Navigating Income Inequality in Marriage

Oct 9, 2022 | Clauses, Finances, New York Prenuptial Agreements, Prenuptial Agreements, Protecting Assets, Relationships

Picture this! Your spouse comes home from work and excitedly announces that they’ve just been promoted and will receive a 20% pay increase. Wowza! You are super excited to hear the big announcement because you know that your partner has worked so hard and is well deserving. You celebrate with wine and a fancy dinner. The next morning, you begin to feel a little anxious, and envious. You realize that your partner now makes more money than you.

Let’s get to the real “meat and potatoes!” How does income inequality in your marriage make you and your spouse both feel?  If you earn less than your partner, do you feel inadequate or less important in your marriage?  Are you secretly hiding your feelings and pretending that everything is, okay? Or, if you’re the one earning more income, do you constantly bash and judge your spouse, do you feel that you must always have the last to say on how money should be spent in your marriage?

Income inequality in marriage is when one partner earns more money that the other. The higher earner may have a job that pays significantly more, or one partner pay pause a career to raise children or further their education. Unemployment, illness, or disability can also cause an income gap in a relationship.

If you both make the same amount of money, it’s harder to shut one person down. However, in most relationships, one partner earns more income than the other. Complex issues can develop from either partner, emotions may run high, and resentment may cut deep.

If income disparity is an issue your marriage, maybe it’s because you haven’t really talked it through with your partner yet.

In this article, we will share some issues caused by income inequality and ways you can navigate through them in your marriage. Don’t stop here… Read on!

1) Feeling of Guilt & Resentment

The one who earns less or who is a stay-at-home mom/dad may feel guilty for not contributing much financially, they may also feel guilty if they spend too much money. Let’s flip this scenario. The spouse who earns most of the household income may feel resentment towards his or her spouse – either for not making anything at all or for not contributing much financially. This spouse who earns more may feel taken advantage of. This breadwinner may feel overwhelmed and stressed which also can lead to resenting their partner for not pulling in their weight financially.  Either way, guilt and or resentment is the problem.

Open your lines of communication:  If you’re in this predicament, one thing that can help diffuse your anger is to recognize that there are more ways to contribute to a marriage than simply opening your wallet. Perhaps your partner supports you emotionally, keeps the household running smoothly or takes care of time-consuming projects around the house.

If you feel guilty for spending too much money or for not contributing financially then talk to your partner about it. If you resent your spouse because he or she is not contributing much, then talk about it. Start your discussion in a loving manner, without accusing the other for any wrongdoing. Set your eyes on the bigger goal, that is to make your relationship a successful one.  Remember that you both are teammates, your marriage is not a competition!

2) Financial Power Struggle May Be An Issue

The spouse who earns a higher salary may begin to feel like an “authoritative figure” on all financial decisions in his/her household. They may begin to suggest how money should be run without having the discussion with the other partner. They may believe that he or she has the power and last say over the other spouse, especially when money is involved. The spouse who makes the less may be left at the mercy of the one who earns more.

Don’t let money ruin your marriage!   Decide and agree on who should be the one who handles the budget or maybe budget your finances together, regardless of who brings in what. You may be the one who earns more, but you are not good at budgeting or dealing with numbers and your spouse is the math pro. Assign each other roles based on one’s potential or budget your finances together. Choose to let go of any ego. Once the lines of communication have been open, then work as a team to achieve a well-balanced marriage. 

3) Financial infidelity due to income inequality

Another issue that can arise from income inequality is dishonesty. Lying about money is a recipe for disaster in marriage. Financial infidelity is one of the top problems caused by money imbalance. When one partner who makes more money and feels it’s unfair, they become secretive with their money. For instance, they may decide to conceal bank accounts and lie about their income to appear less flaunting. Similarly, the one who earns less may lie about their spending to avoid being judged.

Be honest about money:  Work together to create a relationship that is completely transparent. Financial infidelity, like any other infidelity is based on lies. Create a sustainable budget based on the income of each partner and maybe give each other allowances or open personal credit cards. Creating a budget will help you and your partner to communicate effectively and encourages complete transparency. No more lying about money or being secretive – always remember, “whatever is done in darkness will come to light.”

4) The one who makes more may decide to spend more

Let’s say your partner makes five times more than you make and decides to purchase four very pricey concert tickets (for you both, and for your couple friends.)  You are irritated and so annoyed because this decision was made without your consideration, plus, those tickets cost an arm and a leg! Your partner decided to make this over-priced purchase without your input. You ask whether your friends had paid back their share of tickets to *insert your favorite concert here* and your spouse responds, “Oh, I never asked them to pay us back.”

Big mistake.

Discuss your money values:  Create a system that works on communication and that values money. Yes, it’s okay to spurge occasionally or to surprise your spouse – but consider each other always! The best thing to do is to develop a budget together. The partner who earns less income than the other may already feel guilty for not contributing enough financially, or may feel unheard, ignored, and not valued. It’s important to consider each other, budget wisely and always plan. Explaining your beliefs and opinions about money to your partner is crucial. Your spending and financial habits closely mirror your views on life. It is important to discuss money values and spending habits so you can understand and support each other

In conclusion, you may not be able to change income inequality in your relationship; However, you can change how you deal with it. We suggest the following ways to deal with income inequality in your marriage.

  • Always communicate openly and lovingly, in a respectful manner
  • Develop a budget together
  • Speak up ~ share your needs and feelings
  • Decide on what ways you can divide household chores (choose what works best for family)
  • Make major spending decisions together
  • Schedule a regular household financial meeting
  • Keep each other accountable

If you would like to find out more about how to get a prenup with ease through HelloPrenup, then contact us at [email protected] We would love to say hello!

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