house be in both our names, even though I can only contribute a fraction of what he puts down? Should we even bother with a joint savings account if a bulk of the money is his?

It’s not just the big stuff, but the little things that come into play, too. Dining out, shopping for the household and contributing to everyday expenses becomes a problem, because try as I may, I’m simply unable to give up as much as he can.

Questions like these bother the heck out of me, but at the end of the day, you have to soldier on and accept the fact that there is nothing wrong with making less so long as you love what you are doing, have a solid savings plan in place and can sustain your lifestyle without being totally dependent on your partner.

How to handle having a smaller income than your partner

Here are five things that I’ve learned throughout my six-year relationship of being with someone who makes way more than I do.

#1 Never let your partner put you down. This is the first and most important thing that you have to pay attention to, if you’re in a serious relationship with someone who makes more than you do. Never let your partner put you down just because you’re unable to rake in the moolah.

The moment you feel animosity setting in, sit down with your loved one and explain just why it bothers you when they make jokes or even hint at the prospect of you being less of an equal because of your salary. You must command respect in the relationship, or else it’s not going to work out. If you do not address this and let it happen, the two of you will end up resenting one another and before you know it, you can kiss your relationship sayonara.

#2 Strive to be better but do not compete. Always keep in mind that different industries offer its players different pay grades. You can never expect to financially compete with someone who is an investment banker, if you hold the position of marketing manager.

One thing that you can do for yourself is to strive to be better at your job and to always work towards getting that promotion and salary jump. Never lose that competitive fierceness in the workplace, as it will serve you well in the long run. However, rein in that competitive spirit when you get home, and remember that even if you reach the top of your pay grade, what you take home may not come close to what your partner brings in.

Learn to accept that and ensure that your partner does too. There is no point in competing with one another, because at the end of the day, you’re supposed to operate as a team and not as individual players. [Read: Money management tips for couples]

#3 Pull your weight, but expect fairness. This is by far the hardest thing that I’ve struggled with. As lucky as I am to have a partner who is wholly supportive and understanding of the fact that I make less than he does, there are times when his kindness comes off feeling like charity.

Sure, most of the time it is all in my head, but I can tell that there are times when he offers to “take care of it,” because it is far simpler to do so than to wait for me to raise the money for it. Taking holidays and paying for large household expenses like buying furniture is a good example.

Instead of waiting for me to save up to buy that flight ticket or book that hotel, he prefers to get it out of the way by paying for it on the spot. I’ve learned not to argue with him and compensate by taking care of our daily expenses during the trip.

Another way that you can pull your weight is to pick up the tab every so often when you head out on dates. From paying for movie tickets to treating him to his favorite ribs dinner, there are myriad ways that you can treat your partner and thank them for the many times that they have taken care of you without breaking the bank.

You should also take a page out of my book and stake a claim in something and regularly contribute to it. Find an area where you can afford to contribute on a regular basis, and stand your ground. There is no way that you will be able to contribute as much as your partner does, but you have to pull your weight, so remember to do so in a fair and realistic manner. For example, I contribute to the household by paying the bills. [Read: 10 big relationship problems and how to fix them]

#4 Modify your lifestyle to cater to both of you. As fabulous as it is to be pampered by your partner, who won’t break a sweat splashing the equivalent of your monthly salary on a long weekend trip, you have to realize that living in the lap of luxury on someone else’s dime is not the way to go.

You will be spoiling yourself by taking advantage of all the luxurious things in life that you are unable to afford on your own. What does this make you? Let’s not answer that, as it’s only going to get you all mad and riled up.

Do not take advantage of your loved one, by setting such high expectations and taking advantage of their spending abilities. Adjust your lifestyle to cater to both your salaries. Live within your means, and be absolutely proud of it.

Instead of taking a trip abroad to celebrate the upcoming long weekend, plan a road trip to that cute bed and breakfast located only an hour away. Do things together that you can afford to pay for. Even if your partner offers to pay for it, graciously decline or offer to go Dutch.

It is not where you head to and how much you spend on a holiday that matters, but rather, what you do together and how you spend your time. Not only will your partner love and treasure you even more for this, you will also be taking a stand and proving that you’re an independent person who can lead a fulfilling life within your means. [Read: 15 signs you’re being too high maintenance]

#5 Don’t let your sweetheart be burdened by you. Never let money get in the way when making decisions, or when arguing, for that matter. I’ll be the first to shamefully admit that I’ve used the you-make-more-than-me-so-you-should-handle-it line on my sweetheart. You have to be responsible for yourself and never settle into a routine, whereby your higher-paid partner feels responsible for you.

Your partner did not sign up for a child but rather, they signed up to be with an independent, loving and responsible adult to share their life with. No matter how tough it may be for you, you must never fall into the trap of being dependent on your partner. Always display a sense of independence and always keep your sense of identity and take responsibility in the relationship.

The last thing you want is to burden your partner, just because you do not make enough to sustain your lifestyle. What if something tragic happens and they are forced out of the job market? What if your partner gets fired or quits? What if your partner gets tired of you and leaves? You have to let them know that you will be there for them no matter what, and that you will be able to carry both of you through whatever tough times that may come your way.

If you can’t do it for the two of you, at least be strong enough to do it for yourself. Keep your dignity and never let anyone feel burdened by you. Always remember that anything and everything can go wrong tomorrow, so be prepared for that by being financially responsible and not wholly dependent on someone else.

[Read: How to stop fighting over money in a relationship]

As fabulous as it is to be treated by your partner, remember that you’re an independent soul with so much more to offer besides money. Although there is nothing wrong with being pampered, you have to realize that material objects are not the most important things in life. No matter how much your partner makes, being independent while maintaining a loving relationship with someone who respects and loves you is the most important thing.

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Gemma Hsieh
Born in Singapore and raised in Canada to multi-racial parents, Gemma is a self-proclaimed travel and food junkie. Having traveled extensively around the world,...
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