Do you think everything in a relationship should be 50/50, even expenses? Do you believe it’s fair for women to contribute as much as men, even though there is still a significant income gap between men and women? These are questions almost every couple has to answer. Yet, for many hetero couples, this question can be a little heavier because society views men as the provider.
Because of the strict gender roles many still abide by, the public did not hold back on their opinions when Gabrielle Union shared how the finances were shared in her relationship. She revealed that she and her husband, a wealthy retired NBA player, split all their bills 50/50.
You may agree or disagree with Union’s decision depending on how you view relationship roles. No matter your personal beliefs, the reality is that times and roles are changing. Women are earning more, sometimes outearning their partners. In addition to income differences, the cost of living seems to be continuously rising, and the topic of finances and relationships doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.
With the current state of the economy and the ever-shifting gender roles, should finances be shared in a relationship, or should one person take the lead regarding money?
The impact finances have on relationships
Relationships are about as simple as juggling underwater. Because of relationships’ complexity, the topic of money can be an added stressor for couples. In an APA survey, 55% of Americans admitted that money can be a significant source of conflict within their household.
Issues around money tend to affect relationships by adding increased guilt and shame. Couples may also suffer from financial secrecy and unequal power balances. When one person makes more, they can often feel guilty about their status. If the other person makes significantly less, they may feel shame about being unable to contribute as much. As a result, individuals in a relationship may avoid talking about money with their partner. Or they may try to hide specific spending from their loved ones.
These issues may be the reason why in a study of 6,000 heterosexual couples, cis-men admitted feeling happier when both people in the relationship contributed to the finances. Yet these men felt more stressed when their female partners made 40% or more of the household income.
Rising women in power who are earning more than their partners
Women out-earning their male partners is a growing topic. You can even scroll through social media and see skits of stay-at-home dads cleaning the house while their wife goes to work. In fact, 30% of wives in the United States are out-earning their working husbands, and this percentage is growing.
This trend is particularly growing among Black women. According to a Pew Research study, Black women between the ages of 55 to 64 and those with no children are most often the breadwinners in their marriages.
All this talk of who earns more in a relationship further pushes this societal belief that if you earn more, you should pay for more. Yet having one person be responsible for managing most or all of the finances can add stress and pressure within the relationship.
Should the status quo change, and should couples split everything 50/50?
The appeal of having one person be the provider or cover most of the finances plays into the deep desire that almost everyone has — the desire to feel secure and cared for in a relationship.
If someone comes from a family or previous relationships with financial instability, it makes sense to want to seek the opposite. However, while one person may feel good knowing that the bills are getting paid, this imbalance can put a lot of stress on one person. Or it might make the provider feel more confident and strong, knowing they can provide for themselves and someone else.
So what is the solution? It may start with having more open conversations around money and creating a safe space within the relationship to discuss how much one another earns. It is also essential to consider lifestyle expenses, the future of the relationship, and the earning potential in one’s career.
When it comes to managing finances, if both people in the relationship make enough to split things 50/50, then there are advantages. For instance, it can allow financial independence, so if dynamics ever shift, one person isn’t solely reliant on their partner. Sharing finances can also create an environment of mutual respect and a stronger partnership.
However, maybe the answer to splitting everything equally isn’t for everyone. Perhaps it’s about having a conjoined budget, sharing certain expenses, or sharing household responsibilities.
When financial burdens are shared, they can relieve pressure for both people within the relationship.
Why a healthy relationship goes beyond money
While money is significant, it’s not the only aspect of a relationship. Sure, it’s nice when your partner pays for dinners and other expenses; financial responsibilities are only minor aspects of a relationship. John Hopkins University says a healthy relationship involves trust, honesty, boundaries, support, and consent.
While being financially cared for or supported by someone is beneficial, it’s not the only contributor to success in a relationship. Regarding money and relationships, it’s up to each couple to decide what is best for them and their relationship.
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Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.