Oh, hey, sometimes women make more money than their male partners. Shocking, we know!
But even though about 40 per cent of households have a female breadwinner, which is more than ever before, recent studies found that people are still uncomfy with that idea—so much so that they’re more likely to lie about who makes what, according to a 2018 Census survey. Fuuunnn.
As one reader who makes twice as much as her boyfriend told us, “I know there have been moments where he’s felt some guilt and shame.”
So even though it’s 2020, we still have to deal with the awkward ways money can present itself in relationships. Here, seven women who earn more than their male partners explain what it really feels like.
He called me his sugar mama
“For a few years, I made about $100,000 more than my now-husband. He called me his sugar mama, and occasionally we had tiffs when I wanted to go out to dinner a hundred times a week. We jointly decided to be more intentional about spending our money out, making sure we were excited about the restaurant and going on a date—not just going out to be lazy. But I always felt like he was proud of me rather than jealous of me.” —Gina, 29
I felt bad flaunting my good fortune
“My boyfriend makes about $16,000 less than I do, and the difference was a bit bigger when we first started dating. He’s always known about the gap and, if anything, is proud and supportive of me. But it gets a little uncomfy sometimes, like when I got a raise a few months ago and was excited to tell him about it. He was working up the guts to ask for a raise of his own at the time, which he later got. I felt bad flaunting my good fortune when I knew he was really unhappy with his own salary.
“Or when a special occasion rolls around, I might worry about him spending too much. But he has a really great job that he loves, and TBH, it’s helpful for my own spending habits to date someone who’s so good with his money.” —Caitlin, 26
We couldn’t split rent 50/50
“When my now-husband moved to be closer to me, I became the breadwinner as he searched for jobs. When he finally got one, he was making significantly less than I was, which meant we couldn’t split rent 50/50. Obviously, it sucked, but there were no hard feelings about it. After a couple years, he started stressing about wanting to be engaged but not being able to afford the ring. Even though I wasn’t in a rush to get hitched, I told him I would be happy to pay for half of the bling—and I did. It was our first big purchase together and felt so good for both of us to have had a part in it.” —Ashley, 29
Although we contribute disproportionately to our finances, we contribute equally to our relationship
“The fact that I make about twice as much as my husband is not something I think about regularly. I pay for the majority of our monthly expenses, so when I notice he forgets to clean the dishes or some other menial chore, of course it annoys me. I admit I find myself thinking, If I pay for most everything, why can’t he just remember to do the dishes once in a while?! But that’s not helpful or fair.
“I think the main thing to remember is that although we contribute disproportionately to our finances, we contribute equally to our relationship, emotionally. This is easier said than done! But this year, we are really focusing on our finances and saving, so we’re trying to stay focused on reaching a monetary goal. At the end of the day, who cares who makes more when we’re just trying to save for our future?” —Mari, 30
TBH, my student debt weighs more on our relationship than my income
“I have a lot of student debt and he has none, but I make twice as much as he does. To us, that feels like an even income split. TBH, my student debt weighs more on our relationship than my income, meaning our financial conversations focus on that more than on what we make. But it’s something I’d never let him handle or feel responsible for. We go halfsies on bills, going out, and traveling. We’ll each treat each other on date nights too. But he shared at one point that he was grateful for my work, that it gives us the life we get to live. It was something he realized he never directly shared with me.” —Simone, 31
I enjoyed taking him out, knowing it was easier for me
“My current partner and I have been together for about a year and a half, and even though we work in the same field, I make a little more than double his salary. I also have benefits like healthcare and PTO, which he does not. When we first began dating, we would split bills and didn’t divulge much about our finances to each other. But based on our positions, we both knew I was earning much more. As we became more serious, I started to be more generous with picking up tabs or buying tickets to things. He always offered to pay, but I was insistent. I enjoyed taking him out, knowing it was easier for me.
“Six months into dating, we exchanged salary information. It didn’t really change the dynamic. But for the first time, he expressed the desire to make more money, saying he wished he could support me more. He does things for me that aren’t monetarily valuable, like cooking dinner and running errands, and these are things that make my life infinitely better. Even though he may wish he made more for himself, he never feels like he just wants to make more than me.
“I know there have been moments when he’s felt some guilt and shame. For example, I took him on a weekend getaway for his birthday and probably spent about $350. He mentioned that he felt bad—he didn’t want me doing stuff like that. I asked him if he would feel differently if the tables were turned and he could afford it and I couldn’t. He conceded he would not.
“The real test will be when we move in together in a few months. I want to pay a larger portion of the rent and get a nicer place, but he’s adamant that he wants it to be even. TL;DR: My man isn’t afraid of a powerful woman.” —Hannah, 27
He always tells me how important it is that I fight for money at work
“My fiancé makes 12 percent less than I do and has for about a year. It never feels awkward and he doesn’t feel threatened. He is so proud of me and always tells me how important it is that I fight for money at work. It’s actually because of him that I’ve been able to negotiate higher salaries—he pushes me to ask for way more than I would on my own in every negotiation!” —Melissa, 32