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Tips for Fighting Financial Inequality in a Relationship

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Financial inequality in relationships can lead to fights, mistrust, jealousy, and general discord. But rather than let the “money issue” take over your lives, you can find a way to work together to make peace with the mighty buck. Use these tips to start down the path of relationship bliss, no matter how much you have in the bank.

1. Discuss Money Openly
It can be tough to bring up income inequality, but this type of money issue rarely resolves itself – if you can’t talk about it, it’s only going to fester. Set aside time to talk about the issue. Be open and honest about your feelings, but try to leave emotions at the door. This shouldn’t spiral into a confrontation or fight, and you should avoid making statements that could be interpreted as accusatory. Understand that the subject is probably difficult for both of you, and you both might be experiencing feelings the other doesn’t know about.

2. Split the Cost of Bills Fairly
If the higher earner makes 70% of the joint monthly income, then it might make sense for that individual to cover 70% of the joint monthly expenses. But instead of getting out the calculator for each bill, total up your expenses and calculate the amount accordingly.

3. Establish Spending Limits
In addition to a standard budget, it’s a good idea to come up with spending limits. This can be a per-purchase limit, or a monthly total, but the idea is that over a certain dollar amount, you consult your partner to make sure you both feel comfortable with the purchase.

The important thing to remember is that whoever makes less shouldn’t be made to feel insignificant. If you make a six figure salary, that doesn’t give you carte blanche to drop a few thousand dollars whenever you see fit. Communicating about your purchases and making sure you both feel good about the financial goals you’re working toward can help prevent problems from arising. Plus, setting spending limits helps you to avoid overspending, which is always a good idea.

4. Consider Pooling Your Finances
Another option to consider is pooling all your money into a single joint bank account. Just be sure you both feel comfortable with this arrangement. For it to work, you must embrace the “what’s mine is yours” attitude, and you have to feel comfortable with your partner viewing all your purchases.

If a single account feels too enmeshed, you can open a joint bank account to use for joint monthly expenses, while you each still maintain separate personal accounts. Just agree on how much you deposit into the joint account, and who will be responsible for paying the bills each month.

5. Never Use Money as a Bargaining Chip
If you’re the higher earner, never use your earning power to manipulate, guilt, or “punish” your partner. Pointing out that you “deserve” a new set of golf clubs because you make more money won’t win you any favors. Likewise, if your love needs a new computer for work, don’t tell him or her you can’t help because he or she doesn’t contribute enough. These inflammatory comments only serve to promote distrust and resentment within a relationship.

6. Develop Non-Financial Responsibilities
The lower earner can also help “even the playing field” by taking on more non-financial responsibilities. These other responsibilities could include housecleaning, bill paying, child rearing, or meal prep. There’s a lot that goes into a relationship that has nothing to do with money, so talking about ways to make both parties feel valued, respected, significant, and appreciated goes a long way toward long-lasting love.

It’s very easy for resentment and jealousy to seep into a relationship, and these feelings can eventually lead to dissolution. If income disparity is causing problems between you and your loved one, don’t ignore the issue. Talk about it, and if necessary, involve a counselor in the resolution.

Have you been in a financially-imbalanced relationship? How did you work through it?

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