When one person in a relationship earns a noticeably higher income than their significant other, it can contribute to how their connection unfolds. In the long run, the income disparity might be positive or negative, or it may be totally irrelevant, depending on the couple.
1. "It's never been an issue for us; we have very open communication about money. I’ve always earned more, and now that we have kids, he’s a stay-at-home dad (daycare prices are ridiculous!). While I primarily handle the finances, we talk about our finances/budget and discuss all purchases together. Even before we had our kids, when he was working and we had separate checking accounts, we had a set dollar amount where we talked about any purchase/cost over that amount."
2. "It sucks when it’s glaringly obvious. If anything were to happen to me where I couldn’t work, we would actually be fucked. They have no money left after paying their bills; anything we need or want comes from me. It’s hard to feel like the pressure of our well-being rests on me (almost) alone. And knowing that they’re going to get to be the stay-at-home parent after I have the kids (because daycare costs more than they make) hurts me. It makes me angry some days, but I was the one that went to college."
3. "I (female) make more than double what my husband does and have always made more than him. We've been together for about six years, and it has never impacted our relationship. Before we were married, we lived in a place that we knew we could both afford to split. Now that we're married and have joint finances, we bought a house based on our total income. I'm with him for who he is as a person, and I've always known that I don't need anyone to take care of me financially. I'm with him because I want to be, not because I need to be."
—Anonymous, 32, Minnesota
4. "When we got married, my wife and I made about the same amount each year. I am an engineer, and she is a teacher, so we knew that wouldn't last. Eight years later, I now make at least double what she makes. Our finances have always been combined, which I think makes things easier. I don't view it as my money/her money, but instead as 'our money.' Neither one of us is a big spender, so money has never been a point of contention in our lives."
"She does worry that if I pass away that she will struggle financially. Some of this worry is unfounded, as I have life insurance, savings, healthy retirement accounts, and a house that has a lot of equity, but I understand her concern. I handle the day-to-day finances, so I have a much better understanding of where we stand financially."
5. "When I started dating my now ex-boyfriend, I was in college, and all was well. When I graduated and got a job that paid more than his, the relationship got worse. I didn't have to rely on him as much as I used to when I was in college, and he didn't like it that I became more and more independent. I ended the relationship a few months after I graduated."
6. "I work full-time, and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. Before we became parents, he was making more than me and got us in a really good financial position. Even though I make all the money for our family, he manages our finances. We have a really great routine going, and it's working for us."
7. "I make over $100K more than my boyfriend, whom I live with. I do want to do things like dinners, trips, concerts, and events that he often wants to do as well, but he doesn't have the financial freedom to do as much as I can. If I really want to do something, but I know he financially can't, I will offer to pay for him. It has put a strain on the relationship. I feel he is a bit more resentful toward me and expects me to pick up a majority of the tabs. He also feels like he should be earning more but can't seem to find a job where he does and has struggled with identity and purpose. I help him through that as much as I can."
—V, 34, Texas
8. "I make double my husband's salary. Since we are married, we do not really distinguish my money and his money. We have the same goal of saving for a house and have set up our budget accordingly. However, I do harbor some resentment toward him. He makes less because he is working his dream job, and it's because I gave up my dreams to work a corporate job that he has that ability. If we both had followed our dream jobs, we would most likely not be able to afford to live."
—Anonymous, 26, Illinois
9. "I'm a 33-year-old man married to a 33-year-old woman. It's been nine years now. I work in auto manufacturing and make $125K. My wife was a teacher making $50K, and she stopped working when we had children four years ago. We have always taken the 'old-school' approach; all of our money goes into one joint account, and we have smaller equal amounts of money going into our own spending accounts (for personal shopping and gift buying). All of our bills — mortgage, cars, cellphones, groceries, takeout, diapers, travel, etc. — come from the joint account. It has never mattered that I was making double her income and that she now has no income because it's all money for us. I couldn't go to work and make this money if she wasn't caring for our children. She couldn't be a stay-at-home mom if I didn't make this much money."
"We have always been a couple with closely matched finance decision-making, and we discuss nearly every purchase over $50. Nothing changed when she stopped working. I still encourage her to buy personal items and gifts for others. Am I technically buying my own birthday presents since I made the money? Maybe on paper, but it doesn't feel like it."
—Anonymous, 33, Michigan
10. "It doesn't. I earn more than my hubby even though I work four days to his five. We both get compensated fairly for our jobs, and we both enjoy them. We share our individual earnings as ours jointly. We've been together for 27 years, and we have swapped places on higher earnings multiple times. It does not matter to us."
11. "I am a tenured college professor, and my husband works the cash register at Home Depot. The disparity is HUGE. I am paying for 75% of the mortgage, 100% of the groceries, and 100% of our holidays. He pays for our daughter's clothing, house stuff — three years ago, we bought a house built in 1986 that needs repairs, so he is in charge of that — and entertainment (like cinema tickets). He is perfectly aware that the disparity exists and that it won't change anytime soon. However, he was able to work less to stay with our daughter — something I wasn't able to do."
—Helen, 34, Connecticut
12. "There was a time when I made way more money than my husband — boyfriend at the time. I got $13 an hour working at a nursing home when I was still in college, and it was really nice making more money than him, to be honest. I worked more hours too, so I brought more money into the bank account because I could choose how often I worked. I worked every single day because I loved seeing so much money go into my bank account. It definitely makes you feel better when you make more than your spouse."
13. "My wife and I work for the same company. She's been there for six years in a customer service role, while I have over 20 years in an active and higher-paying role. As a result, we work the same hours, but I usually bring home twice as much as she does. However, I consider our marriage to be a partnership, so once the bills for the week are paid up — along with any that come due soon and whatever needs to be set aside for the mortgage or whatever is accounted for — we split the leftover funds 50/50 as our spending money. This means that most of the time she keeps 75% to 80% of her income, while I keep about 40% to 50% of mine. I am fine with this because, to me, our marriage is NOT about money. If it is to you, then maybe you married for the wrong reason."
14. "My husband and I have been married for 15 years and together for nearly 20. When we first married, we were both earning very little money and barely making it from paycheck to paycheck. Now, I make nearly three times what he does, with the potential to earn even more as my career progresses. Sometimes we joke that he's my trophy husband and I'm his sugar mama, but it's all in good fun. Even before I earned more, I handled the family finances, paid bills, and did most of the household shopping. He does a lot more of the housework, including the yard work, which I despise. This isn't to say that I don't do any work around the house; he just does more. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about it, but then I remember I work a lot more hours weekly than he does in a higher-stress work environment."
"Often, I take a post-work couch nap, not due to the physical nature of my job, but just because my brain is just done. My way of taking care of the family is to work hard and provide financially, and I'm very OK with that."
—Anonymous, 38, Missouri
15. "My salary is $20,000 higher than my partner's. He is also 15 years older than me. (I’m 30, and he’s 45.) I think he sometimes feels embarrassed by this because his generation was definitely raised with the 'man takes care of the family' mindset. But for the most part, it’s not a big deal. I handle all of our finances, so he sends me about 90% of his paycheck each week and keeps a little bit for himself. It works for us."
—Anonymous, 30, Canada
16. "No impact at all. When we met, he made more money than me. Ten years later, we now have a house and two kids, and I make a significant amount more. However, it means nothing. We have a joint account that everything goes to. We have everything we need in life: love, health, and happiness, and I wouldn't want it any other way. He is a great husband and always puts his family first. Money is just what pays the bills — nothing more than that."
—Maggie, 36, New York
17. "I make three to four times the amount my husband makes. He brags to all the guys in his shop about marrying me for my money (he forgets to mention we have separate money). We don't fight about money. He doesn't seem bothered by it. He even pays for dinners out without asking or complaining. He's secure in what he is bringing to the table, and he has every reason to be — we're happy."
—KNS, 37, Alabama
18. "I've always been in a business development/sales role, and my wife has always been a therapist. It never bothered me that I made significantly more than she did — we share values and spending habits, we share everything else in our lives together — why should money be any different? By the time we got engaged, there was no more 'my' money or 'her' money — we treated it all as 'our' money. We combined bank accounts, and both of our paychecks were direct deposit into the single checking account."
—Tim, 35, Washington, DC
19. "Currently, I make about $62K more than my husband. It wasn't always this way — we used to have a much smaller gap, and early in our relationship, he outearned me. The only impact it has is that we've become very open and communicate about our finances. We build a yearly budget for our household based on a 50/50 split (his insistence; I asked for a proportional split), and we revisit whenever there's a big expense that we didn't plan for. Things like dinner dates, presents, vacations, etc., are things we take turns treating each other to or splitting. We're both the first in our families to hold high-paying white-collar jobs. Because we're so open with each other about money, we also ask each other for advice when we evaluate financial decisions. The fact that we make different amounts of money strengthens our partnership."
—Anonymous, 31, California
20. "I (female, 48 years old) earn about $50,000 a year more than my spouse (male, 53 years old). Although we have been together for 19 years and married for 15, we have always had separate checking accounts. We have learned over the years to communicate about finances in a productive way. We divide up the bills, with me taking on the majority. His field is very volatile, and he is sometimes unemployed due to downsizing or restructuring (or pandemics). Knowing this, we have structured our finances so that we can survive on mine alone. Early on, there were issues with finances and him believing that I had more money and the capacity to pay bills, so I became very, very transparent. Now, we communicate regularly, and finances are not as much of an issue! I have, over time, increased my income fivefold, and he is nothing but supportive!!"
—Anonymous, 48, Nevada
21. "It ultimately led to our divorce. For me, it wasn't a big deal, until it was... I had the ability to make more due to my career choice, and we both knew this when we got together in college, but it drove him crazy, I found out later. Also, note that we shared money 100%. He eventually started buying expensive toys without talking to me about it, even though we had a rule to always discuss purchases either of us made over a certain dollar threshold, and I always did. These became more and more extravagant, and I was made to feel like if I said anything about it, I was wrong, you know, because we had the money — only we didn't. We hadn't been able to afford a vacation in 10 years, except to visit some family a few hours away, and we couldn't afford to make needed updates to our home, but he always had what he wanted."
"It finally came to an end when 'we,' or so I thought 'we,' had been planning a big vacation, and he instead bought a bike without ever mentioning it. It just arrived at our house one day...and I was done.
In therapy, he shared how much he hated me making more money, and he even acknowledged that it didn't make any sense because we shared everything, but he was raised to think he was failing as the head of the household because of this."
—Anonymous, 47, Texas
22. "Neither of us is particularly wealthy, but my husband and I work at the same company in the sales department. He's been with the company longer than me (by about one and a half years), but I have worked in almost every position as it has grown. I'm going on about seven years, and he is nearly at nine years. Now, I am the head of my department. My raises are typically larger, as are my bonuses. We are very open about our incomes, even though we have separate bank accounts. We split the bills fairly and make sure we have enough for our own individual hobbies. Note: My ex hated the fact that I made more than him and always had passive-aggressive comments about how emasculated it made him feel. 'Men are supposed to be the breadwinners...' You know the spiel. My husband now does not care. He is only interested in how successful we are as a whole."
"I've helped him grow into his new position in the company so we can BOTH be successful. That's what is important."
—Brittany H., 31, Missouri
Did any of these perspectives surprise you? If you earn more than your partner, share how this impacts (or doesn't impact) things between you two in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.