Tips for Dating Someone with Less Money or More Time

tips for dating someone with less money (or more time)2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on dating someone with less money (or more time) — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussions on love, including dating advice for career-driven women.

Reader L had a suggestion for a post about dating someone with a different career than yourself:

This could be extremely controversial and slightly off-topic, but what about some sort of open thread about either (1) dating people who are way less busy than you are or (2) dating people who have way less money. I know that outside of office romances, the subject of dating has not really been broached, but I think so many of the corporette-readers probably have had one of these two issues.

I think this is a great question — I’ve been there on both counts, and I think it’s something that can be unique to overachieving chicks. So let’s talk about it here. (And apologies in advance for every time I say “he” or “the guy” — I really do just mean the person you’re dating, but it can be so much more awkward to write.) (Pictured: <3 & $$, originally uploaded to Flickr by jeeked.)

First, let me start by saying that in the beginning, I wanted a guy who was “more” than me — taller, smarter, richer, more successful. (Hey, I’ll admit it.) After a few years on the New York dating scene that was whittled down to “taller” — and I was even flexible on that point. Still, I had particular problems dating other people in the same field as me because my competitive instincts came out, and if a guy hadn’t approached things exactly the same way that I had, then I had respect issues. And I think that brings us to the first topic:

– Respect. A relationship is nothing without mutual respect. Start with what you know: yourself.  Do you respect the person you’re dating and his or her career choices? Does a career that pays less, or requires less time, rate lower in your eyes? Be honest with yourself. If you find yourself rolling your eyes when he explains things to you about his career or his job, it may be time to move on. On the flip side — do you think he respects what you do, and the time required for it? Does he seem to be threatened by your paycheck? (I always hear stories of women “hiding shopping bags,” in some cases so their significant others won’t realize how much money they have to spend on frivolous things. Those stories always make me a bit sad — you shouldn’t feel like you have to hide something from a person you’re serious about, and certainly not from a true partner.)

– Lifestyle. While you’re slaving away at the office, what is he doing with his free time?  If he’s going to bars every night or playing video games, do either of those activities worry you? If he doesn’t seem to be doing anything and is just so excited to get your call, does that bother you? Hypothetically, if you had a similar schedule, what would you be doing with your free time? Sometimes lifestyles will just not be a fit — I went on a few dates with a stand-up comic who had huge stretches of time where he would be doing nothing, and then he’d be on the road for several weeks at a time. He was fairly successful — even had a minor tv show on a channel I’d never heard of — but our careers left us with such different lifestyles that I couldn’t see it working out in the long term with him.

Dating style. Some people like to talk to their significant other frequently on the phone. (I haaaate the phone, and I certainly never had time for long lovey-dovey talks when I was at the firm.)  Some people like to be taken to really nice restaurants or the “hot” new place, which your date may or may not be able to afford (either for you or for him).  This will differ with every relationship, but it may especially come into play more if you’re dating someone with more time than you, less money, or both. Again, you need to be honest with yourself about what you really want out of a relationship — if you’ve got a good man who can’t afford to take you out for a $200 dinner on a weekly basis, is that a dealbreaker? There are no right or wrong answers here, but you have to know yourself.  (Tip: don’t bankrupt him while you’re still dating — that’s what marriage is for.)  (Kidding.)  (Sort of.)

– Life goals. If he can barely support himself because he’s pursuing his dreams,  is marriage on his horizon to the same extent it may be on yours? If you always envisioned yourself staying home with the kids for a few years, is that even possible if you continue to date him?

– Financial type. As things start to get more serious with the person you’re dating, you should take a look at how compatible you are financially. I don’t mean that if you have X saved, he should have X saved — but rather, look at if and how you save. I keep reading that the primary thing couples fight about is money, so look at this seriously. Again, there is no right or wrong answer, only “like me” or “not like me.” Do you both live within your means? Do you save? What do you consider a “splurge”?  A fun game that I only played with my husband after we were married was the “If I made $__, my lifestyle would be ____” game.  Start with something low to you — $25K.  What would your life be like?  Try it for increments such as $25K, $75K, $250K, $500K, $1M, $2.5M — and see how you both approach the question.  If anything makes either of your eyebrows fly up, talk about it.

I’m sure readers have tips for how they’ve managed relationships where the other person had less money or more time. A few of my own tips:

  • If you prefer to have your date pay for you, consider inviting him over for dinner for about half of the time you go out (or to see a movie or whatever). This takes the financial burden off of your date without having to go dutch.
  • If and when you move in together, consider contributing percentages toward the rent or the household necessities — you each contribute 50% of your paycheck (or whatever amount is needed).
  • Talk about financial and lifestyle issues before you get too deep.  If you’re 32 and want to be married with kids by the time you’re 36, you need to disclose that fairly early on to make sure you’re both on the same page.  Similarly, if you’re thinking “gee, he’d make a great stay at home dad,” talk that over with him.

Readers, what are your thoughts on dating someone with less money than you?  What about dating someone with more time?  Have you been in relationships like that, and how have they worked out?  Any tips to share?

Professional women share tips for dating someone with less money (or more time) -- including how to reconcile awkwardness, readjust expectations, and more.


  1. I recently moved to a college town for a new job, so the vast majority of the men my age (mid/late 20’s) are grad students. As a result, they have less time and less money than me. I’m looking forward to everyone’s insight, especially those who are in similar situations.

  2. Argh, such a touchy subject ESPECIALLY for my group of friends.

    My number one way of dealing with it is to choose (or have chosen) a guy (or gal) that has confidence and is secure. A lot of the issues I’ve noticed among my friends is a direct result of the insecurities of the partner, and the woman clunkily trying to work around them. My husband is not only happy to be a lower earner and work less hours than I do, but he is proud of me and supports me fully. He makes dinner when I have late nights, he sends me supportive cheerful texts when I have a rough day, he’s all around confident with himself and doesn’t define his manhood by his paycheck or profession.

    After that, it’s important to make sure you have similar values/living styles. Does he like to go out and spend all your money? Are you ok with that or would you rather stay in and Netflix it while saving as much as possible for retirement. Do you want to have kids, and if so is he comfortable with being primary care giver?

    If you find that you can’t handle being with someone who has a lower paid or lower commitment career, you have to accept that and date accordingly. It’s not fair to you or your partner to have unrealistic expectations on the person they are now, in hopes that they will become the person you want to be with.

    • Anonymous :

      Does your husband have a single brother?

    • Happy making double :

      I fully agree. My husband makes approx. half of what I make, works 9 to 4, and does not have a post-graduate degree. And neither one of us cares one bit.

      I should say that it is very important for me to be with someone who is ambitious intellectually. By this I mean, that I don’t care if you are a kindergarten teacher, so long as you work hard to be a better kindergarten teacher every day. My husband officially only works 35 hours per week, but he often stays up working later than I do because he is trying to learn more about his areas of interest and excell intellectually in his field. That makes me respect him more than if he made double. It also helps us to manage time, because he is not just waiting around for me to get home, and I never feel bad about working late. Whichever one of us is less busy picks up the slack (dinenr, dishes, etc.) that day.

      One thing I should note is that, although I am thrilled to be married to someone who respects and admires me, and does not feel a need to “prove that he is the man,” it has not been that easy with my more-conservative parents. They often volunteer suggestions to him about how to make more money, and outright tell me they are concerned that I will recent him. — So, if you 9or your partner) come from a similar family, be prepared to face that and make sure you are both ok and agree on how to handle such comments.

      • AnonInfinity :

        I feel like I could have written this entire post (down to the SO’s 35-hour work week). When I recently got an excellent job offer, my father reacted by saying, “Are you going to be making more money than Mr. AnonInfinity?” When I said yes, he said, “Don’t ever mention it to him.” I couldn’t do anything but laugh, because I can’t imagine DH caring about an aspect of our relationship less. In fact, we both make jokes about it all the time.

      • Happy Making Double: my husband and I are in the same boat, and it’s perfectly fine. We don’t compare our pay stubs over dinner, and have a strong mutual respect and desire to spend time together. I think wanting to be together, ability to compromise and strong communication are keys, no matter who makes what! Nice to see that it’s not just us.

      • In the same boat, but it does get rocky. I have a wonderful, supportive, and proud husband – who is also an incredible hands on dad – but I know he loses confidence and gets frustrated with where he is at in his career.

        The tension isn’t attributable to money (I make about 3x more, but it’s not my money it’s OUR money) or that he is often the primary care taker for our 6 month old son. The big factor is that his industry/chosen profession is stagnating in this economy, while mine is still growing (albeit slower growth than 8-10 years ago).

        So, while he is not comparing dollars he is definitely comparing job satisfaction and advancement potential.

  3. Wow. Can’t wait to hear the responses on *this* one… :-D

  4. The biggest problem I’ve run into is not based around how I feel about dating someone who makes less money than me (not a problem at all), but around how he reacts over time to the fact that I make more money than him. I’ve found that most modern guys like to pretend that they are fine with a woman who supports herself in a lifestyle that is “above average,” but give it a few months and true feelings come out. At that point, you’ve become invested in a situation that is doomed.

    Some have suggested that a remedy is to pretend to live a different lifestyle until you are further along in the relationship, but I find that to be a bit of false advertising. And, truthfully, I don’t work 14-hour days to stay in 3-star hotels and wear cheap shoes under any circumstances, least of all to cushion someone’s ego.

    So, I’m curious to hear how other women handle this situation. For example, how early in a new relationship is too early to have the “are you really OK with my income level” talk?

    • Anonymous :

      This sounds like more of an “Are you really OK with my preferred lifestyle/things I consider to be important enough to spend X amount of dollars on?” type conversation than straight “I earn more than you – we still cool?”

      I say this because I earn significantly more than my significant other, but I think the only time I’ve stayed in an above-3 star hotel was when I was being recruited by employers in other cities. Depending upon my reasons for travel, my instinct is to look for a LaQuinta or a Holiday Inn, despite the fact that my paycheck could afford something much nicer. It’s not a question of how much I earn, but what I value. I’d rather spend my money on other things; I’m not much for luxury accommodations. Other people may feel very differently, and there is no right way/wrong way. My point is simply that just because you earn X dollars doesn’t mean you’ll have Y lifestyle – people prioritize differently, and I think that is the REALLY important conversation to have.

      • soulfusion :

        HA! My boss actually jokes with me about how rarely I even stay in hotels on my vacations (I love adventure travel and generally camp). It really isn’t a money thing, I just don’t see the point in spending a lot of money on where I sleep.

      • I agree with Anonymous that it can be more of a lifestyle conversation at some point than an earnings conversation. I’m talking more about circumstances where there is agreement on the lifestyle choices, but differences in the ability to make those choices.

        The situation I’ve found myself in more often than not is that the other person agrees with the lifestyle choices and prioritization. That is, he would make the same lifestyle choices, but differences in income prevent him from having that lifestyle. When there is essentially an agreement as to the desired lifestyle, but only one person in a new relationship has the means to live it, there can be a delay in finding out that there is really a problem brewing over the different income levels. I guess that makes it more similar to K’s situation below.

    • Honestly, I don’t think that is something that can be answered early on because thinking about it is different than living it and I think a lot depends on the happiness of the person. My ex-boyfriend was okay with things in theory but that was when he envisioned having a job in the public sector that he really wanted while I worked in the higher-paying private sector. Public sector ended up not panning out for him and he took a job he didn’t like which paid less than I made. He ended up really having a problem with it because he felt like he couldn’t provide for me even thought I thought things were fine.

      • The problem I found was that almost none of the fellows I was interested in were comfortable dating a lawyer. And they basically just said that. I’m not really in-your-face about being a lawyer (not that that should matter), so it didn’t occur to me before going to law school that it would ever be an issue. (It wouldn’t have changed my mind about the career choice, although I found it to be a disappointing surprise.) Eventually, I met my husband, who is proud to be with a professional woman.

    • AmbitiousG :

      Funny enough most guys that I met/know would love to date women who make more than they do. A woman that they can bring (read: show off) to meet friends and families. Also, for people living in big cities, dual income (and good ones ideally) are essential for a decent lifestyle. Smart men and women know that. Date and marry people with lower income because of love is fine, but NOT date or marry people making more just because of gender bias is a huge red flag in my book.

  5. Georgiana Starlington :

    As a recent law school grad who is lucky enough to have a job, but surrounded by folks who aren’t, I’ve gotten some important insight over the last few months: motivation. I know of several unemployed guys, and I’ve noticed a big difference between the guy who is content living at his parents’ house, sending resumes only to a few firms in a specific city, and not getting a “just to pay the bills” gig, and the guy who is out there pounding the pavement, sending resumes to everyone, networking like crazy, and working 2 nonlaw jobs to pay the bills while he’s waiting for all his hard work to pay off. It has made me realize that I don’t want the kind of guy who is content to sit back and wait for opportunity to come to him. I certainly don’t have a problem with someone who makes significantly less than I do, but I do need the kind of guy who is ready to grow up, be an adult, and put some effort into being a productive member of society. I’d prefer a guy who works his butt off as a bartender or housepainter or fry cook to a guy who could be making 6 figures…if only that job would fall into his lap.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself, Georgiana! My dad used to always say to me: “If it is your lot in life to flip burgers, be the best burger flipper there ever was.”

    • Confessions :


    • I’m beginning to come to this realization myself. Sadly, I think I’m going to have to make some drastic changes in my current relationship…..which I’ve been considering for a while now. It’s so great to see this thread – you ladies always give insightful advice and share such varied personal histories.

    • 2 2 2 2 2 2!!!

    • Not sure about this one. I didn’t study hard in school, miss sleep, do Organic exams and billions of Calculus problems so I could work at McDonald’s when I graduate. I can understand the people that want the job they like, nothing is worse than dreading your job every day when you wake up.

  6. Great topic; I’m interested to hear the responses, even though I’m having (sort of) the exact opposite problem! For me, when my husband and I got married (10 years ago), we always anticipated that I would out-earn him. He was a college drop out in retail management; I was well on my way to my BS w/ honors at the time. But then I floundered and wasn’t sure what to do grad school-wise. We were chugging along great on a dual income (with me just barely under-earning him), until I decided to go to law school. He was hugely supportive, and we expected that I would quickly out-earn him outrageously. Then the economy exploded, and he’s still carrying the load (and he’s great at what he does; it’s just not likely to earn a lot), as I struggle in my best that I can do sort of a lawyer job.

    I’m not complaining about him at all- he’s great and still hugely supportive, just expressing my own professional frustrations that I was supposed to be carrying the load and hate that he still is.

  7. Awesome post. I was hoping there would be something on this, as I’ve noticed a number of commenters make more than their partners.

    DH and I are both lawyers. He just switched jobs and now makes about 25% less than I do. I have no negative feelings about this and I pushed when we got married to set up a system that would accomodate income disparities without making the other person feel like they weren’t carrying their weight. We each put 1/3 of our income into joint savings, 1/3 into joint checking, and keep the last third separate. He is a confident, secure man, but I can tell that he feels some small twinge of something over the fact that I make more money. I really don’t care. Maybe it is because my mom always made more than my dad did, or because I know that the hubs and I are different people, cut out to do different things as lawyers. What he enjoys is probably not going to have big $$ attached to it and he might even take some time off or switch to a more mellow career, like teaching. It doesn’t make him less of a person in my eyes, it just makes him a different person.

    I try to manage the disparity by setting up our finances as percentages, but also making sure that I cover a few splurge items for us in a low-key, non-emasculating way. I actually feel way more complicated about the fact that I have had pretty cushy hours for the past few months, leaving me with a lot of free time. More money AND more time just makes me feel guilty! I can’t say that I spent much of a day surfing the net or have developed a relationship with reality tv. Instead I feel the need to point out all the things I have done for us…cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, etc.

  8. Can I ask the opposite question: what do you do when your significant other makes significantly more money than you, but is way stingier (I believe “miserly” is really more apt than stingy in my BF’s case)? I’ve been dating my BF for 7 years and living with him for almost 3 (most of this was in college or law school, however, so neither of us had any money until recently). He insists on splitting everything perfectly evenly because he thinks that makes the relationship one between “equals.” (also, he’s cheap). I recently suggested we get a joint checking account for household expenses that we share. After a long pause and looking at me like I’m slightly crazy, he goes “I don’t think I’m comfortable with that yet.” And so we continue going through every receipt and splitting the costs of whatever we bought that we both use exactly in half (which is a huge pain). I am currently unemployed (though with a full-time internship) and really would like to trade doing his share of cleaning/making dinner/doing laundry in exchange for paying a lower portion of the rent, but BF is not going for this suggestion because of the aforementioned split everything evenly attitude. Any suggestions for convincing him that really, 7 years together is long enough that we can get a joint checking account and not splitting absolutely everything exactly evenly is not crazy?

    • Yeah, I’m there. I have a salary, but my spend/save ratio is quite a bit different from Husband’s. He can live on a shoestring! I like new clothes from time to time, but I feel so guilty spending any money on myself because he’s bringing in the bulk of the income and still wearing clothes from his college days because, you know, they’re still good. Let me know if you find a solution.

    • he doesn’t sound very considerate to me. that being said, you could try phrasing it from your point of view – i’m so stressed about money right now, it would help me so much to be able to pay less of the rent in exchange for helping out more around the house, could you help me by being ok with this? if he says no, it’s not worth some money to him to help with your stress level, then i think it’s time to think about whether he’s going to be a good partner for you in the long-term.

      • This is very odd and would drive me crazy. Good that you don’t plan on having kids, but this is inconsiderate behavior no matter how you slice it IMO.

    • If you ever plan to have children with this man, and think that you may be the primary caregiver, you really need to think about how you and he will deal with the resulting decrease in your income. I did not have that conversation with my ex, who had a very similar attitude, which was fine while we were making about the same income, not so fine when I started working part-time, taking care of a baby and house, and still paid half of all the bills. Notice he is now my ex.

      • yea, not an issue–I have no plans to ever have children. They scare the bejeezus out of me. (that, and they’re expensive). Otherwise I probably would be more concerned rather than mildly annoyed.

        • Other things can happen that can hinder your ability to make money. The idea that you each half to pay half of everything in order to be equals is a little worrisome, at least to me, I certainly don’t feel that way, and it doesn’t sound as if you do either. Maybe a red flag for future problems? You don’t say if you ever plan to marry him, but if you do, I’d consider pre-marital couples counseling with a focus on finances.

          • Anonymous :

            Do you love this man? If you were married, would he divorce you for being unemployed? I am not seeing what is in the relationship for you.

          • Yes, I love him. In all other aspects, our relationship is perfectly fine–we have similar interests, enjoying spending time together, basically never fight, etc. It’s just this weird money splitting thing. I think mentally we’re still stuck in “student” mode and haven’t quite transitioned to “actual adults with our own income” mode (we both graduated law school in May, and both went straight through from college to law school)–clearly, it’s going to take some discussion.

    • Oh, man. I had a friend who was in this situation and it ended in tears, big-time. The finance issue was just the warning signal that she was dealing with an emotionally-unavailable man, and boy, did things go badly sour in the end.

      I am going to get flamed for saying this, but a person who doesn’t understand that you shouldn’t have to pay 50% of the bills when you don’t make 50% of the income is not interested in a real partnership – the kind that involves two people caring about each other’s happiness and overall well-being and fulfillment. This has been going on for 7 years, 3 while you were living together? Do you have an endgame in mind for where you want this relationship to go, or are you willing to continue it indefinitely like this?

      This is covered in a number of women’s self-help books I can recommend if you’re interested, but behavior like this is not about him being cheap; it’s about him walling himself off from you emotionally, so you have limited access to his life and his decisions. I don’t care that you’re living with him, it’s defensive behavior. I don’t believe all couples need joint finances – I don’t have joint finances with my husband – but the relentless insistence on splitting expenses 50-50 where the income is not equal is extremely problematic. Would he be willing to go to couples counseling? Would you be willing to go by yourself?

      • Completely agree.

      • I agree as well, and have been exactly here. My ex insisted on the perfect 50/50 split every time, and while it started as a minor annoyance, after 8 years it bugged the heck out of me. But Ann is entirely correct – it was basically a symptom of the fact that he was putting up an emotional wall and was not actually ready for a committed relationship. In his mind, it was still *him* and *me* and we weren’t actually a team.

      • Back in the day... :

        I had a boyfriend like this. When we lived with two other female roommates, right after college, he didn’t want to contribute to the toilet paper fund, because he didn’t use as much TP as the gals…. Nor did he want to contribute to cleaning supplies b/c he didn’t think we needed to clean as much as we did. We were all super broke (there was a recession back then, too, and I was living on free bagels I brought home from my job at the bagel shop) but it was about not wanting to share and contribute to the household, not whether he could contribute an extra dollar or two.

      • DH and I are NOT professionals, but I out-earn him by a lot. When we got married we were making pretty much the same money, him at an obscure association job and me as a construction project coordinator. We split the household bills in proportion to our incomes and basically each paid in the close to 50%. Fast forward 11 years, and he is now an IT guy at another association, and I am an executive assistant at a large bank. We are each great at our jobs, but my employer just pays better, and, as a consequence, I make nearly twice as much as he does. We still split the household bills in proportion to our income, so each of us has money left over for our own “fun” stuff – I buy nicer clothes than I used to, and he bought a motorcycle. It seems to work out just fine. I will say that I often foot the major vacation expenses (flight & hotel), but since I am often the one choosing the destination, it feels fair. We also have the advantage of being child-free, so we live very well on what is really just about the median income for our major metro area. We are very happy financially, and I think that splitting the unavoidable household expenses (mortgage, car insurance, groceries, etc.) in proportion to our incomes has helped a lot.

      • I completely agree. Children or no children, this is not how a life partner behaves in a healthy relationship.

    • That’s tough. When my fiance and I moved in together (maybe about 7 years ago) we split rent by percentages. He paid more, because he made more. We took turns buying joint items, but it was never a situation where we split things down to the last penny.

      Over time our philsophy shifted away from “your money vs. my money” to “our money.” I think a lot of this had to do me returning to law school later in life, and really having to sit down and discuss budgets, etc.

      Just recently we decided to merge our finances. That was a huge adjustment for us! Now, even though I make more, we pay all of our bills (including my student loans) jointly.

      I think you need to respect the fact that he just might not be ready to get a joint checking account with you (hell, my friend’s husband wouldn’t even discuss his bills with her until they returned from their honeymoon. And they’d been together for 5-6 years prior to this, and owned a house together. Yeah.). BUT, I also think you need to have the money conversation that Kat mentioned above. Find out how much he values money, how important money is to his self-worth, etc. It appears as if you and he have different philsophies on money management, so you should also present your view of money.

      Beyond that, I think you need to have a bigger conversation about the role of money in your relationship. Why does he think that splitting things evenly makes you “equals?” Aren’t you already equals? Will he think of you as less than equal if you make less than him? Will he think less of himself if you make more than him? Also, if you decide one day to stay home with kids, how is he going to value that contribution?

      Be prepared – these conversations are never resolved in one sitting. Nor are they easy the first few times. My fiance and I hemmed and hawed for a YEAR about whether to merge our finances because neither of us wanted to give up control.

      • I think the splitting everything evenly attitude comes, bizarrely, from a sort of feminist perspective. Like he thinks men always paying for dates is old-fashioned and makes no sense in a world where most women work also. I get it, but it made way more sense when we were both poor students with about the same amount of income.

        I think part of the reluctance on the joint bank account stems from the extreme uncertainty in our life right now due to my lack of a job. It’s basically put our entire future plans or any discussion of future plans in a holding pattern because there’s no guarantee that I’m going to stay in our current city–if I can’t find a job here, I may very well have to pick up and move to another city, whether I want to or not (and I really, really don’t want to-I just moved back to the same city as the BF after being gone for a few months for a prior job)–I think the uncertainty is just adding a layer of stress to us both, especially considering that when we started our second year of law school a couple of years ago, we thought we would be at the same place (firm job) after graduation. The economy put plans in a tailspin. I think once I get a job and we both know what’s going on with our lives (he’s at a law-firm deferral job, so there’s still some uncertainty as to whether he’ll have a job come january), he may be much more willing to discuss combined finances. But getting to that point is turning out to take much longer and be more frustrating than expected.

        • I understand the feminist perspective re women paying their fair share, but this isn’t going dutch on a blind date. You and your BF *live together* and it seems like he has an income, while you don’t. Naturally it makes sense for expenses to be slightly uneven right now.

          If he’s living off of a deferral stipend, however, he could be really trying to pinch pennies to ensure that it lasts the duration of his deferral – hence the extreme frugality. I still don’t think it negates some of the points that others raised about the bigger picture.

          And, while I can definitely empathize with the uncertainty over future prospects, there’s only so much you can do to put your life on hold. Perhaps a compromise (or, maybe a more scary option?) would be to give each other access to each other’s checking accounts so you can more easily transfer money back and forth to cover joint expenses.

          • he’s got a deferral public interest job–with his firm, it’s half-firm salary while they work for the public interest job. Supposedly they’re all starting in January. we’ll see.

          • but yea, I think he’s worried that the firm job may not actually materialize, which may be part of the frugality.

        • This comment actually changes my perspective on your situation. He’s financially insecure, you’re financially insecure, and he doesn’t want to commit to you financially yet. If a year from now, when he has a well-paying job, things are still the same, then I think you should seriously consider the future of your relationship. Right now, it sounds like you’re both just stressed out about money and things could change for the better.

        • Sweetie, I know this is your boyfriend, and you love him, and he has all kinds of great good traits we don’t know anything about. I would never presume to say he is not a good person or a worthwhile investment of your time. But you’re rationalizing his behavior. And this kind of behavior does not change unless the person becomes independently motivated to change it, and receives help to do so. Please don’t assume that “well, when X changes, he will, too.” That is magical thinking, like the kind toddlers do. If I believe it, it will happen. I am sorry to say it doesn’t work like that.

          I am just going to share some titles with you anyway, so you know there are resources out there if you decide you want them. Yes, these are cheesy self-help books a la Bridget Jones, but they have good info.

          The Emotionally Unavailable Man:

          Men Who Can’t Love:

          The classic, Women Who Love Too Much. This is the Bible for women involved in relationships that are unsatisfying, that never seem to go anywhere, that are stuck in first gear after years and years together. It is not you, and it’s not your situation. It’s him, and he will only change if he wants to.

          And another classic: Smart Women, Foolish Choices:

          • Sorry, link is wrong for Women Who Love Too Much. Here it is, and read the reviews, they speak the truth!

      • I hope that this is not taken as a critique of your life style, but I think what you really need to have a discussion on is what kind of relationship you two want to have. Is it a casual relationship with the convenience of sharing a residence (i.e., roommates with benefits), or is it a pseudo-marriage? It’s fine to be in either type of relationship, but you have to be on the same page. It sounds to me like he may be considering you two the former, while you may be expecting the support and partnership that one would have with the latter.

    • this reminds me of the story in the Joy Luck Club where the husband makes her pay for her own birth control and half of the ice cream she never eats :(

      • Oh, good mention. That’s a great story, and applies here well.

      • Confessions :

        I was thinking the exact same thing!!!

        • You need to get away from him. If you are spending time dividing up receipts, what will child raising be like? “I read Jr. three books and pushed him on the swing for 11 minutes, your turn?” Marriage will only make this situation worse.

      • found a peanut :

        When we were students (and therefore on basically the same income), I always made my boyfriend (now husband) pay for the birth control. I’m the one that’s taking the physical responsibility, he can handle the financial burden. Luckily my husband is a very generous man :).

        All kidding aside, insisting that everything be split equally to the last penny is very odd, even worrisome, especially when you’ve been together for 7 years. I used to make more than my husband (before he was my husband) and I’d want to take care of things for him. We continued to split the rent and it’s not like I handed him a wad of cash every month, but I would pay when we went out for dinner or pay the entire electricity/cable bill myself.

        I agree with the posters above that this stinginess is also a sign of emotional stinginess. If he puts this concern of “50/50” before his concern of you, that’s not a good sign. I would really talk to him about it and see how he reacts.

        • Lucky woman :

          When I moved in with my husband, he worked for a private company in a highly technical field and I was a new govt lawyer with student loans. He paid 2/3 of the rent, etc because he made about 90 K while I was at 30 K. Ten years later, we are married and have a son. I make more money because he left the company and works from home so he does not have to travel. All of our money goes into one account for bills and he has his own account for spending money. He takes care of most of the child care issues and more than half of the household cleaning and chores. He is a keeper! By the way, he never finished college but he is self-taught and smart. The only issue that we ever have is that I am more well-rounded in terms of my education so I get frustrated when I make a literary reference that he does not get because he simply is not as well-read. Certainly not a deal breaker! Also, he sometimes seems annoyed at my student loans, but seems to have gotten over that one by now. Love him!

        • not a lawyer :

          I don’t even split everything down the middle with friends! Sometimes I pick up the tab for coffee, sometimes they do.

      • Good call – I was just thinking that.

    • How do you make spending decisions for items you split the cost? For example, if he wants the more expensive apartment closer to work do you feel forced to pay 50% of the cost without having 50% of the decision-making?

      • I usually make decisions for big items. I mean, we live in New York and until May we were in student housing, so there aren’t really many “big” decisions. No cars or mortgages or new appliances or anything like that. I’m way better at long term planning/researching this sort of thing, so I picked the apartment we’re in, and furniture is just random pieces we picked up here and there (ikea, craigslist). Other than that, it’s mainly just groceries and other things that are easily split. (“Hey, we both drink the diet dr. pepper. Let’s split it. I only eat the granola bars, so I’ll pay for those”). Basically it’s a pay for what you use system. This is probably why it just annoys me more than upsets me–it’s not like I’m not involved in decision making, or that I’m paying for things I don’t share. It’s just a pain in the ass to have to tally up who’s buying what.

        • “Hey, we both drink the diet dr. pepper. Let’s split it. I only eat the granola bars, so I’ll pay for those”

          – That’s CRAZY! My boyfriend and I were very poor in college, but we split our groceries on a “I paid this time, you pay next time” basis. Hang in there, though – and once you both have real jobs, try to get over the college mentality ASAP. Make a grown-up budget, talk about who should be paying how much, and try to come up with some guideline like “if the amount is <$20, it doesn't need to be rigorously split – things will just average out in the end".

          • I have never lived with a boyfriend, but all of my ex boyfriends have eaten twice (if not three times) as much as I do. I can’t imagine splitting groceries down the middle and not getting annoyed that I’m paying more than my fair share. I suppose this means I’m not ready to move in with anyone, but I honestly don’t imagine this changing either…

    • Bringing home the bacon :

      That would be very irritating. I make slightly more than my husband but it’s not much of an issue. We’ve agreed on a set contribution amount and both have it automatically drawn from our individual accounts and moved into a joint account every other week. All of our bills get paid from that account and then there is no bickering about him going out for happy hour or me buying shoes. Even though I make more, we contribute the same amount. I even things out by paying for our health insurance. Dh doesn’t know but I sometimes add money into the joint account when funds get low. I don’t mind.

    • Have you thought about moving out so you can at least prioritize your spending the way you want, instead of paying 50% of things you don’t care about? I tend to agree with the commenters saying that this is a huge warning sign and you should re-evaluate the relationship, but if you want to test the relationship without the financial issues, I think you need to see what happens when you give yourself some space to make decisions. It sounds like he is being very controlling, on top of being emotionally unavailable.

      Also, even though I think it’s neurotic to insist on 50/50 splitting of everything, I would never, ever open a joint bank account with anybody unless I was either married to them or in a business relationship (and even then, all checks would require two signatures). Maybe you could come up with another system, like each of you putting $x cash into an envelope on the fridge door, and agreeing in advance what expenses come out of the envelope and in what amounts? Probably splitting hairs, but joint accounts can lead to a whole range of problems

    • That’s not stingy; that’s selfish! 7 years and he is still acting like that? It is very unlikely that he will change and maybe you should consider if this is something you can live with for the next 50 years. I would think of vacations and paying for children, etc. Is he going to want to split the costs of a child as if you were divorced and it was child support? He doesn’t seem to understand the concept of a girlfriend and a partnership.

    • Kz, you may not like hearing this but after 7 years if my SO had that attitude and refused to consider my request to pay less but do more, I’d walk away.

      • Yes, I would too. The granola bars conversation makes my jaw drop. There are no words for such selfishness.

        Kz, I hope you don’t think that you have to stay in this because you’ve been in it for so long, and live together.

    • anonymouse :

      Dump this guy.

    • french girl :

      He sounds very avoidant. He is using these excuses to keep you at arms length. The is a great book about anxious, secure, and avoidant relationship styles. It might be called Attraction’. Check it out.

  9. Does anyone have the situation where they are the one with a lower income and have issues with that sometimes? Husband makes a good deal more than I do, and has no school debt. I still owe a significant portion of school debt, which I’m paying back out of my salary. But I still feel like I’m not “pulling my weight.” And now that there is a child in the picture, and we’re talking about having another, I toy with the idea of staying home for a couple years to be with the kids. I just don’t know if my pride can handle it.

    • In this exact situation, and have been since we married a few years ago. The twist is that we moved to the worst possible location in the US for my skill set, so that he could take the “dream job”. My career spiraled down the toilet for about 2 years before we finally moved so that I could take a job and get my career underway. The silver lining is that now I’m in grad school and working, and husband is already talking about how I’m going to be supporting him once I graduate. We always knew he wanted to start his own business or join a start-up, and so our plan was for me to be the breadwinner for a while after I obtained my MBA. The pride saver for me has always been that we both wanted me to be the higher earner at some point, so that he could do his own thing without risking our financial position. I completely understand how it feels though, to see the husband making tons of money at the “dream job”, and feeling like you can’t spend money or take time off because you won’t measure up to him. But if you want to be a mom, then you should feel like that’s a worthwhile endeavor, not hit to your pride!

    • middle-aged anon :

      Midori, my pride had a hard time with it, too. The idea of counseling comes up a lot here on Corporette; here’s an unusually-concrete way my counselor helped me: When I stayed at home with the kids, not only did I feel… inadequate for not making any money and pulling my weight, but my husband was unconsciously feeding that notion. He’d come home from work really stressed out (and not directly about money,) and I’d ask, “What can I do to help you?” His reply was always “Give me the winning lottery numbers.”

      When my counselor heard that, she pointed out what might seem self-evident but wasn’t: the message that I heard was “You can only help me by bringing us money.” Which is not how we feel in this marriage, so I pointed it out to him, and he realized the dynamic and quit saying it. So that was one (albeit only one) way that I dealt with whether or not I was pulling weight.

    • You may want to read “The Mother Dance,” by Harriet Lerner. Her perspective would be that it’s not just a “pride” issue you’re dealing with — like it or not, the balance of power is always an issue in any relationship. That’s not a good thing or bad thing, just a reality for us humans. Women who put their careers second, for the benefit of husband or children or both, do give up power in the relationship. Here’s a telling question: if you’re staying at home with the kids, earning little or nothing, and family-supporting husband gets a lucrative/desirable job offer in a city you really don’t want to move to, do you feel you could say no? Her book offers a helpful way to think about these issues, discuss them, and make adjustments in how you deal with each other around them. Kudos to you for recognizing that this is a big deal. Those who don’t often end up with a lot of resentment and under-the-surface anger.

      • One more note: BTW, I did choose to stay home with my children for several years … and it was good to approach the decision with open eyes.

    • Look at how much full-time child care for two young children costs. If you save your family that much money, chances are very good that you’re pulling your weight financially.

    • Ramona Quimby :

      My salary is 1/3 his – check. Student loans to pay – check. Considering kids – OMG. I really don’t think I’ll feel comfortable w/o a salary, if it ever comes to that. I’m taking a leave of absence from my job to work on a book, and will see my income plummet to grad school levels… which scares me so much. At least I have a tiny writing stipend – my ‘own’ money (‘pin money,’ my grandmother used to call it.) The idea of not having a salary is terrifying.

    • Legal Marketer :

      So close to my exact situation and I was really hoping to get some perspective on it. He makes more than I do, although I have an MBA and make decent money. The problem is, he knows I’m intelligent and could probably be making more at a different job and he continues to remind me of this. I’ve applied for a few jobs, and am in the second round of interviews for one, but I don’t want to leave where I am (fairly happy) just to make more money.
      We have always shared an checking account, and I pay the bills out of that account. I’m a good saver, but he feels that when it comes to “extras,” he should get more say in what we buy because he makes more money. He is always driving a new car, has some expensive toys (one VERY expensive toy that is worth more than 3x my salary) and I have some nice things and am driving a 7-year old car. I don’t mind driving it, but it’s getting to the point where it likely needs to be replaced soon (I commute an hour each way and rack up the miles quickly.) When I mention that buying a newer car for me in the next year is likely inevitable, he asks what I’m going to do to get the money for it? (My paycheck gets direct deposited towards our mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc – his pays the other bills and spending money)
      He says he works hard – he does – weekends, nights, anytime he can – to pay for the lifestyle he wants. My job is salaried and working more does not equal more money. The reason he can work more nights and weekends is because I take care of our daughter and do much of the daycare drop-off/pick up. He’s good about helping with cleaning and cooking, but I handle laundry and groceries. He forgets that he wouldn’t be ABLE to work the hours he does, if I didn’t take care of the household.

      I don’t have a problem making less than he does, but he says it only bothers him because he knows I’m capable of making more. Sometimes I feel like he’s trying to motivate me, but other times I get so frustrated. He wants another child and has said he wishes I could work part time or go to 4 days a week to spend more time at home with our kid(s), but I’ve told him that I would never do that because of his attitude about more money=more power.
      Does anyone have any suggestions of how to either a) not let this bother me or b)convince him that as long as I’m ok with making more than I am probably worth, he should be too. (and by that, I mean I like my work, coworkers, firm, etc.)

      • Here are my suggestions. Of course, take with large grains of salt, since I don’t really know your situation.

        Stop having all of your salary go to the mortgage. Have a portion of both of your salaries directed to a different account that the mortgage/taxes/insurance/other bills can be directly withdrawn from. Then you can have some of ‘your own’ money and start saving some of your salary to spend on yourself or whatever you want whenever you want.

        When you need a new car? Say, I need a new car. I am going to use joint funds to purchase it because (1) I need reliable transportation to and from work and (2) my salary goes towards joint expenses, and doesn’t leave an opportunity to save from it.

        And as for the strange messages of change jobs to make more/work less to spend more time with kids, next time it was brought up I’d ask him how he would feel if you asked him to change his job to better satisfy you when he’s happy at it? And I’d tell him that if he felt our children should have more time with their parents, perhaps he should examine how much time he spends with them, and consider whether it’s really you who is the one who needs to alter work schedules to allow for more family time.

      • Wow. I would ask him what he’s going to do if you leave him and your daughter where they are and leave for a high paying job in another city which will pay for a lovely life style. You could. I know, you would not leave your child of course. But there would be nothing illegal about doing it and laying out for him that you have this choice that would have very nice benefits then maybe he will value you choosing to stay, and to contribute to your family.

        What if you told him that he doesn’t get to be a father because he does not spend enough time with his daughter? That since you spend more time with her you get to have more of her love? It’s just ridiculous. He is being utterly ridiculous.

        And even if you don’t do the (I admit slightly crazy) suggestions above you should absolutely tell him – I will not have a second child with you because you are do not consider us a financial unit and I can not trust you financially – I have to look out for myself and my own interest because I can not trust my husband who values expensive toys over a family life. Maybe hearing it bluntly will wake him up. I could not be married to a man like that.

  10. Some context: I was dating my SO I was a broke college student and then a broke law student (who worked part-time on campus and also interned 2 days for credit, so more or less worked fulltime hours + school) and my SO was at his first job out of college. We were engaged for 3 months (which was the time that I was deferred from big law due to the economic crisis – so I moved in with my parents and planned our wedding). i started at big law 2 weeks after our honeymoon. i’ve been doing the big law thing for 15 months now — so even though we’ve known eachother 6+ years the time/money disparity is a new issue.

    the $ issue is a non-issue for us. we do well enough saving (thought i’m the driving force behind that) and neither of us stops the other from indulgences, even though mine are more frequent and more expensive, i couldn’t imagine that ever being an issue for us, he gets me and my spending habits, and given my spending habits, i never take issue with his.

    about time – it’s important to respect the other person’s freedom, choices and contribution to the relationship — yes my husband has more time. he often plays video games for 2+hours while we waits for me to get home or goes out for happy hours or dinner with friends and comes home in a great mood. meanwhile. i’ve worked a 15+ hour day and am as cranky as can be. but just as often, he comes home and cleans up the apartment and he pretty much exclusively is in charge of laundry and other small errands that i just don’t have time for.

    when i’m frustrated on a video game night, it’s important to keep things in perspective and respect his choices and contributions to our household. it’s often hard to control my gut responses on those nights, but it took me some time to realize that my frustration has more to do with jealousy of not having as much free time as he does. plus, we both understand that our first choice would be to do things together, but i just can’t swing that, so there’s no reason to hold it against him.

    • also, i must add: the fact that my SO is super smart (smarter than me) and way comfortable and confident despite any income disparity or time disparity is of course the the MOST IMPORTANT thing. nothing would work without that

  11. Couple of thoughts on this.
    – Don’t assume that someone who is in “slacker mode” at a given stage of his life will always stay there, if he wants to change. My husband was the king of slackers when I met him – he was famous in college for having flunked out of the easiest class at the school, which you didn’t even have to attend to pass. When we got serious, I basically said “these are the expectations I have for my life, and they’re non-negotiable for me” (things like having a house, saving for retirement, being able to take vacations, etc.) At one point he said, the great thing about you is that you’ve really helped me focus on what I want out of life because you are so clear about what you want. We made plans and figured out, this is how we will get from point A to point B. Then he followed through with them. Now he is the super-achiever and I have to sometimes remind him to sit back and take a breather every so often.

    – The flip side of that is, don’t date people thinking they are a fixer-upper opportunity. If the person wants to change, they can change. If they don’t, there you have it. You cannot turn a person who is happy being a plumber into a corporate executive unless THEY want to make that change. If they are happy being who they are, you need to be happy with it too, or the relationship will not work. Period. That doesn’t mean you can’t share mutual goals and dreams and all that, but do not date someone expecting that with enough pressure, they will become someone else for you. Doesn’t work.

    – Finally, power/money/time dynamics are never set in stone and can change. I was the high-achiever for a long time; then we had our son and I wanted to step away from the fast track and spend more time with my baby. My husband also wanted that and stepped up so that we could financially make that work. There have been times in our relationship when I was crazy busy and traveling all the time, then times he was. I would say that a healthy approach to problem-solving and shared values about the big issues are more important than how the power dynamic works right now. That goes both ways – if you are dating an electrician, would your relationship still work if he decided to go to law school? If you are dating a lawyer, would your relationship still work if he decided to chuck it all and become an artist? The only constant in life is change, and your relationship needs to be elastic enough to accommodate changes as they happen.

    And just a small plug for shorter guys. I have several shorter guy friends who have a hell of a time dating, even though they are fantastic people with a lot to offer. Sometimes the guys who aren’t 6’2″ are kinder and more interesting, because things haven’t always come easy for them. I’m not saying “date Munchkins” but if you meet a nice guy who didn’t win the genetic lottery and end up tall, give him a chance anyway. He might not be your ideal but he might be perfect for you.

    • Can we please have bumper stickers made that say “date Munchkins”?

      In all seriousness, lots of great insight here. And shorter guys can be mad sexy.

    • Agreed re short guys, but just be prepared to have everyone stare at you everywhere you go…I’m in a relationship with a guy who is my height and also not attractive. He’s amazing, but I seriously don’t know if I can stomach everyone else’s reactions to us for years to come. Even my friends are either baffled or clearly pity me (though they don’t dare say anything). Not to mention that I don’t know if our child would ever forgive me if s/he turned out looking like him (or if I could ever forgive myself).

      • soulfusion :

        I had this issue with a guy I dated seriously several years ago. I felt very shallow when I worried about my kids looking like him . . . that wasn’t the deal breaker but it certainly held me back.

      • Wow, I don’t know if I’d want to be with someone who thought of me that way. Even if they did think that I was “amazing.” No insult to you for being honest, I just think that would sort of suck.

        • Agreed. I’ve always found that the more I love someone, the more attractive I find him. I originally thought my husband was average looking, but now I find him gorgeous and sexy and I’m proud to be seen with him (though I don’t think it’s just me — he is sexy ;)

          I can only imagine that he picks up on these vibes, too, and that can’t be good for a relationship.

          • This.

            I actually described my now-bestfriend-and-SO-of-7-years to a roommate as “kinda funny looking” when I first met him. Now, I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. Seriously, I must have been working on serious lack of sleep or something. My SO is the sexiest, cutest, handsomest one out there and I wonder all the time how he didn’t get snapped up before I got to him.

      • Do him a favor and break up with him. He can do better.

        • Anonymous :

          Eponine: ouch!

        • Easy for you to say; doubtless you and most of the gals on this board wouldn’t give this guy the time of day.

          I’m at least trying to give him a shot, and it bothers me that nobody in my family or social circle can be supportive. Just as I’m sure it would bother you if that was your family’s reaction to your sig other.

          • It sounds like you’re dating him out of pity. That won’t end well.

          • If you’re “trying to give him a shot” it doesn’t sound like a promising relationship to me. Perhaps they aren’t being supportive because they sense that you’re dating him out of pity than any real attraction?

        • Blunt but very true.

        • anonymouse :

          agree – how awful to have your GF think of you this way!

      • I also do not think you are being fair. I have a BF who makes less than me and is not model gorgeous. But what is important is that he is VERY attentive to me and my needs, and fulfills so many things that so many dudes in college and bus never did. I have dated the whole spectrum; from jocks to nerds to smart wimps. The key is to find a guy who adores you and will do what you want to do while being something more than a yes-man. In my case, I can afford to pay a lot of the bills, and he is so happy to be around me that we hardly ever disagree. If you can find a guy like him, never let him go!

      • I appreciate Red’s honesty – she is only admitting what other women may feel, deep down, while dating shorter/less goodlooking guys.

        Red – you make two points: about your family/friends’ reactions, and about your own concerns about your children’s looks etc and whether you will ever be ok with dating him given his looks.
        The first problem is not likely to last long – Your friends and family will soon get used to seeing you with him and then are unlikely to do the double-takes they’re doing now.
        As to the second problem – it can go two ways. You yourself may come to look beyond his height/looks and decide that his other qualities are worth more to you. As Anon says, many of us grow to find our husbands hotter with age (or maybe with maturity/as they learnt to dress better/throw away those college sweatshirts etc.) ;)
        Or you may find other negative qualities that, combined with the looks etc., may result in a dealbreaker. Hope it works out for you!

  12. I’m very interested to hear the responses too. I’m in my third year of DC biglaw, while my significant other is a 2009 JD who is still looking for a job. It has put some serious strain on our relationship.

  13. This conversation is an interesting follow-up to a previous one about work/ family life issues. In my experience, it’s very hard for both spouses to maintain demanding careers after having children; someone often finds it necessary to scale back, usually the woman. If you’re committed to a taxing job, it could be a great thing to fall in love with a more laid back guy who’s happy in a less intense job . . . provided of course that he’s willing to take primary responsibilty for your future children!

    • Anon for this... :


      My SO and I have often talked about how, when we have kids, it will probably make a LOT more sense for him to step back from his career than me. He doesn’t really LIKE working a high stress job. And he is better at house cleaning, cooking, etc. than me. Plus, I have high earning potential (at least for now).

      Of course, we’ll see what happens when push comes to proverbial shove.

    • NYClawyer :

      Yeah…that is how it was supposed to work out with my ex. We agreed that he would do what he loved, earn less, and do more of the housework, cooking, etc. He would have taken care of the kids 3/4 of the year if we had them (the other 1/4 he’d be traveling, but his family would have provided support).

      As a practical matter, he didn’t have the right personality to do the housework, so I had too much responsibility at home in addition to my long work hours, which I resented. He needed so many reminders to drop off the dry cleaning that it actually would have been less stressful to do it myself (because nagging him was unpleasant). He very rarely did anything he wasn’t specifically asked to do. He cooked dinner about twice a month; the rest of the time we ordered in.

      He theoretically had no problem with my earning more, but as a practical matter, we would both have been happier if he had earned more and I had been the one tasked with picking up the slack at home.

  14. I think that if you have the supportive and confident attitude that someone mentioned above, things will work themselves out.

    When my husband and I started dating, I was a law student and he was doing a startup – he had savings from his previous jobs in finance, but wasn’t exactly raking it in at the startup. Then I graduated and for a few years while I worked in BigLaw, I made from 110% to 200% of what he made. Then I moved to a small firm, and he renegotiated his comp to get more performance fees, and so last year he made 300% of what I made. We are nothing but supportive of each other’s work and always think of the money we make as “our” money – so we are always on the same team and working toward the same goal.

    As far as dating someone who has more time, that is more difficult. My husband likes to do his work late at night (like 11pm-4am), and hang out with me while I am at home and awake. Then he gets annoyed with my 1 day a week activity because it takes away from the time (evening) that I would normally hang out with him. We haven’t really found a good solution for this, unfortunately – usually he makes 1-2 snarky comments on the day of my activity, which I try to ignore, then wash, rinse, repeat. Suggestions on this front would be welcome! He doesn’t really have a non-work-related activity of his own – all of his hobbies tend to be somewhat work-related (helping startups, programming, etc.).

    • “Then he gets annoyed with my 1 day a week activity because it takes away from the time (evening) that I would normally hang out with him. We haven’t really found a good solution for this, unfortunately – usually he makes 1-2 snarky comments on the day of my activity, which I try to ignore, then wash, rinse, repeat. Suggestions on this front would be welcome! He doesn’t really have a non-work-related activity of his own – all of his hobbies tend to be somewhat work-related (helping startups, programming, etc.).”

      I’ve been here. My husband used to be very much like this – it was hard for me to plan evening activities, even work-related ones, because he would mope and make snarky comments. What really helped was when he got involved in an extracurricular activity (he teaches karate for adults at a local community center, volunteer). I really encouraged him to do it, because I felt like if he had something outside of work and home to do, I would get more freedom, and it worked out that way. I also think encouraging husbands to make their own friends they can see outside of work can help, although I haven’t gotten very far with that one; my husband is crazy-introverted and has a hard time letting people get to know him. Is there anything – recreational sports league, professional group, gaming club, etc. he would get into if you encouraged him?

      • Hmm. He does have a best friend w/ whom he hangs out about twice a week, so maybe I can encourage that w/ regularity. He is also very introverted!!!

        • My DH does this maybe once a week – the guys call them clubhouse nights since they hang out at one bachelor pad or another and watch sports and drink beer. I encourage this, since it give me time to relax in a bubble bath with a glass of wine and a romance novel. Sad to say, but I sometimes make even more of an effort to get out of work earlier on clubhouse nights since I get the apartment to myself so rarely.

      • I plan my activity for a time when he isn’t very active anyway – weekend mornings. He is not a morning person and I can easily get away from 10 to 11:30 on saturdays to do my thing (dance) and it doesn’t make a difference to him.
        However, when I used to attend my dance classes on Thu (or worse, Fri) evenings, that did not work out because he wanted to spend that time with me and resented that activity.
        Hope that helps!

    • My husband is the same about wanting to work all night! I’m out 3 nights a week for school/extra curricular commitments, so we worked it out that one day per week, he does the 9-5 thing with me, and then we spend that evening together. We’ve also worked out that we spend most of our weekend together, on the same time table. This gives him flexibility to stay up late and 3-4 days per week while I’m gone. Could your husband compromise by finishing work early one day a week so that you could hang out on a “normal” schedule?

      • Haha! We already do hang out in the evenings – the other thing that would help is if he got up early once or twice a week when I have to go to the office, so I’m not getting myself and the kids ready all at once. But given how grumpy he is when I wake him before 11, I’m not sure that’s going to happen… :)

    • It sounds to me like he is making a choice about what work schedule works best for him. And its great that he has that flexibility, but its outside of the typical workday hours, and he’s got to recognize there are consequences to that.

      But you have the right to spend an evening (its only one a week!) on YOUR interest. It seems healthy for you to have interests outside of your marriage. I could see this as a red flag for controlling behavior – but you’d be the best judge of this.

      The snarky comments from him seem uncalled for. If its a case of him being disappointed about not being able to spend time with you, that’s one thing – and he should say that. But if he’s trying to make you feel bad for having interests other than him, that would make me concerned. (And I’m not saying that’s the case – just something to consider in the context of the rest of your relationship.)

    • I had the same problem, and things changed for the better when boyfriend picked up some evening activities outside work.

  15. Anonymous Lawyer :

    I make more than my husband – 2 times more – and I resent it. I didn’t think I would when I got married, but now that we have children, it has put a lot of strain on our marriage. I would like to have the flexibility to step back a bit from my career, but can’t because he doesn’t make enough to support the family. He loves his career though and I feel that with my higher income, I’m financing his happiness while giving up my own happiness. I really wish I married someone who made more money than me. I hate to say it, but as educated as I am, deep down, I feel like the man should be able to support his family. This is how I was raised.

    • Anonymous :

      sorry, but you kinda suck.

      • I suck, too, then.

      • AnonInfinity :

        Wow. What an inappropriate response.

        I think it’s perfectly natural to feel some resentment when you’re working long hours at a job you don’t enjoy but you can’t quit while your SO is working a job that actually makes him or her happy.

        I feel for you, Anonymous Lawyer. I hope that the two of you can figure out a way for him to make more money or to reduce expenses enough that you can find something that makes you happier or at least scale back your current job.

      • yikes back off. this is a safe space – she can be honest. i know a lot of women who feel like that. it must be very difficult to feel like you’re working your life away and not getting support from your spouse.

      • Are you lost? Go troll AbovetheLaw or something.

      • Um…I have to give Anonymous Lawyer props for at least knowing how she feels and understanding it’s her issue to deal with, rather than putting it on her husband to make her feel better. Anonymous Lawyer, I sense that you kind of beat yourself up about this belief, and you shouldn’t. Feelings may not be rational but they aren’t necessarily wrong; in many cases you cannot help how you feel but you can control how you deal with your feelings. You seem to be handling it the best way you can. And also remember, this too shall pass. Just because it’s this way now, it doesn’t mean it has to be this way forever.

    • the “financing his happiness” really resonates with me. i feel like if one person is working a souless job to pay for the other person’s more pleasant livestyle, there are going to be issues. doesnt matter if it’s the man or the woman doing the working/enjoying.

      • I feel this way too sometimes. I’m in soul-sucking biglaw while my significant other spent over a year looking for a job in the niche he really wanted. And because I was, and still am, paying for everything from rent to groceries to utilities, he could “afford” to be so damn picky. While he finally expanded his job search a few months ago beyond his preferred niche, he still hasn’t found a job.

        I think it’s in part due to our different backgrounds – I grew up working class and would get a job at Starbucks if I couldn’t find an attorney job, because the idea that I can just choose to not work while I am looking for a better job is unfathomable. That it doesn’t matter whether I think I am “better” than a particular job – a job is a job and sometimes one has to work a crappy job to make ends meet. My dad spent part of my childhood as a janitor. Suck it up, life’s not fair, and you shouldn’t assume that you get to be happy in your job (or life). I clearly learned both good and very bad messages from this example. Meanwhile, he grew up in very upper middle class, and has a sense of entitlement that because of his hard-earned education, he is “too good” to work at Starbucks/whatever and should hold out for an attorney job, because that’s what he deserves. And he does deserve an attorney job, but life isn’t fair.

        Because of our different backgrounds, I deeply resent his refusal to find a job that brings in any income while he looks for an attorney job, while he thinks it is crazy that I would expect him to find a job at Starbucks. Meanwhile, I pay for everything, effectively “financing his happiness.” This especially grates on me when I come home after yet another long day at work to find that there are dishes in the sink – wtf were you doing all day that you couldn’t clean up?! And where’s my dinner??

        Through therapy, I have come to recognize that while he is making mistakes, I was also being very disrespectful. I basically assumed that because I was working and he was not, then he should behave as a house-husband: nightly home-cooked meals, clean house, all errands/housework completed. This was very emasculating for him, and also upsetting for me because I don’t want a house husband: I want a partner. And whether correlation or causation, I have had no sex drive whatsoever during his long bout with unemployment. I guess I can’t be sexually attracted to a man whom I love and want to marry in the future, but is living off me right now. And we can’t get engaged until he finds a job (my condition) and my sex drive comes back (his condition). I hope this economy will turn around and solve both of these problems.

        We are getting through these hard times via therapy and communication. We both know we are a wonderful match with a lifetime of happiness ahead of us. We just need to get through this very bad situation and bad economy. Things are on the upswing now – he is pounding the payment and shares with me every day where he’s applying, who he called, and basically lets me know that he’s trying very hard, which makes me feel better. He is doing a better job of taking care of me, too. And I do my part to be supportive and encouraging, to hold my sour tongue when I see a pot in the sink, and to stop and really appreciate the hours of effort that went into a delicious dinner he made for us or into planning a fun weekend day. But I can’t lie to my corporettes, so I have to admit that I still resent his unemployment (and this stupid economy for making him unemployed), and that stupid dirty dish.

        • sorry, but... :

          I have a few comments and I am sorry if they are harsh.

          1. You are in a soul-sucking biglaw job because you want to be there. If it sucks the soul out of you, leave. And do not use your loans as an excuse – I took out the full amount of loans for law school and worked at biglaw for a year before quitting and moving to a small firm. I still pay my loans (albeit slowly) and you can too. Don’t blame your partner for your self-imposed situation.

          2. You should not be financing his happiness. You are not engaged and if it really irks you to be paying his bills, then stop. Until the ring is on your finger, your money is your money. It’s one thing to be buying him dinner; it is another to pay his share of the rent. If you told him you were going to stop footing the bill, he would have to change.

          3. It is ridiculous that he finds it emasculating to clean a dish. That is emasculating, but sitting around living on his biglaw girlfriend’s dime is a-ok? He should want to clean the apt because it makes you, the breadwinner, feel better. When my husband was deferred he cooked, cleaned, and did the chores – because he wanted to make my life easier.

          4. This “no engagement until your sex drive comes back” really really irks me. I’m assuming you have sex sometimes (at least once a week), just not as often as he likes? Having less sex is a natural evolution of a relationship and all parties should understand. If you didn’t want to have sex for a few months after giving birth, would he leave you? He should love you regardless of how frequent the sex is.
          If you are actually never having sex, then this is actually a huge problem. That one I don’t have any advice for.

          • 4) Never. Yes, it is a huge problem.

          • Anony non :

            This may sound harsh, but if you have those issues now, how can you imagine it will get better if he finds a job and you get engaged?
            What happens if you get laid off or are home taking care of kids in the future? Would he expect you to do all the housework that is somehow beneath him now?
            I was in a situation of paying for most (if not all) of the living expenses/rent/etc. of my then live-in boyfriend so that he could follow his artistic dreams. Honestly, it killed my sex drive too because I could not respect him any longer when he could not (or would not) take a job that would provide for his own basic needs. At the end of the day, getting out of that relationship was one of the best decisions I made. Getting married (which we discussed) would only have ended in a divorce.

          • Spot-on.

            I think the biggest problem is the fact that you started footing the bills in the first place for someone you’re not even engaged to. I’m not sure how, but I think you should really try to get out of that. Does he have savings he can draw on? Or parents he can ask? You could make it a bit easier by asking him to just pay half the rent – you could still pay for smaller things like groceries (esp. if he does the cooking), but he should really be pitching in 1/2 on the big expenses.

            One possible angle might be to say, looks like you feel emasculated by basically acting as a house-husband, so maybe we can get on a more equal footing by you contributing to expenses.

          • NYClawyer :

            Totally agree with #3. Why is it “emasculating” for him to do housework? I understand the privileged background therefore too good for Starbucks mentality, and if the two of you are really committed then it may not be so bad for him to wait for a real opportunity to come along. But in the meantime, he should be viewing the two of you as partners who collectively need to get X, Y and Z done (i.e. earn enough to support your financial needs, take care of your living space, plan your social activities, whatever). Since you are focused on one part of the equation, he should naturally be focused on others.

            Later, when he earns $ too, perhaps you’ll hire a cleaner so neither of you has to worry about that, but in the meantime it needs to get done and if he feels “emasculated” by doing that stuff yet is willing to live off you, then he’s just really selfish. He should *want* to do that stuff to make you happy – there’s nothing emasculating about that.

            As for the sex issues, no sex drive whatsoever is bad. I agree with the posters who say he shouldn’t use it as a weapon, but it’s also the kind of issue that can derail a relationship, so I wouldn’t get engaged to someone if we never had sex and didn’t have a good reason to think it was a temporary situation. I think your sex drive is telling you what the posters here are telling you – you are talking yourself into staying in a bad relationship, and you should get out. You can do much better.

        • Anonymous Lawyer :

          Just wanted to throw my 2 cents here, but honestly, if you have this many issues and are not even engaged (or married), then you should get out of the relationship. Your significant other seems very self-centered. I know it sounds cliche, but you really can’t change people. My husband is very self-centered as well and I can tell you that these issues don’t go away over time, they get worse. Especially once kids are in the picture (assuming you have them). Things that annoy you now will annoy you tenfold once you have children.

        • M, there is such a thing as settling for less than you’re worth outside the professional arena, too. And you’re doing it, with this relationship. I have a hard time seeing a long-term rosy future for you with a man who uses sex as a weapon, which is what your BF is doing. Food for thought.

        • Reg poster but anon for this :

          I could have written this exact post. I love my job, but completely resent spouses current unemployment. I know it’s coming to an end soon, but I know that I am not cut out for stay at home dad. You have to generate some income….. Not pretty, or politically correct but the truth……

        • I could have written this post. 4 years ago, my husband and I both had well-paying jobs that funded a mortgage, vacations, luxury goods, etc.

          Then he got laid off in a restructuring. He decided to take 6 months of his severence and just take a breather while deciding what to do next. In month 5, the economy cratered and his industry laid off thousands of people.

          It took 2 years for him to find work as a consultant. (We had agreed that he should hold out for a good job for him, not just take anything, at least until our savings got to X amount.) We cut our lifestyle way back but still have burned through most of our savings. Through that time, I’ve worked at a job I don’t love, but it is stable, and I can’t leave until we are on more solid ground.

          And, yes, my sex drive completely disappeared. Completely. Partly because I was stressing out about what we would do if 1 year of unemployment stretched into two, and partly because I resented him for not working harder to find a job. And partly because it was really, really hard for me to put in a long day and come home exhausted and still have to figure out what to eat for dinner.

          We’re doing better now, but I worry that the scars from that time period won’t ever go away. I guess in general, everything feels more fragile and tenuous.

      • Alias Terry :

        Been there, done that, moved on before marrying him.

        • Alias Terry :

          This was a reply to the part about footing the bill for someone’s dream.

          (don’t feed the trolls!)

    • Ouch. I do not think she sucks at all. I think she is being really, incredibly truthful in the kind of way you can only do with complete anonymity. I think there are many of us out there is perfectly healthy, wonderful relationships with great men who we love deeply but who make less than we do that may secretly wish, in some very small hidden spot down deep, that their husbands made more $ so they could stay home or cut back on hours without their being a financial hit to the family.

    • nonprofit lawyer :

      I obviously don’t know how much your husband makes, but I imagine he could support a family on his salary. He probably just can’t support a lifestyle that you’ve grown accustomed to and now think is necessary to “support a family.” I think the average family lives off of 50,000. My guess is that you’re husband makes more than that.

      I understand that cost of living is expensive in cities and people don’t want to deny their children opportunities, but too often we see expenses as necessities when they are actually luxuries. I think this is fine — until this skewed perspective interferes with our own ability to be happy.

      • Anon here :

        I’ll jump in here to say that no, it’s not just a lifestyle question. I can relate a lot to what Anonymous Lawyer says, and for the record, I don’t think she sucks. My husband makes way less than $50,000–less than half of that figure, even. He is an artist and is incredibly talented and successful according to the professional demarcations of that field. But he makes no money.

        It is definitely a source of resentment for me. I love my husband beyond words, and he is so supportive of my much more demanding, and more lucrative, job. But I don’t love that job, and I often feel trapped because I need to be the breadwinner. It’s also difficult to discuss with him (as I’ve tried to), because he takes any conversations related to his low income as a personal attack and has said outright to me that I knew when I married him that he made very little money, so I can’t expect things to be different now. That’s true, but I didn’t realize how much I would hate the high-paying job (which I didn’t have when we got married). Ugh. Any advice, beyond “you suck” would be much appreciated.

        • There’s got to be a middle ground. Can you try to look around for a job that still pays OK but is more fun for you? I’m pretty sure such jobs exist…

        • There’s got to be some kind of middle ground. Can you try to look around for a job that still pays OK but is more fun for you? I’m pretty sure such jobs exist…

        • NYClawyer :

          Agree with Kaye – instead of focusing on him earning less, focus on telling him how unhappy you are with the job and how much you need to find one that isn’t so bad, even if it means a paycut. Try to get him to agree to work with you to cut back on your joint living expenses so that you can afford to live on 2/3 or 1/2 your current salary. Meanwhile, start networking and sending out resumes.

          If you do it that way, it’s even conceivable that he will start to think about whether there are ways he can come up with some extra income – some kind of part time job or something that still allows him to do his art. But for him to stop feeling defensive and start thinking constructively, he needs to be focused on making you happy and solving a joint problem, rather than on how inadequate you feel his contribution is. There is nothing wrong with your feelings of resentment, but sharing them may not be the best way to get what you want in this situation.

      • It’s also tough if you’ve already locked into a mortgage on nice house in the ‘burbs, live near family who provide free childcare, etc. Sure you could live on less but it means selling a house (probably for less than you bought it these days) in order to downsize, which isn’t realistic for a lot of folks and other similar things. And the way the economy is now, the big expensive cities are where the jobs are. So sure you can move somewhere cheaper, but then your husband might not be employed at all.

        I agree there is a lot of keeping up with the Joneses but I also think it is tough for a family of 4 to make drastic life changes even if they want to.

      • The median household income in the US is $45K. 28% of households make 25K or under.

        A household with an income of 150-200K earns more than 94% of all other households.

        • Totally Anon for this one :

          yes but do those families making $45k or less have $100k in student loan debt? Or are they in the highest tax bracket? I get that a lot of us are holding on to certain lifestyles, but when ~50% of your annual salary goes to taxes, ~30% of take-home pay goes to Sallie Mae, any kind of downsizing is kind of out of the question.

    • This is how I feel all the time, except I make three times more. And I hate myself for feeling this way. We are thinking of having kids and I can’t bear the thought of pounding away during tax season while my kid grows up in daycare.

      • First, your kid won’t grow up in daycare, any more than kids who go to school grow up in school. Kids just grow up. You don’t have to be aroudn 24 hours a day.

        But, if you feel strongly about having a parent home with the kid, why not have your husband stay home? Why isn’t this an option?

      • Your kid won’t grow up in daycare. He or she will grow up with his dad being his primary caregiver while you’re at work, maybe. But there’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Daughter of a CPA here–yes tax season was always tough growing up and yes we did spend a lot of time in day care during tax season, but honestly when you grow up with it, it’s just how life is and you don’t know anything else. We ate dinner an hour later during tax season and little things like that but my parents just picked up the slack for each other depending on what time of year it was. It’s different if you don’t like your job because I think your kids feel that. But if you like being a CPA, really, your kids will be fine.

      • Anony non :

        Just a .2 from a kid who grew up with my dad being my stay at home parent for most of my childhood. No, I’m not as close to my mother, but I love and respect her for being passionate about her career and showing us that women can and do work (and excel at work). It was also wonderful to have such a close relationship with my father, especially as a teenager, and as a girl!

        • This. My mom was in law school when she was pregnant with me, and she was passionate about her career when I was a kid. Now as an adult, I feel lucky that I had such a strong role model growing, up, and I tell everyone I have a kick a** mom.

      • This is just a note to address what I read your concern to be–that YOU won’t be around to see your kids grow up, whether or not your husband or some other caregiver can step in and give your kids what they need.

        As a child of business-owning parents, I sometimes had to go to daycare, get dropped off at my grandparents, and have babysitters not just for my parents’ date nights, but for evenings when they needed to be out entertaining clients. Even so, my brother and I always knew that we were loved and were a major priority in our parents lives. We definitely don’t feel like we were raised by outsiders, and both parents found lots of ways to have special quality time with us. For example, my mom was able to rearrange her work schedule so that she could pick us up in the afternoons, spend time with us, make dinner, etc. before doing more work in the evening while we were watching tv/doing homework/sleeping. My dad worked longer during the week, but took over more weekend duties.

        tl;dr version: If you really care about your future kids and try to be there for them when you can, it will show.

      • My husband doesn’t want to stay home. He says that’s not for him.

        My mom stayed home with my brother and I until my dad left when I was 8. After that I was in daycare and I freaking hated it. I decided at about age 10 that if I ever had a kid I’d stay home with it.

        I knew my husband would never make much. When we married I felt like kids were years away and there wasn’t any reason to worry about it then. Like Anonymous Lawyer says, I had no idea I’d feel this way. I am financing his dream of a museum career while busting my ass in a job I haven’t enjoyed for a long time. I have been trying for over a year to get the hell out of public accounting and so far nothing is working out for me. Maybe if I didn’t hate my job so much I’d be less resentful.

        • I think a big part is the communication there. He just said “its not for me” about staying home with the kids?

    • She doesn't suck :

      I second the thought that she doesn’t suck, she’s being honest. Especially if she was raised that the man should support the family, she’s not trying to be mean, she’s just being genuine.
      The only caveat would be marrying someone that you know is on a path that doesn’t make a lot of money. We’ve got several preacher/teacher couples in my family, and flat-out, they just don’t make a lot of money in those professions. Then we’ve got some lawyer/doctor couples who, flat-out make a ton of money. Can the lower earners really fault the higher earners in this situation? If she married a guy on a high-income path that has since switched to a lower income path, I think it’s totally reasonable for her to be frustrated. If he was always on a low earning path, she might be less justified in her frustration. However, it sounds like she’s really wrestling with the issue, and I think she deserves the opportunity to vent if she needs to!

      • Any woman who believes that the man should support his family should be okay with the belief that the man is the head of the family. Period. I’m not saying that if a woman stays home she automatically gives up equal say in the marriage/family. If a couple looks at both person’s wants/needs/strengths, and at their finances and how they want to raise their children and then decides that the woman is in the best position to stay home, then that’s an equal marriage. If the woman will stop respecting her husband if he can’t support her, then she is holding him to an old fashioned standard and should be okay with being held to that standard herself. Is she okay with her worth being judged by her ability to produce children and keep house? Or does she still want to have a career and have equal input in household decisions? You can stay traditional or you can be progressive, but you don’t get to pick and choose and take only what makes things better for you. (Although I would argue that equality makes life better for all of us. And that means that respect can be equally derived from traditionally feminine or traditionally masculine sources.)

    • You might not be able to survive on his income alone, but could you survive on his income plus 50% of your current income, if you got a government job or went to part time?

      • Anonymous Lawyer :

        Anonymous Lawyer here. Just a few comments,

        (1) I knew my husband wouldn’t make a huge amount of money when we got married, but I did not know that I’d want to stay home with my kids.
        (2) Comments on my husband’s income: We are in a lare metropolitan area with a very high cost of living. It would be difficult for us to survive on his income alone, particularly since I have student loans.
        (3) I’d love to sell our house and move somewhere cheaper in our current metropolitan area or to a lower cost of living city so that I could take a part time job, but we are under water so that isn’t really feasible for us. We simply don’t have the $50,000 we’d need to bring to the table in order to sell our current house.
        (4) On gender roles: As a wife and mother, I feel pressure for my house to look good, to be a good cook, for my kids to be well dressed, etc. I constantly feel like a failure because it’s hard to be a good lawyer and to be a good wife and mother based on how I was raised. In fact, my mom always points out that I am failing because my house isn’t clean enough. While I don’t think the man is “head” of the household, I admittedly apply old-fashioned gender roles to myself and my husband.
        (5) On daycares: I think it is ideal for one parent to stay at home – in my situation, my husband has no desire to stay home. Additionally, I’d be devastated if he stayed home because it is something I deperately want to do but cannot do because of his low earning power.

        • “Additionally, I’d be devastated if he stayed home because it is something I deperately want to do but cannot do because of his low earning power.”

          But if you don’t like the idea of daycare, wouldn’t this be much better?

          • Anonymous Lawyer :

            I don’t think daycare is ideal, but as I said, having my husband stay at home would be terrible for my marriage. My husband wouldn’t want to do it and I am pretty sure I would resent him even more than I already do. I just couldn’t see myself married to a stay at home Dad.

        • You know, I have NO experience with any of these things, but I bet that you are a very high-achieving woman who has always done well in life. For this reason, something like “failing” at being a great mother and wife — even if those definitions stem from antiquated gender roles — would be unthinkable. Also, I wonder if that makes you resent your husband — it sounds like he doesn’t hold himself to that same high standard in all his areas of life, not just that he makes less than you. In order to be a great lawyer, a great mother and a great wife — you need a great partner, and it seems like you need to have a serious talk with your husband to see if he is meeting that standard.

        • Please understand that I am saying this from a place of absolute love: when it comes to number 4, GET OVER IT. No, it is absolutely NOT possible to be both a housewife of yore AND a good lawyer. Tell your mother to shove it. (Nicely.) This was hard for me too, because I take great pride in my domestic abilities, but you know what? I can’t run a department of ten people in two cities AND cook dinner AND keep a spotless house. My house is dusty. No one dies. I cook because I love to cook and it is my stress relief, but my husband does dishes and laundry to his standards, not mine, and the floors will never be as clean as I’d like. When there are children, we’ll hire a housekeeper to keep up with the increased housework, and for now, I vacuum when there are people coming over, and the grout in the shower isn’t as pristine as it would be if I had more time. I am not superwoman, and I have made choices in my life about what is most important.

          If your house isn’t clean enough for you to feel comfortable with it, you have two choices: you can change the cleanliness of the house, or you can change your comfort level. The first can be accomplished by hiring a housekeeper, or having your husband take on a greater load. The latter can be accomplished with the help of a counselor who can help you address these feelings of failure stemming from not being able to be in six places at once. That’s common among high achieving women, you’re not alone.

          Very best of luck.

          • Great point. Absolutely agreed.

          • Anony non :

            Reading all of these comments, I am so grateful to my mother for working and getting advanced degrees when I was a child. It showed me (at a time when what she did was not at all common) that it was ok to either have help or relax your standards because it wasn’t possible to have an impeccable home/home cooked meals/etc. all while working and going to school.
            Plus, it also gives me leverage to tell my mom (nicely) to shove it if she ever tries to guilt me about the state of my home ;)

          • Anonymous :

            ADS: ditto! To Anon-Lawyer: you want it all! We all do but at some point you have to realize that you aren’t going to have it all. Maybe go on a long weekend with hubby (let your perfect mom watch the kids) and talk about where you want your life to go from here. Hugs ’cause you don’t suck!

          • this. i dont know your mother, but it sounds like she has some of her own insecurities around how a woman “should” act, and she’s projecting on you. be proud of yourself and everything you’ve accomplished! she’s probably jealous that you have the sucessful career that she never had an opportunity to have and is taking it out on you by criticizing you for “failing” at the few things she did achieve – cleaning, and keeping house.

          • This!

          • Anonymous Lawyer :

            Thanks for that comment. I appreciate it. I know intellectually that it is impossible to be both a successful lawyer and a model housekeeper and mother, but I can’t help but want to be both. I have a hard time not being an A+ at everything I do. Trying to be a wife, mother, and lawyer at the same time has been a humbling experience. It is good to be reminded that it is ok – and normal – to feel humbled by it!

          • Absolutely this. Remember that children raised in a dirty house have more well-developed immune systems and are more resistant to colds; I remind my mother-in-law of this regularly.

        • One of my fellow associates (and mother of 2 young kids) loaned me the book _I Don’t Know How She Does It.” You might enjoy it, too.

        • Anonymous Lawyer,
          1. Tell your mother to get bent (or stuff it, whichever you prefer). You are under no obligation to live your life to please your mother, which would probably be impossible anyway (I know, I think our mothers are similar. Actually, I think we might be parallel-universe siblings.) My whole life was hard until I finally told my mother the following: A. I love you; butt out B. I am not here to live up to your expectations, and you are not here to live up to mine, now that we are both adults and C. if I want your opinion on how I’m living my life, I’ll ask for it. The main problem in my case was that my mom tried to keep me in the subordinate, insecure, child position in our relationship long past the point when it was no longer appropriate. Now that she knows I expect her to treat me as an adult – no different than she would treat any other adult – our relationship is a lot better. It is hard and it takes more than one conversation, but it’s worth it.
          2. Please do not buy into the fantasy that you can “have it all” all the time. You know, that fantasy where the powerful working woman goes home to the spotless, perfect house with the cute kids and the handsome husband and there’s a gourmet dinner and everything runs perfectly with almost no effort? That’s a fantasy. Like Disneyland, except way more unattainable. Do what you can do. Let the rest go. No one will die or end up permanently damaged if the house doesn’t get dusted every week. Ease up on yourself, for God’s sake! You’re not superhuman!
          3. See above about telling your mom to stuff it. Love, or a familial relationship doesn’t entitle someone to make you miserable.

          • The initial comment in this thread immediately made me think of *three* couples I know, in which the women have chosen to stay home full time with the kids, and the men all resent (to varying degrees) having to bear the full responsibility for supporting the family. The one who resents it the most is a lawyer who hates his job. So I think men have these feelings too, but it’s probably easier for them than it is for women in the same position. At least they get affirmation for doing what’s expected of them, while the full-time employed woman has to take flack from Mom for not cleaning enough!

          • I am so there with my mom right now, I feel like I am losing my mind. She actually refers to my husband as her “poor son-in-law who doesn’t have hot home-cooked meals regularly”. I want to scream. I think because it’s your mother it’s hard to just ignore it. I’ve tried telling her I don’t need her running commentary on my life but other than telling people I’m mean to her, she hasn’t changed. I’ve definitely distanced myself from her sadly.

    • Prompted to Post :

      Thank you for this. My husband and I both have JDs from the same top 10 school. When we got married, we were both BigLaw associates. And then… he basically screamed “Mercy!” and quit to pursue something far far less lucrative. Since our son was born, a temporary arrangement to have my husband care for him while pursuing a Master’s degree has left me high and dry at a firm while he can “afford” to take his time finishing his degree/finding a job/figuring out his next steps. He now tells me he sees himself in a “supportive role” long-term. Um, that would all be fine if I wanted a house-husband and the career I’m being forced to build. And its not about lifestyle – our loans and lifestyle could be sustained if both of us simply went to professional jobs everyday. But alas…

    • NYClawyer :

      I felt this way also, with my ex. He got to do what he loved and not work very hard, then use my money to live a life of ease and convenience. It was hard not to feel resentful of that, especially because my personality would have been to save most of the money while I was making it, but he wanted to spend more (not to an extreme or ridiculous extent, but he was not going to spend any of his copious free time clipping coupons or home cooking so that we could save money – things that I happily do now that I am single and have more free time).

      • This was my situation–my ex BF wanted a job that he would love but also insisted on the nice apartment and new gadgets. I was busy paying down my student loans. I knew that I would resent him if we got married–I didn’t want to fund his happiness or pay off his student loans while I was overworked and overstressed in biglaw. Ended up ending the relationship; got my own apartment, stuck it out in biglaw and lived beneath my means so that I could pay down student loans and have more flexibility in where I work in the future. It really comes down to how one values money and financial priorities. He valued his immediate happiness; I wanted to plan for the future and get out of debt even if it meant being unhappy for awhile.

  16. Threadjack on the subject of relationships. My SO and I work in the same field, doing similar things, and are similarly successful in a major American city. In this field, there are people that while not perhaps on their way to federal corruption charges tomorrow, do not operate in a way that I respect. My SO does not endorse their beliefs or practices but does choose to network, be friendly with these people. I do not, choosing to network/be friendly with people that I respect (or at least do not disrespect.) The fact that my SO chooses to be affiliated with such people really bothers me. I know that my SO is a good person and completely trust them, but I just do not get why they would choose to affiliate with such people.

    Thoughts on how to handle? I know that I have a tendency to be a goody-two-shoes but am I being too pollyanna-ish about this issue? Right now, we have a don’t ask/don’t tell approach to my SO seeing these sorts of people but I don’t really want hiding things to be our long term solution.

    • Sorry for the grammar issues with this post! It’s a busy day but I didn’t want to miss my window posting this issue. Any guidance provided would be appreciated.

    • Hmm. It depends on what ethical issues there are, how principled you want/need to be, and how principled you want/need your SO to be. I have a client who holds some (to me) really prejudiced and wrong-headed views about certain groups of people and the way society works. But to me as his/her attorney, it is more important that s/he thinks well of me and continues to use me as his/her attorney, so I just keep my mouth shut and don’t disagree. Similarly, I would definitely network with shady people if I thought it would get me more clients! But I may be less principled (can’t think of a diff word right now) than you are.

      Will you have a problem if your SO continues to network with them? Maybe the DADT approach is best, if the networking is furthering your SO’s career and you don’t mind being out of the loop a bit.

      • Yes, I hear you. And your response sounds totally reasonable.

        I think perhaps that part of my hesitation is because we are in a public sector-related field so what offends me is not that these people personally but that they are doing harm to the public. Ie. they aren’t telling racist jokes, they are *allegedly* stealing from programs that help minority children.

        (I know I sound totally self-righteous.)

        • You know, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt…so as long as it’s only rumors, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But if they are being indicted or whatever, then I would probably have a convo with your SO about cooling the networking with them! :)

    • Rumors, rumors :

      I think there are several questions to ask here. First, where are you hearing about these supposed unethical activities. If you are just reading about it one news outlet, there is no real way to tell whether that reporting is fair and unbiased. I work for an organization that is facing some harsh criticism from one particular news outlet and as an insider, I know that news is very slanted.

      There are also organizations that may have problems generally, but every employee isn’t necessarily involved in ethical violations. I think it’s wrong to hold every employee responsible for activities that may only be perpetrated by 1-2 employees.

  17. Anon Today :

    I recently graduated law school and started making twice as much as my boyfriend of 2 years. He got me through the bar and still likes me enough to make me breakfast every now and then so I’m hoping he sticks around. :) When I was in school we were at the same income level so it felt fair to split everything. Once I was working full time, it started feeling unfair, especially because he is in school still.

    Our solution was to start a joint checking account for our dinners out and weekend trips. I contribute 2/3 of whatever amount we decide to put in and he contributes a corresponding portion of his. (We have been doing $100 for each 2 week pay period – I put in $66 and he puts in $33.) After it goes into that account the money is “ours” and we can’t use it unless we are with each other.

    Obviously not the solution for everyone but it works well for us. We don’t live together and our idea of exciting food is more of the food truck or random ethnic variety than fancy restaurants, so the amount is more than adequate. We actually find ourselves not using it for dinners so that we can save for trips. It has been kind of fun to talk about finances and budgeting and saving together.

    (For the inevitable friendly warnings, we are hoping to get married eventually and his credit score is better than mine. I don’t have any trust issues with the joint account.)

    • My SO and I do this too, although we put in equal amounts since we make about the same. Although we’ve never really worried too much about the concept of splitting costs precisely, we usually just end up taking turn who picks up the tab for dinner or whatever and if something is particularly expensive the other will pick up the tab more frequently to make up the difference.

      I think this communal savings account for couple things though is a great way to save for big trips, etc though. It’s a great way to keep the cost of those things reasonable for both partners.

  18. ElevenElle :

    Great topic. My hubby, an engineer-turned-manager making nearly 6 figures just 6 years into his career, is very insecure about how much I’ll make as an attorney. I have no idea what to do about it.

    • I think it’s one of those things where you have to play the cards as they come along – there’s no guarantee what kind of job you’ll get, so it’s hard to know right now how you’ll handle it. Once your husband sees what life is like with two high incomes, he might like it a lot! Also, look at it this way. Based on what I’ve seen in this thread, it seems like being in the opposite position – husband expects wife to earn most of the money and support the household – can be difficult when kids come along. You might have an easier time of it if you want to make lifestyle changes later in your life; you won’t have to shoulder as much of a burden. :)

  19. We’re both still in grad school, soon to be out and desperately poor, so I have nothing unique to add. I just thought I’d point out Jessica Grose’s series on how she and her new husband explored different ways of organizing and splitting their incomes. I think it was featured in one of Kat’s news roundups, but it’s a great series with a lot of relevance to these issues. It can be found here:

  20. I’ve almost always dated “down”. Every time, it seems as if the difference in education and/or income doesn’t matter. (I have a PhD, think the highest degree any of my S. Os has had is my ex-husband’s Masters in Engineering, and my son’s father’s Masters in Geography). One problem is that I’m attracted to bad boys, but it goes beyond that. I often find out, eventually, that they were on some kind of self-improvement kick and saw me as part of that. Logically, they weren’t free to be themselves–not letting loose was the whole point of the exercise. That takes all (or most) of the fun out of a relationship, bad boy or not.
    There is also a different approach, I think to parenting and pedagogy, depending in part on economic class level–much more encouragement of creativity and encouragement in general at higher incomes/education levels.
    I’ve also found that they tend to want to see me “whenever” and haven’t been able to deal with long-distance or a couple weeks apart, but that might be more related to the bad boy thing, not sure.

  21. If you anyone finds themselves putting as much analytical thought as Kat has outlined into whether to date someone lower, frankly it’d be far better for all concerned to stick with partners on the same income path.

    No offense to anyone who’s done it, but relationships across income lines rarely work well because people in different income brackets are acculturated very differently and have vastly different approaches to life.

    • Alias Terry :

      Not to be cynical, but it has never worked for me. Either I start to feel resented or taken advantage of (dating down), or if you are like me, ambitious and career driven – a real over achieving chick, you feel looked down on or heaven forbid, “kept” (dating up).

      I suspect there is a happy medium somewhere like +/- 10%? I don’t know. But do know that money, like sex, politics and religion is a BIG deal in a relationship.

      • 10% is way too small a margin. Both your incomes will vary wildly over your career – you get raises, promotions, you might get laid off, take a few years off to raise kids, pick a part-time career, start your own business…

        I think what matters is an agreement on targeted standard of living and a commitment to taking turns to achieving it.

        Or, if it’s clear that one person will always outearn the other, I guess you just have to both be OK with it.

    • I disagree: there are plenty of jobs that require the same amount of education, ambition and hard work, but that still pay vastly differently. Secretary and lawyer is one thing; editor and doctor is another. All the editors I know come from the same educational and “social” background that I do, and I still make three or four times as much as they do. My hedge fund friends make three times as much as I do. We all work similar hours and are similarly ambitious; we’re just in very different professions.

      (And please don’t read any disparaging feeling about secretaries into this comment.)

      • Anony non :

        Agree. I have a lot of friends that went to a very prestigious liberal arts school and are very successful in their media-based careers. But at the end of the day, someone in editor/PR/arts education is not going to make as much as our lawyer/finance/CPA friends.
        That being said, I do agree that the level of wealth people are raised with can vastly shape their views. Its a little odd to grow up middle-class or working class and suddenly be working with/dating people who grew up very comfortably. Which happens more and more often these days as people mix among class lines in college/grad school.

      • I agree with you ADS. The difference between incomes can come from something as simple as choosing a public sector career. In some cases it may mean decreased hours, but I know plenty who work in the public sector who put in as much time for 1/3 the pay that they’d make in the private sector. They are no less ambitious/intelligent than their private sector counterparts. I think that’s going to become more and more the case as newer grads have fewer high paying job opportunities than people in years past.

      • Yep… and professors in humanities fields! I have more degrees and a few more years education that my husband; we both hold the same title (Asst. Prof.); work equally long hours; and because of his field vs. mine, he makes several times what I do. I’d hardly say that we’re coming from different socio-educational backgrounds, though.

  22. Not sure if I made it clear that altho the diff seemed not to matter (at first), it eventually did, in a big way.

    • Alias Terry :

      Yep. Obviously there are folks who make this work but that has been my experience as well.

      Reading some of the other responses however, I am starting to think it is perhaps not about what you and your potential partner make now, but how you were raised and your feelings about income and social status. So it may not matter at all in the beginning but incompatibility becomes more apparent as time goes on.

      It is similar to dating and age. Once you get too far from your age group on either end, the ability to relate to each other fades away. It may not matter at first but can later on.

  23. DH and I started dating in college, so we were on even footing. After graduation, I started law school while he looked for work, and I got incredibly frustrated with what I perceived as his lack of motivation since he didn’t seem to be trying too hard. He got a job at a gym to pay the bills while he figured out what he wanted to do, and he worked hard at a job he hated in order to be able to kick in his share, and his gym earnings were pretty much even with my small-firm salary. Over the past few years, my salary has gone up, and his has gone down slightly since he started a career that he loves, though it will jump significantly in about a year thanks to lock-step increases. By the time we got married, we’d already been pooling most of our money for joint expenses for years.

    I currently make about 30% more than him with the potential to make much more if I choose to go that route in my practice. He, on the other hand, has a government job with great job security and retirement benefits (for now at least). I usually work much longer hours, but then he’ll have periods of crazy overtime without any breaks. We view everything as “our” money, since we supported each other through college, grad school, and the early stages of our careers. Whatever either of us ends up earning in the future is a direct result of our joint efforts and decisions.

    • Similar situation here … we started out on even footing when we were dating 6ish years ago, but now I make significantly more in the private sector while he works for the government and has great benefits. He is working on a post-grad degree at the moment (nice surprise; I thought I had “settled” for someone not as ambitious as I am, but he found some drive of his own at some point!), but even with schoolwork + work he has much more free time than I do. Luckily he spends some of that picking up household chores that I can’t always bring myself to tackle after a long day.

      We’ve recently decided to go to 100% “our” money (except for retirement accounts). I intend to make a career change in the next couple years, and I expect he will become the primary breadwinner while I’m back in school and possibly later if I am raising kids. Like you said, we talked it over and have concluded our future earnings will be a result of our joint efforts and decisions, so it doesn’t seem beneficial to focus on the ebb and flow of who’s making more at any given point.

  24. Praxidike :

    What an interesting topic. I make more than my husband, who is a consultant in the healthcare field. He also works less hours than I do. I can remember absolutely *knowing* that there was no way I would ever date or marry a lawyer, and that ended up being true. I just felt like I’ve got a very aggressive personality, as do most of the lawyers I met, and so I didn’t even want to get into a situation where we were constantly vying for position within the relationship.

    In addition, I come from a fairly wealthy family and I knew I’d inherit a significant amount of money. So I wasn’t worried about whether he’d ever be able to “support” me because I knew that I wouldn’t ever really need support.

    From that backdrop, the things that were most important to me were: 1) mutual respect; 2) sense of humor; and 3) his patience with me. In addition, as I got into more and more serious relationships, I realized I wanted to be with someone who had a good example of loving parents because I did not have that when I was growing up. I wanted at least one of us to be from a family where they didn’t resolve their issues by screaming and/or the silent treatment.

    And you know, that was probably my smartest decision with respect to my husband. I respect him, I love him, and I am in love with him. But the thing I appreciate about him the most (aside from his pee-in-the-pants sense of humor) is his ability to help me put things in perspective. We’ve got a saying in our house: “You can always get more toast.” (from the Birdcage).

    As far as finances, we manage them together with a joint bank account. I have received part of my inheritance and I keep it separate so that it doesn’t become community property (my state is a community property state). We have never argued about my work hours, the fact that I make more money than him, or anything else. Maybe when we have kids, he will stay home or go part-time; that’s probably the extent of our discussions on those issues.

    • This warmed my heart. I am in the same situation and had started to panic reading all of these responses saying it could never work. I’d choose respect and laughter any day!

    • Alias Terry :

      More kudos for your comments.

      Sounds like you know yourself, your values and what you bring to relationship. It really helps define what is going to work for you. So I am not surprised you are having an enviably successful relationship.

  25. Great topic! It’s something I think about pretty often as a single lawyer, since the issue comes up pretty often in dating.

    In fact, I’m currently thinking of taking an in-house position where I’d make less money, but work 9-5. I’m at the age where I’m starting to think “I’m going to wake up one day and be 35 and still single and still working 12 hours a day”, and a part of me is wondering whether I’d actually start dating regularly again if I went in-house. And the pay cut wouldn’t affect my quality of life, but it might be just enough to make me less intimidating to potential suitors. But then the other part of me feels absolutely terrible in taking into account what my dating life might look like while analyzing a potential job opportunity!

    • maybe a better way to think about it is as part of your quality of life that goes with the new job

      • Agree. It’s all part of overall quality of life, which is an absolutely valid consideration and nothing to feel terrible about!

    • soulfusion :

      Aria, as the 35-year old lawyer who is still single and still working 12 hours a day, I can absolutely relate! And it is all about quality of life. I opted against the partner route and am looking for in-house opportunities because I don’t want to have this same thought at 40. Even if I am still single at 40 I would prefer to have a more balanced life where I can be a more consistent friend, daughter, sister, aunt, etc. than I can be now with my chaotic schedule. Oh, and also just be happier with myself due to a more balanced lifestyle.

    • This was a major part of my own decision to leave Biglaw, only at that point I was already 35. And you know, I might miss some of the big deals and the fun all-nighters and the 80-hour weeks (once in a while), but gee, it is awfully nice having hobbies again – and I have found a great BF with serious long-term potential. So the decision was absolutely the right one for me.

  26. soulfusion :

    I have a related question because I am curious if other single “over-achieving chicks” have encountered this. I do not date much because I rarely have the opportunity to meet anyone (and online dating just doesn’t do it for me) but I am also repeatedly told from friends (male and female) and family that I am intimidating because I’m too “together.” I am never sure what to do with this information since I’m pretty sure it is more about having a successful career and nice place and working way too much than anything else (unless it is code for something I am missing completely!). I will say, yes, I have a strong personality but that has been with me since I was born and wasn’t really an impediment to dating when I was in my 20s. I don’t know that I’m really asking for advice, more for some commiseration, I guess. Or maybe what other “intimidating” successful women who work too much do to meet men (yes, even men with less money and more time!).

    • Ugh, I hear you! This was me before I met my husband. I have several cousins and sisters who are a complete mess and yet found men who loved them and they have very happy marriages. I felt like men only wanted women they could “save.” According to my husband (who says I was still very intimidating when he met me) he felt at first that he had nothing to offer me because I had everything I needed already. Somehow, early on, I was especially emotionally vulnerable with him — something that wasn’t at all natural to me — and he realized that (duh!) I did need love and support and companionship just like everyone else. I obviously don’t know you at all, but if you’re like me, maybe you pride yourself on being always cool and collected and not getting easily flustered. I guess what I’d suggest is finding some safe places, with good friends maybe, to let your guard down and express your fears and insecurities. If that’s comfortable, try it with someone you’re dating. Not in a “I’m a total disaster” sort of way, but just to show that you have the same fears everyone else does and let the guy reassure and comfort you. Chances are the fears are there and real and a good guy will be able to offer you real comfort. It’s just really hard when you’ve been taking care of yourself for a long time to realize that just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you have to. And if I’m totally off the mark on this, ignore me. I’m just saying how I felt when I was in your exact place. Good luck!

      • soulfusion :

        You are absolutely on the mark. It is really difficult to allow someone to be emotionally supportive when (a) as a lawyer one has to learn how to remain cool and collected in stressful situations; (b) I’m naturally very competitive; and (c) I recognize I have some baggage from past experience so it is difficult to get past my emotional walls. Add in to the mix that it is hard to meet someone I would want to let my guard down with and it is all a bit frustrating. Thanks for the advice and encouragement though.

        • Try shrieking at spiders and letting him “save” you. This can bring out some of the more positive alpha-male qualities!

      • Georgiana Starlington :

        Whoa, thanks for this. Really put some things in perspective for me!

      • Huh. Great insight. I think you’re on to something there.

    • Ugh, me too. You just described me to a T. And worse, the guys who are usually attracted to me are not my type at all – I am into “manly” men who are emotionally strong, and I tend to attract guys whom I’d not so politely describe as losers.

      • soulfusion :

        Right there with you.

      • This reminds me of an old article crossposted on ATL. It was called: “Does this law degree make my ass look fat?” Best title ever.

        • soulfusion :

          also a fairly depressing read when one is a single lawyer . . . and yes, this law degree does make my ass look fat!

      • I feel you- the guys who tend to be interested in me are a) unavailable, b) losers, or c) passive-aggressive jerks. I’d rather be single than have any of those types of guys. That said, I’ve come to the conclusion I’m not a marrying type of person and I am happy with that.

        • I’m ok with not being married, because I have a lot of fun being single, but I’m scared of being alone when I’m 70. But I try not to worry about things I can’t control.

          • I have a small group of single female friends, all of us near 40. We talk about creating an old lady compound so we don’t have to be alone at 70. Either we’ll all move into the same condo building or create said old lady compound in India (one member of the group is very fond of India and has visited many times). We figure the cost of living will be low there.

            Seriously, I know where you are coming from. I don’t know if the old lady compound will pan out, but I will do and am doing my best to maintain a solid circle of friends, hopefully we’ll all be there for each other as we age.

    • Another Sarah :

      Absolutely. My guy friends have told me that I am intimidating because I can hold my own in a conversation and I’m not afraid to tell someone how I feel about something in a discussion. I also get the “you’re too ‘together'” thing – exes have actually asked me, when talking about life plans, where they fit in. I would tell them, “Well, you would fit in with everything else; I can have you and do this.” This obviously didn’t fly very well, as I’m single and doing what I want anyway. :-D It could be that I just haven’t met that person for whom I would consider revising my life plans and goals. I’m really proud that I have the ability (or lack of fear) to go and do potentially scary things by myself, like moving across the country with no job (i.e. tomorrow’s plans). Yes, it would be nice to have a financial or emotional cushion in the form of an SO. But I don’t know if I would exchange what I’m doing with my life for an SO at this point in my life.

      I recently had a come-to-Jesus with myself re: getting married and having a family, upon the realization that I’ve so far operated on the assumption that whoever I marry is just going to follow me around. Which I now realize may not actually be the case. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I’m meant to be married, awesome. If I’m not, awesome. I have superstar friends and family, for whom I’m eternally grateful, so I’m not lonely. Either way, my life is going to be pretty super overall, so I might as well just keep doing what I’m doing and not mess it up too badly. :-D

      • I got that a lot too– graduating med school at 24 and knowing I was going into M&A at an investment bank, it was pretty hard to find anyone around my age (read: within 5 years) who could feel secure in their masculinity around me without coming off like a total arrogant jacka$$. There were either perfectly nice boys, but boys nonetheless , or over-inflated douches.

        If I didn’t tell people anything about my career plans it was ok, but once they heard it was all over.

        Online dating was basically my effort to dip my toe back into the dating pool to practice; I thought it would be easier to just practice on people I’d never see again and probably wouldn’t care about. After 2 months of deleting almost all the emails, I met my now-fiance. On our first date, he told me he liked that I was the first woman he’d dated who was smarter than him– and he was totally sincere, no irony.

        I don’t particularly believe that; he’s super intelligent too; but I just have an MD and 6 figures of student loans to lug around. What I did (and still do) love is that he has the amount of confidence and humility– no little-boy competitiveness or chest-beating arrogance. To me that is the ultimate alpha male; a guy who can be completely comfortable in his own skin.

        Getting back to the earnings differential topic:
        When we met I was digging myself into school debt, but also earning $50/hr tutoring LSAT. He was making 6 figures and deciding whether he wanted to be a partner at his architecture firm or go out on his own. Banking salaries are, I imagine, comparable to biglaw at least the first few years out (ie >$100k) so we went from a very big disparity to being on equal financial footing. And when we decided to get married we also had the conversation about me being the stable earner and him building a business on his own. I am behind him all the way and even though it’s taken a while to build a client base in the recession, I am more proud of him than if he was earning millions doing something he wasn’t passionate about. He cleans, I do most of the shopping because it’s therapeutic for me.

        So to recap:
        The wait was worth it, for me. If you refuse to settle on the things that really matter then at the very worst you’ll end up satisfied. Not a bad outcome. Also highly second Erin’s suggestion; if you’re comfortable letting your guard down around the guy (or girl) then that can spell good things for the relationship.

        Shared values to me are much more important than earnings. I like our lifestyle but I also knew when I was little that I needed to make enough money to support an entire family just because that’s what makes me feel secure. My teen mantra was, “so I can marry the garbage man if I want to”. (With all due respect for sanitation workers.) The salary difference works for us, but because we had a number of honest conversations about our goals and dreams and this is what makes the most sense for us.

        cheers and hope you find what makes you happiest.

      • “I just haven’t met that person for whom I would consider revising my life plans and goals.”

        This is the perfect reason not to marry. I believe when you meet the “right” person, you WILL be willing to reorganize your life plans and goals to put being a team with that person in the top priority spot. Until then, you’re better off solo. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

        • Or it means you’re not ready to get married yet. I never believed I was putting career ahead of family — I really did want to get married and settle down — but I know when I was looking at law schools I had friends who were choosing schools based on where their S.O.’s could be happy moving. I remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine compromising on my education. I wanted to be at the best school for me no matter where that was. Now, almost ten years later, I’m happy to put my marriage first ahead of everything else. I’m where I want to be in my career and am fine with taking a step back now and then to make sure that the goals my husband and I have as a family are being met. I’ve realized I just wasn’t ready to be married when I was 24, or even in the type of relationship that might lead to marriage. At 33, my priorities are different and nothing means more to me than my marriage…that is, until kids show up in the next year or two. :)

    • lawtalkinggirl :

      Another one here who has been told she is intimidating for all those reasons. I don’t even have that high-paying of a job (government lawyer) but most men my age where I live do not have college degrees. Adding to the intimidation factor is my mixed ethnic background, which seems to scare off all but the married guys.

  27. I have always made more than my husband, sometimes significantly more (up to 4x more), and it has never been an issue. I’ve never understood high earning women who wanted men who earned more than they do. I grew up without money and knew I wanted financial security when I was grown up. So I went out and got it. Because I knew I would always be able to support myself I never had to worry about how much the men I dated made. If you have enough why on earth would you care what the guy makes? If you say you just believe a man should be able to support a family, then you need to think about what it is you really are looking for. Are you sure it’s money, or is money a proxy for something else? My husband derives a lot of self-worth from knowing that he is being a good husband to me. This means listening, being emotionally available, caring about my concerns, taking the load off me home when I’m going through a rough spot, and making sure my emotional needs are met. Right now he’s earning almost nothing following a dream of his. I’m happy to finance that because his happiness makes me happy. I also know that if I lost my job and we needed money to eat, he’d bus tables, mop floors, or whatever it took to keep us going. I also know that he’s smart, dedicated, and a hard worker. It seems to me that when a woman wants a man who earns more than she does, she’s looking for one of three things: (1) someone to earn money so she doesn’t have to, either because she can’t or doesn’t want to (to which I say grow up, honey — if you want money, go earn it yourself); (2) proof that the man can take care of her (where she defines “take care of” solely in terms of money — but there are so many other ways people can take care of their significant others!); or (3) status because she worries that she doesn’t have enough on her own. Yes, some women dream of being housewives and that’s fine. But that’s not about the man earning more or less, just about him earning enough and being okay with having a stay at home wife. I just don’t understand women who clearly enjoy the fruits of equality but still want the good stuff from the old days of inequality. Equality means taking the good and the bad because fairness requires it.

  28. My husband makes about a third of what I do, and is in a creative profession without a lot of upside potential – meaning, there’s no possibility of “hitting it big,” and suddenly making a lot of money. He loves what he does, and it suits him. While I do occasionally think about what it would be like to have twice my salary, I daydream about winning the lottery, too. Between the two of us, we make more than enough to be very comfortable, and we’re both of similar financial styles. We’re both relatively frugal, save a lot, give a lot to charity (10% of take home), and love to travel. Our biggest money issue is that my tendency would be to spend more on furniture and food, and he’d rather spend more on even more travel. We make financial decisions jointly, so it’s not an issue.

    We’re lucky that he’s never cared that I make a LOT more than he does, and that I’m not resentful that he makes less. It just isn’t an issue. If one of us is going to stay home with kids, it’s going to be him, but I don’t particularly want to take a hiatus anyway. If one of us is going to stay home, it’ll be him. If my uterus invades my brain and I can’t bring myself to leave a baby with my husband, well, we’ll have to downsize to live off of his salary. We look at it like this: life involves choices. We live in New York, and it’s an expensive city, but we choose not to live in a fancy neighborhood. We cook at home. We travel and give to charity instead of buying a ton of electronics or eating in fancy restaurants often. And there are tens of thousands of people raising families on my husband’s five figure income. Our lifestyle would change, but a) we don’t think either of us is going to fundamentally change, so we don’t foresee it being an issue, and b) life doesn’t stop if you can’t go to Europe once a year.

    My ultimate point is: being able to make financial decisions together and having respect for each other is MUCH more important than making similar amounts of money. If you both make high six figures but you can’t agree on how to spend it, you’re not going to be any happier than two people who make wildly disparate amounts but who agree on their financial plan.

  29. I have the reverse problem. My long-term SO (we don’t live together) makes more than I do (and with no school loans, while my payments are $1000+ per month). This has become an issue for me, because I’ve been hesitant to take vacations or have fancy dinners that I can’t afford. He says that he is happy to pay, and it detracts from his enjoyment when I am not willing to make such plans, while I feel very uneasy with that. Although he’s always had more financial resources than I do, I have at other times been able to contribute something (I buy my own plane ticket but he pays for the hotel, for example), and being totally unable to contribute at my current pay level makes me feel uncomfortable with planning for large expenses for which he’ll foot the bill.

    • Why? He is paying for the privilege of spending time with you, which obviously makes him happy. No reason to be insecure or uncomfortable about that. So long as you’re not asking him to pay, there’s no reason not to accept his offers.

    • Agree with Eponine – just let him pay. Don’t ask him to do these things, of course, but if he wants to take you out to a nice place and pay for it, let him do it. You can cook him a nice meal in return, or give him a massage, or plan a fun low-cost outing in return.

      • Good advice. If money can’t be your contribution, just contribute in other ways. I never minded when my roommates couldn’t pay proportional amounts of the rent as long as they took on more of the “around the house” stuff like cooking and cleaning. Not all contributions are strictly monetary. You can help him by making his life easier or more enjoyable.

    • NYClawyer :

      I figure when dating the rule should be alternating treating each other. Your treat can be home-cooked vegetarian chili, and his treat can be a fancy restaurant. That way neither of you spends more than you are comfortable with. Otherwise, you end up limiting what *he* can do with his spare time, since he has to choose between time with you and the fancy dinner or vacation that he wants.

  30. This is a really good topic for a board of high-achieving women as it will affect so many of us!

    I am married for the second time. In my first marriage, my husband and I earned about the same amount. In my current marriage, my husband makes less than half what I make and has been unemployed (and a stay at home dad) for long stretches as well. The money thing rears its ugly head all the time. I feel pressure being the breadwinner – if I were to lose my job for longer than a year, we’d probably have to move away. My husband resents that that he works just as hard as I do yet I am so highly compensated for it compared to him. There really are resentments on either side.

    It can come out in inappropriate ways – for instance, when we were talking about where to go on vacation recently, I vetoed one of his suggestions, and he took that as “you make all the money, so you get to make all the decisions, huh?” when in reality, we also would not choose to go to a place he was 100% against. He just has this built-in defensiveness about it, and I have to remember not to escalate arguments about it.

    It’s a constant burden on the marriage. I’m not going to lie – we do not have a perfect marriage.

    But hey, there are other burdens on marriages, such as the non-monetary ones that broke up my first marriage.

    Honestly, the high-earning men I dated were so full of themselves and such complete womanizers (I know I’m stereotyping – this was just my experience) I have to remind myself that money isn’t everything. My husband is kind and is, most of the time, so proud of my accomplishments, I’m really lucky to have found him.

  31. Great points raised here. Fortunately, my SO used to be in BigLaw, so he completely understands my long hours – and now that he’s going back to school to pursue his a solid, reliable career, we feel fortunate that we have my salary to finance these dreams. One point that we often make is that we’re diversifying our professions, so that if law crashes, his career (in healthcare) will likely be stable. Plus, I think he enjoys other ways of taking care of me – like picking me up from work, running errands, giving massages. It seems that there needs to be some sense of striking a balance – so that you both feel like you’re offering valuable support to the other – but it doesn’t have to be financial.

    • You’re exactly right — both people have to feel like they have something valuable to contribute, but it doesn’t have to be money. Spot on.

  32. Somewhat related: my fiance recently committed to buying a new home with his sister and brother in law; the reason is that this new home will have a room attached for their aging mother who will soon not be able to live alone and this way, they will save money on nursing home or senior citizen retirement village. So, he has one third of a mortgage and will never live in this house but his sister and brother in law and their three kids and his mother (eventually) will. Fiance also pays various expenses for sister and brother in law (taxes, cable bills, RV insurance). Sister and brother in law have jobs (sister part time) but occasionally indulge their expensive RV hobby. I find myself feeling as though I am subsidizing his sibling. Is this wrong? I work long hours!

    • It’s hard to say whether this is wrong without knowing more about the numbers. Without knowing more, the mortgage thing seems reasonable to me, but it is not clear to me why your fiance would also be paying for their other expenses.

      However, I would personally be very thankful to know that my mother in law would be taken care of, but would never be coming to live in my home. Maybe try to focus on that aspect of it rather than the money?

      • Second. I agree paying their other expenses seems strange, but given that I really wouldn’t want my mother in law to live with me, I’d consider it compensation to the brother in law for taking one for the team.

    • Anonymous :

      Yes it’s wrong, but not for the reason you think.

      Mom will likely end up needing a nursing home anyway withing a few years and the money going into the new house will be wasted.

      Take that for what it’s worth though. (From an anon Internet poster.)

      • You know, I agree with Anonymous (says another anon internet poster.) When my husband’s mother could no longer live alone, his sister wanted all of us to buy a house where their mother could live, which was next door to her own home so that she could check up on her mother. All but one of the other siblings declined to contribute to the new home because it was so impulsive and ill-researched, and the sister really did not have a great track record vis a vis sound decision-making.

        And sure enough, after a year and two falls down the stairs (stairs! the bedrooms were upstairs! duh!) his mother had to move into a home. Then all the siblings who were able to, including my husband (i.e. me, because husband was unemployed), contributed to the monthly amount her insurance would not cover. We were happy to do so, but definitely not to contribute to his sister’s folly of the two-story house next door.

        Saying no to contributing to that house purchase caused some tense family relations, but in hindsight the decision was very good. Sister committed to the house herself and it is basically underwater now. I’m sure we’ll be called upon to bail her out at some point, though. Ah, family.

    • The part about the home aside – it’s a good deed for you and your fiance to support his aging mother, even if the sister and brother in law also benefit – yes, I think you’re subsidizing them unfairly (to you). Assuming they’re working adults and haven’t recently fallen on temporary hard times, there’s no reason your fiance should be paying their expenses for them. I’d have a serious talk with him about this before you get married; that money could be better put to use in a college fund for your kids or retirement fund for you.

      As for the house – are you guys sure you want your fiance’s (and soon to be yours) credit rating to be dependent on his sister’s paying 2/3 of the mortgage payment every month? Make sure you’re both comfortable with that. Maybe he could just give them 1/3 of the principal in cash, even if he has to take out a separate loan to do so. Also, if he’s paying for 1/3 of the house, make sure his name is on the title so he won’t lose the money when his mom someday dies or if the sister sells the house.

    • I think if you already share expenses/money with your fiance, and if he did not discuss this with you in advance, then what he did was wrong. But if you haven’t intermingled your finances yet, it’s still his decision. Once you do intermingle your finances, then I think you have a say in the SIL/BIL gravy train, and I would not be comfortable with my husband shelling out money for a lot of those expenses. Yes supporting family is great, but it seems like SIL/BIL are freeloading off his generosity.

    • If your fiance does this, I would recommend having a contract drawn up with the SIL and BIL so that expectations are in line. For example, fiance gets to claim his share of the IRS credit for mortgage interest on tax return. Decide what would happen if fiance has to pay all of the mortgage payment (BIL loses job, BIL leaves SIL, BIL dies), and what to do with proceeds when MIL dies and/or BIL & SIL want to sell. He should be prepared to shoulder the whole mortgage payment in order to protect his credit rating and if that would kill his/your discretionary income, he should think twice.

      I think the discussion will be painful and may expose BIL/SIL’s motives and/or greed but better to do it upfront then to wish you had later. Also, consult tax accountant/attorney to see if fiance and SIL can alternate listing mom as a dependent for tax purposes.

      I agree that it might be better than having MIL move in with you two but may be costly for fiance and you in terms of impact. Realistically, if SIL is going to be doing the physical day-to-day care-giving, then your fiance may be getting a fair bargain. The RV, though, I’m not sure why he allows himself to get guilted into helping out on that. Good luck!

  33. Older but wiser :

    My advice…if you are a high-achieving woman, never marry/partner with a (wo)man who is not 100% sure of him/herself. While you may be able to deal with it, zingers from relatives (yours or theirs) or the larger community can wear away at someone whose sense of worth is weak.

    • FWIW, although I don’t out-earn my husband yet, we’ve been planning for me to and I am in a profession that clearly reads as “more prestigious and higher earning” than his, but I haven’t found that he is recieving any zingers or comments. When I meet his co-workers, they tell me that he brags on me, and our families (both of which are very conservative and traditional in the gender role sense) have not indicated any issues or concerns.

      I’m not saying that there aren’t people who have problems with it (I was shocked at how many people I heard commenting on the Palin’s marriage and earning roles during the 2008 election, for example), I do think that more people than not are past those sorts of petty concerns.

  34. I really think 90% of U.S. couples’ problems could be solved if we were collectively better at talking about finances.

    If you’re not talking about something with your partner, including money, that’s a red flag. It’s not always easy, but you have to be able to do it.

  35. I just have to say that I really appreciate how inclusive this board is sexuality/ethnicity/race/religion issues just as a matter of course. As someone from a community whose views are not always included in mainstream discussion of issues, i really value it.

    Kat – you have built an excellent community of women here.

    • soulfusion :

      Could not agree more with this. So rare on the internet.

    • I wish I had found this first year law or even first year undergrad. An incredibly thought provoking and helpful resource and a lot of great women.

  36. Anon for this :

    Great thread. My hubby and I went to same college and at first he way out earned me but he has been serially unemployed on and off for the last 3 years. It has been hard. I earn enough to support our family but he spent the first year telling himeself and me “I am not a house husband” and doing NONE of the household chores. I, not wanting to affront his manlihood, let him do nothing and the resentment grew. Now, with more time into it, he has gotten a LOT better at the parenting part of not working. He is still not very good at cooking/cleaning/laundry but honestly picking up the kids, getting them to practice, supervising homework is FAR more important. And if I am the one who wants the kitchen floor un-sticky, well then I will mop it. It has been a difficult journey and I think we would all be happier if he had a job (maybe not the kids, I do think its cool they get parenting by a parent) but I will say this: I don’t feel the working mother guilt that my friends who are married to high earners do. My family needs my income. And I like my job. And its great for my family that I have it. While sometimes it intrudes with family life, it pays the mortgage. I’ve had my issues with my husband and every once in a while consider divorce, but honestly that seems worse — shuttling kids back and forth, breaking up the family. Its worth it to me to work on myself and how I can help make things better at home.

  37. I have a complicated situation, and I didn’t see it addressed in the (mostly) outstanding comments above, so I thought I would chime in. My husband is 20+ years older than I am, has grown children (slightly younger than I), and I earn more money than he does. He had a very successful career in business but had 2 divorces that left him in some financial difficulty. Likewise, he was laid off, and his age was a hindrance to him finding a new job.

    I generally have been attracted to men who are older than I am, so that part wasn’t a surprise. However, over the 8 years we have been together (married for 4), I have earned more than he has and earned more than he did in his peak earning years. Basically, my career took off while he was looking for work, and it was very difficult on our already non-traditional relationship. Overall, he has been the biggest supporter of my career and gives me the best advice (though I don’t always want to hear it). There were moments where I didn’t think we would make it, including 2 cross-country moves for my jobs. on top of just normal life.

    I’m very fortunate that my husband is flexible, and I was lucky to recognize that trait in him early in our relationship. I knew my life would be complicated and hoped I would find someone to take the ride with me. My husband will also tell you that he was not that way at 35, so we were lucky our lives aligned when they did.

    He also says that what has helped him through the tough parts in our relationship was knowing that overtime, we always came to some sort of balance. He says the balance was never what he expected (i.e. I earned 90% of the income and he handled 90% of the household stuff), but he is always excited to find a balance because it frequently changes. I’m blessed to have found someone who thinks that way. I try to tell him how grateful I am, but I know I don’t tell him enough.

    We have endured our share of awkward social moments and sideways glances (like when a guy asked my husband, “Can I have your daughter’s number”). Relationships are hard work, and most people don’t want to talk about how hard the work is. This one is worth it, but I had plenty before this one that were not. I hope everyone finds something that works for them if that is what they want.

  38. I am lucky to have a wonderful husband (8 yrs) who is smart, makes almost exactly the same, and we don’t have issues with this. We are different financially, but actually it is complementary: he is more of a spender and me a scrimper, so over the years he’s learned to save and be prudent, and I’ve learned to enjoy my earnings and life more.

    We’ve both had times of unemployment (ahh legal world) and that can get weird after a while for both peoples’ feelings about earning/not earning, but we’ve always supported each other when needed and just had paycheck portions feed into joint accounts for all bills. The one ‘rule’ we have is novelty expenses over $500 must be joint decisions; below that, it made him feel too managed if I was making a big deal of him buying a new pair of pants or whatever. The limit deal seems to work well after a few years, I resist nagging, he is happier, and still spends more than I’d like but less than a typical earner in our range.

    He works less hours at this time in our careers, and it is a help because he is able to take care of more home stuff. I’m just back from a workweek abroad- there’s no way I could do all the household stuff. He might stay home if we have kids for a while too- cares less about his job than I do mine- and I love this and feel so fortunate. He’d be great and is man enough to not have ego issues, and would welcome the chance for some time away from employers and bosses. I love him more for that, not respect him less.

    The stuff in Kat’s post about $200 dinners is so lost on me… if that’s the kind of thing some ladies are focused on, good luck finding real quality relationships.

    These posts make me appreciate what I’ve got… and I hope there are other great guys out there too.

    • I totally agree with the sentiment to each their own and also am not focused on $200 dinners…. ever really. However, I think we should all make an effort to avoid and hopefully altogether skip judgy comments like “if that’s the kind of thing some ladies are focused on, good luck finding real quality relationships.” They’re not constructive and potentially hurtful.

      • Luluaj, I hear you and that’s probably right… I must admit though I fail to understand how that as a factor has anything to do with positive stuff that we should be supportive of. Maybe if it’s a proxy for feeling secure financially or something? But if it’s just about feeling spoiled and fancy or ‘being seen,’ I guess I do have negative views on that, but point taken, sharing them could rub people the wrong way.

        I’ve been through a lot financially over the past decade with my spouse, where we’ve each been in the earner/moocher roles… and I can’t imagine my affection for him hinging upon restaurant cost in any way. For sure when he was unemployed it did cause resentment and the usual strains so I get male posession of resources as a factor. Perhaps for me this is shaped by my stingy tendencies- I don’t like gratuitous spending and that’s how the upper end restaurant scene feels to me. I recognize for some it may be important culturally or experientially. But I do hope gals stay open to good guys who may not be into the pricey dinner thing. I know several super guys in their 30’s looking for wives, and this and personal high maintenance image/shopping stuff are some of the things I hear them complain about with failed dates.

        • Some people just like pricey dinners because they like to try that type of food. I know both men and women who adore it, and it is just like any other interest. If it’s important to you to be able to try all food from inexpensive street food on up to fine dining, then you’re probably not going to do well in a relationship with someone who is going to make snide remarks about your going to pricier restaurants. I’m not a sports fan and would not really do well dating someone who had to have season tickets for multiple teams, but I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to spend money on that.

          • Anne Shirley :

            And many NYC women I know like fancy dinners out because those restaurants are a.) close to work and b.) take reservations. Also because, at least for me, if I were working till all hours to make 160K, sure, I’d be saving a lot, but I would also want to enjoy the fruits of my labor a bit. Dating someone who can’t afford $200 on dinner could work, dating someone uncomfortable with me treating him to dinner or judgmental of what I enjoy wouldn’t.

          • that makes sense. thanks!

  39. Holy cr… I didn’t have the time to read through all post but read about 20 min. I am completely surprised how many couples (and yes some married) still split expenses and have separate accounts…

    I have been married two years now (had been dating 1.5 yrs) and ever since we got married we had one account that gets all of our incoming paychecks and is for all of our expenses (besides savings accounts). We both have access to it, we have an agreement that whenever we want to spend more than xx $ we ask the other one before we actually commit to that expense to avoid later arguments…but that’s it! Yes, surely at the beginning, we every now and then needed to discuss certain habits but that hasn’t happened in a while.

    In our relationship, I am currently the main earner. I graduated three years ago and have a well paying job that finances 70% of everything. He usually has part-time jobs besides going to grad school. He is in a completely different field than me and we don’t really expect him to make much more than me (if even close to it) when he gets out of school. The only thing I ask him for is that he needs to make enough money with his part-time jobs to pay for his student loans that have already come due (and he has quite a bit of $$ in loans, I fortunately don’t have any).

    To us marriage makes us a team. We support each other and we share pretty much everything (esp. our finances). He supported me while I was unemployed for one month last year and I will support him through grad school and his upcoming internship. Once we are both working full-time, we will still share everything. I don’t respect him less because he makes less. Money is relative and I would argue that not everyone who gets paid a lot actually “produces” a lot (of anything). He has totally different qualities than me, is very educated and works for his goals in life. That’s what makes me respect him. It would, of course, be totally different he was a lazy bump sitting around the house not doing much at all and just waits for me to bring the $$ home ;)

    • I see nothing wrong with having separate accounts. We’ve been together for more than a decade and never argue about money. I like having my own account and not having to justify a shopping spree. Similarly, I don’t get resentful if he chooses to treat his friends to dinner. Having multiple accounts doesn’t make us any less of a team.

  40. FinanceWife :

    Like many of the previous posters, money is a constant issue in my marriage. Much of it has to do with the evolution of our incomes over the years. When we were first dating, we were both in college, but his parents subsidized his tuition and living expenses while I existed on scholarships and working ~35 hours/week plus a small amount of student loans. When we both graduated I made ~20% more than him. We handled the disparity through the use of three bank accounts: his, mine, ours. After calculating what our household expenses and savings were he contributed 45% of the expenses, I contributed 55%. The rest stayed in our individual accounts.

    After a few years and a couple of promotions, my salary shot up while his stayed around the same. We inversed the formula above, and changed to a system in which the bulk of both of our incomes went into the ‘ours’ account, and an equal amount was deposited into ‘his’ and ‘mine’ every two weeks. My student loan payments were then paid out of ‘ours’.

    A few more years, and I was given a promotion opportunity overseas, in a country where husband was unable to work (and we knew that going in). After a lot of hard discussions we decided to go for it, and live off of just my income. Husband studied the foreign language in the country we lived in, and did a master’s degree while we were overseas, and we closed the ‘his’ and ‘mine’ accounts, living entirely on ‘ours’. Now that we’re back in the U.S., he’s been making great money but we’ve stayed on the 100% joint system and been saving most of his salary in anticipation of his desire to do public policy work in the future.

    The biggest struggle with all of the changes over the years has been in being honest with ourselves about how money DOES impact things. While he was the ‘trailing spouse’ (lovely term used in expat communities) he really struggled with spending what he thought of as my earnings, and I frankly did sometimes feel entitled to more of a say in money decisions. It was difficult trying to resolve those issues on both sides of the equation, and took quite a bit of time. The first birthday I had while overseas he didn’t get me a gift or make any plans, which naturally upset me, and then elaborated that he didn’t feel like he could do so without consulting me. After that we set spending ‘guidelines’ so that we were both comfortable and empowered to spend on our own.

    Most important is just keeping a dialogue going about these things, and acknowledging your and your partner’s concerns. For better or worse, money is tied to emotional issues around self-esteem and self-worth for much of the population, and can cause huge rifts in relationships.

  41. This one is really close to my heart. When we married, I earned more than the hubs. Now after 12 years, while my pay has shot up a lot, he earns 5x what I do. It didn’t bother him either way. He’s still as supportive , helpful etc.

    Funny thing is – I think it matters a lot to HIS parents that he earns more than me:)

  42. I Just Want Him To Be Taller Than I Am :

    I can’t believe no one has commented on the scene in “Up In The Air” when Vera Farmiga tells Anna Kendrick, while George Clooney sits quietly by, the difference between what she looked for in a man at 23 and what she looks for in a man now. It is a classic, right up there with the scene in “Broadcast News” when Holly Hunter places the phone in the cradle after a conference call, unplugs the phone, cries hard for exactly two minutes, dries her eyes, replugs the phone and goes about her day. Both of them are iconic.

  43. My husband and I are transitioning from the ‘he makes more money’ to the ‘she makes more money’ phase. He’s a champ. A few of his friends have asked him about it, and he has the same feeling as I do, which is “why is society so worried about this.” I have respect for his career choices, even though they are different than mine. I feel blessed that he has been so generous with me and supporting me and my career goals. I’m glad others have found the same thing.

  44. How about this scenario: You commit to someone with a less demanding job than you. You like how this gives balance to your relationship (he’s free whenever I am, fantastic!). Then he gets a job more demanding than yours. Now you are both busy, he isn’t so fun-loving, and you often don’t see each other until an hour before you fall asleep.

    The point: You can go for someone with a more/less demanding schedule than yours, who makes more/less money than you, but things can change, whether it’s your work-life or theirs. Hold on tight!

    • Very good points – no one can predict the future. A couple could start down one path and then have unexpected things happen (e.g. major illness, disability, job-market changes, ticking biological clocks). It’s hard to generalize, and while individual experiences may be valuable to others, they can’t be broadly applied. A good plan would be to: 1) communicate, communicate, communicate before marriage/engagement and then communicate some more; 2) be flexible and choose a flexible mate; and 3) approach challenges with love and teamwork.

      The worst thing IMO is to withhold your true self for fear of “messing things up” or for either one to have unexpressed major life goals or desires. If marriage is “for better or for worse” and one can’t predict the future, then teamwork, love, flexibility and communication by BOTH are paramount.

  45. Anonymous making changes :

    I currently make 10x more than my husband does. We have had tough situations where he moved for my career, leaving him unemployed for years. It took him a while to fully understand he needed to take care of the household but it was great once he caught on. We eventually had a baby and he then took on the stay-at-home-dad role really well. Now that our kid is in daycare, he has gone back to work, starting at the bottom. With my big income, we have been able to pay off our mortgage and we have no other debts. I am so tired and stressed from my job that I finally feel it’s time for something for me now. I am going to quit my job and just be unemployed indefinitely. I will do some consulting work but of course I can’t depend on that income. People probably think I’m crazy, but I’m so looking forward to having free time. I don’t care if we’ll be financially struggling- when it comes time, I can always go back to work. However, I think it will be interesting to see if having free time is as fun if you have no money.

    • I just want to say good luck. You’re a brave woman & I’m envious.

      • Anonymous making changes :

        Thanks. I think more people should do this, as long as they are willing to make sacrifices. Life is too short to be slaving away at a job you don’t like. I’m probably walking away from the most money I’ll ever make in my life, and I’m at the peak of my career (I’m 35), but somehow I feel it’ll all work out.

        • It will. No one I know who has made a decision like this has regretted it for one second. Once you are no longer completely preoccupied every minute with work and managing your life, your creativity can really blossom and you will probably come up with some great ideas. Plus, you will love spending time with your child. Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes. :)

  46. Lex Caritas :

    Great topic – also really great to see the safe space respected. I have a few observations and also am a higher-earning partner.

    My first thought here is that a lot of the comments above are really about change in a relationship: you start off in one arrangement then circumstances (external or chosen) change and you find that you are in this OTHER arrnagement, one you don’t like so much. It is a bit like marrying someone who takes care of their body and then stops – the arrangement has changed but you never had a chance to be consulted on whether you wanted the new arrangement.

    My SO is a chef and I make maybe 6 or 7x as much. I typically work longer hours, so I also have less time. I’m not saying that none of the issues above apply to us, but she was always a chef, so I don’t have any expectation of anything different. I certainly don’t have experience of someone gearing down from a high paid job on the basis that I would support them. I’m also gay so i never had any expectation that a partner would earn more than me, let alone support me or would need to make more than me to be attractive to me.

    i don’t know if this is correct, but i have the perception that many posters are resenting the situation because they hate their jobs. I’d be curious to hear if those in satisfying practice/niche areas they love also feel the same resentment that the biglaw folks have expressed?

    Finally, isn’t it good in a couple to have an artist or a professor or something creative to balance out all the finance/law? But then I haven’t ever dated lawyers…..!

  47. Anonymous :

    I am having the same issue with my boyfriend. We are just preparing to move in with each other and I have started thinking about the money issues. I have a stable career and will always make more money than him. I am not sure if I respect him because at times, I feel upset that I make more and will always make more. I also feel he is not motivated at times. I love my boyfriend but I am not sure if I can do this

    • Don't do it :

      My advice – don’t do it. Don’t move in, get engaged, become committed or get married. Both of you have to be comfortable with this. He has to own his career (even if it’s less than yours) or revel in being a good dad or have an all encompassing hobby/passion like writing or woodworking or weightlifting – something that gives him joy and a sense of accomplishment. Any insecurity on his part or discomfort on your part will spoil the union. I’ve seen many of this type of relationship work…and others not based on these parameters. At least try counseling first if you go ahead.

  48. Ok- here is one for you. I married my husband two years out of college and several months prior to going to law school. He is a very successful professional with no student loans. I graduated from law school this past May and now work at a nonprofit. I make about 10 percent of what he makes and I often have to work during times when he does not have to work because he is very well established in his career. He works on a retainer and is able to take ample time off without having to worry about clients. Because of this he is the one who is often able to do laundry, take the kids places, make dinners, etc. he is amazing and very supportive, but I often feel like due to our situation, I am not pulling my weight. I don’t have a lot of time for household chores and the money I make barely covers our cable bill after my student loan payments. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  49. Anonymous :

    “if you’ve got a good man who can’t afford to take you out for a $200 dinner on a weekly basis, is that a dealbreaker?”

    What man deserves to have a woman that thinks so selfishly?

  50. A reasonable article for the most part…but I must state that anyone who would require a $200 dinner per week in order to be happy with their relationship is beyond stupid (unless you’re filthy rich, in which case why are you looking for advice on this?).

  51. Oops, guess Anonymous beat me to it long ago.

  52. miss cindy :

    My bf and I have been in relationship for 1year1/2 months.He is 22 this year and im 21 and studying whereas he starts working this year. He told me that I changed his life a lot and opened his eyes to look his, his fmly and my future. But then, when he started working, almost everday he 6am-6.30pm and 7pm-12am(his part time job).he said he wants to earn more.he promised me to spend time but thn day by day, I’m not receiving his calls and texts.i asked jim to atleast call me or send me a text, but then only at night before he sleeps he will send me good night, or sometimes he will call.I will cry and ask him to spend time with me as I was sick for few weeks and he even never call or text to ask my condition. He asked me to understand his situation that he is working for him and his family and he must work for his family too becase his dad had just retired.He said is not that well to do family, so he must work to make me happy.That is his answer when everytime I ask to spend time with me.But then, I feel so hurt and alone when he does all this, I knew he is doing a right thing but I just want to spend time with my lover, and go for a date like other couples too.he told me his life will change and he can earn and spend money that he earned after 3 years,so he asked me to wait 3years.i fell hurt when he has time for his friends,and go out with his family.We just meet like 3 times till now only ,and everytime when I asked him to meet me,he will reply busy.sometimes I will fight with him because its like nothing between us(no calls,no text nothing from him), HELP ME, WHAT SHOULD I DO? !

  53. Anonymous :

    What an appropriate topic. I am a standup comedian and dated someone from a conventional career. There was a lot of attraction but somehow she was never comfortable with my career choice and consistently dropped hints about me getting back to Investment Banking. Expensive places were always a pre-requisite to having a good time. I can afford them now but those were the starting days and it was very difficult even when we went dutch. . She also judged gifts by their value. E.g. – This one time I tried to get some flowers for her from a hotel rooftop garden and she shot me down saying that’s cheap and I should buy flowers for her if I really wanted to gift them. Personally, I know no matter how glamrous it gets as more success comes, I know deep down inside I am a simple guy and needs someone who can appreciate the simple gifts and gestures. I also faced constant questions on how I would provide for her after marriage. These were clear indicators to me that it was not going to work out.

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