She makes more. Can you still love her, when her pay check is bigger than yours?
Husbands, we said we’d love her “for richer or poorer.” But, for many of us, ironically, the “richer” can be harder to handle. Can love survive—and even thrive—when she makes more money than he does? Sure it can.
However, the key is not who makes how much, but whether spouses share values, have a team mindset, and are in agreement on how money decisions will be made, no matter who has the bigger paycheck. Once you’re on the same page and fully aligned with one another, whether her or she makes more, it boils down to three things: communication, transparency, and emotional safety.
Can you talk about it?
If one or both you avoid discussing money or become hostile, defensive, or blameful whenever the topic comes up, you’re going to have problems, no matter who makes the most money. You can’t come to agreement or resolve problems, if you can’t talk.
Can you be open and honest?
You must both be totally open and honest about your financial habits and history, including your credit reports, taxes, assets, income, and liabilities. Never use financial information as a weapon, or to punish or ridicule your mate’s past financial mistakes, lack of financial literacy, or earning power. The goal of bringing everything out into the open is not to punish one another over the problems, but to work together to plan and execute solutions.
Can you safely share your emotions?
Are you secretive or in denial about how you feel emotionally about money? Understanding these feelings, which are often rooted in childhood and family experiences, is key to developing shared values. It is critical to address these—especially when she makes more—in light of the fact that, in many families, the woman as the higher-salaried marital partner goes against cultural norms and expectations.
It is also important to talk about your goals and dreams as individuals and as a couple, so you can establish priorities and develop plans that can leave you both hopeful and motivated to stick to a shared money management agenda.
Act as a team, not just a couple.
Agree to a budget and meet monthly to discuss and manage it together. Make financial decisions jointly, no matter who makes the most, actually manages the money, and pays the bills. Set financial goals as a couple, never putting individual wants above jointly agreed upon objectives. And resist the natural urge to compete and compare.
Remember: It’s not you against each other; it’s you for each other and against shared adversity, including any money problems you might encounter.
If it is about competing for power and control, the relationship will suffer, especially when she, perhaps, makes more. However, if your approach to money is about shared goals and responsibility, the relationship can thrive, no matter who has the bigger income.
Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationship education coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.