By: Liz Knueven
In a survey of 2,096 Americans from Morning Consult and Insider, the majority of Americans reported they had a financial imbalance going into their current relationships.
About 44% of people surveyed who were either married to or living with a partner said that they made more money than their partner before they started dating, and 30% said they made less. All told, about 74% of people surveyed reported having some financial imbalance before they started their relationship. Only 26% of people said they came into their relationship making about the same amount of money.
Having significantly more or less money than a partner can be a big point of contention in the relationship. When bestselling personal finance author Ramit Sethi asked his 143,000 Twitter followers what they would do if their partners earned more than they did, the vast majority of people replied with positive reactions like “OMG, that would be AMAZING! Our household income would go up — it’s great!”
However, he wrote in a post for Business Insider, “Those same people emailed me 45 minutes later and confided in me that they earned more than their partner and hated it.” He later got several emails from people who said they made more than their partner, who “resented” their lower-earning partner, felt that they were “mothering them,” or felt that they “weren’t ambitious.”
But, as Insider and Morning Consult’s survey shows, uneven income is a situation familiar to a lot of American couples.
Just earning more or less money isn’t the problem
Relationship expert Susan Winter told Insider’s Sara Hendricks that money imbalances in relationships don’t always cause problems inherently, explaining that it’s often the implication of power that can be problematic. “Traditionally speaking, money equals power, and the one with the power is the one who controls the relationship,” Winter told Insider.
Winter suggests keeping some form of financial independence, even as your relationship gets more serious. And as far as making the power dynamic in a relationship feel more balanced, she suggests to Insider, “Begin with the basic question of ‘who does what?’ If your partner makes all the money, how can you contribute in a way that feels important and valued?”