Money, money

Relationships can be torn at the seams through financial incompatibility and miss-planning. She earns more than he. He overspends on clothes, cars, booze; she wants the house with the third bedroom. Fundamentally, different people have different incomes, spending habits and priorities. Such is the age in which we live, that when they clash love might fly out the door.

Income disparity

X is on £150 000. Y is on £16 000. X is not happy with sub-Michelin starred restaurants – so if X wants X and Y to go out together, X pays. The results: X would have to be a saint not to feel, on some level, he or she is distributing largess and claiming obligation. X might not know this, but wait until there’s an argument and the subject may well come up, if only in X’s mind. And Y feels obligation – and ‘obligation’ passes all too readily through ‘disempowerment’ and ‘belittlement’, presently reaching ‘resent’, ‘resolution’ and ‘break up’.

There are some ‘traditional’ couples out there, but these days a lot of people don’t want to be someone’s ‘little wife’.It is possible, of course, for mixed-income couples to thrive. For this to be the case, much discussion is needed. The poorer can expect to have treats at times. In return, the richer must know that there’ll be times when he or she lowers the budget and does things for which the poorer can pay – without being sniffy. No-one likes to feel owned or dependent. People worth knowing, let alone loving, feel they have to make a good contribution. Let each partner treat the other in his or her own way and you can both feel financially validated, get the money issue over to one side and get on with an otherwise healthy relationship and love life.

Income – and partnership

It sounds artificial and contrived, but if one partner is going to be the main wage-earner and the other to be the home-maker and child-rearer, then it can help hugely if they sit down together and put a value on the home-maker’s work. Cooking, shopping, cleaning – whatever the ‘job’ might be, it can be given a value. As for child-rearing, which may be where the division of roles is seen as being required for optimal child development, suffice it to say that the going rate for a good nanny is pretty high.

The point of putting a monetary value on ‘home’ tasks is that it clarifies the issue and helps to enable mutual and self-respect. It lets each partner know that it isn’t just one of them doing the work. It can form the basis for the amount of money to be passed, without mention, from one account to the other’s – although, market value being as it is, it should only be the basis for such discussions; the actual amount may be affordably lower or higher.

Spending styles

People spend money in different ways, of which they may be unaware. Do you:

  • • Live on credit, over-generous with yourself and others, not even opening your credit card statements and hoping against hope the crash never comes?
  • • Behave like a miser, counting every penny and refusing to spend in the present, perhaps to relax and find yourself comfortably well off in the future?• Live and spend on the edge of affordability, with just enough money to cover immediate expenses, and the need for that overdraft – and perhaps one or two generous friends?
  • • Worship cash? It’s your toy and the numbers are the scorecard – and playing with it you’re becoming rich.
  • • Live averagely – saving a little, spending a little and setting reasonable financial goals, your occasional treats in proportion to your income?

Where spending habits clash, there’ll be problems. However, if you are aware of how you spend and how your partner spends, you are in a good position to find a solution. You can discuss the matter, compromise and reach agreement – because you know what’s happening and what’s at stake.

Goals and priorities

No matter your relative incomes, attitudes towards and ways of using money, in a relationship you are a team.Sit down, discuss and agree on what you want from your collective pot of cash. Is the bigger house or the baby more important? Are the clothes or the car or the holidays? Even if both partners have an equal say in the future direction of the team – and heaven help them if they haven’t – these issues won’t just settle themselves; they need discussion. It could be a formal, sit-down-with-a-budget-planner-and-a-paper-and-pencil sort of discussion, or it could be a fireside chat. Either way, once the issues are aired, the team knows what’s what and can work towards one end.

Posted in Relationships, Sustaining a Relationship