Dealing with Financial Income Inequality in Marriage

Money, often said to be one of the most controversial subjects to talk about, contributes to an endless number of marital disagreements. The less money a couple has to work with, the more intense the disagreements over a couple’s financial situation will generally become. In an anonymous survey performed by SunTrust Bank, 35% of married respondents said that the number one cause of friction in their marriage was their finances. When one spouse earns considerably more or less than their partner, this dynamic can introduce a myriad of marital complications. To prevent income inequality from tearing a marriage apart, it will be important to consider a few often overlooked factors fueling the tension this situation has created.


Money Is Power

Too often, individuals are brought up with the idea that money is power. This value is deeply ingrained into people by their parents and teachers. It is inevitable that those brought up with such ideas will assume that they apply within the domain of a marital bond as well. It is imagined from here that the spouse who earns more should hold the most power in a marriage over their partner. If a marriage was intended to be a power struggle based in financial conquest, then this sort of reasoning might work; Unfortunately, this sort of approach to dealing with income inequality inside the marital bond will tend to create more internal friction than anything else.

The spouse being dominated, simply because they lack income equality, soon realizes that this is not a marriage based in love. Rather, they will inevitably come to understand that their status in the marriage is valued to the extent of how much they are able to earn, and not a penny more.


Gender Role Reversal

According to a 2014 White House report, the percentage of women that out-earned men, in American households during the 1970’s, was around 7-percent. Today, some forty years down the road, the percentage of women out-earning men has increased to around twenty-four-percent. This has, of course, brought with it a change in stereotypical gender roles: where the wife is emerging to be the breadwinner as these statistical lines continue to approach a convergence point.

This has fueled its own form of tension in marriages, slowly replacing men as the breadwinner in the traditional family structure; however, such gender role reversals should not be a source of tension. Rather, they are a sign of how more women are reaching higher levels of education, and finally being viewed as worthy of higher wages as a result of being found qualified to hold positions of greater earning potential than in decades past. This may bruise the ego of some men, but would they rather their significant other earned less to put their financial situation at greater risk only to create more money problems in their marriage as a result?


Eliminating the Problem

One of the best ways to eliminate the marital drama introduced by the income gap between partners is to essentially agree that it is a non-issue. Couples who do not allow this to become a problem, pooling their money together for the common goal of keeping their financial situation afloat, tend to find that their marriage works out much smoother if they simply do not argue over differences in wage earnings. Instead, many of these couples focus their energies towards joint budgeting of available funds and slashing spending in key areas of their marriage: such as when it comes to purchasing inexpensive insurance coverage or nonessentials like cable TV or online subscriptions.

If one moves beyond the money to see the bigger picture, it is worth asking what good is working so hard to earn money if you cannot enjoy sharing it with the person you married and we’re certain you loved the most? It is a question that causes many to wonder if all the drama introduced over the inequalities of income inside their marriage was worth the hurt and sorrow that focused on such matters generated between those who promised to love one another–for better or for worse.

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About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finance. With over 20 years of business experience, Robert is now retired and hopes others can benefit from his writing.

One Response

  1. In our case my husband is comped a nonstop train of truly luxurious dinners and tickets all over the world, while staying in excellent hotels–this has always been part of his work. Because of his schedule I need to stay very stable, keep a conservative budget, cook at home, and raise the kids.
    He wants to know–why shouldn’t he get all the perks of his ever-travelling job? And I agree. In theory.

    Its not exactly an *income* gap but the way he counts his travel expenses and the way he is reimbursed. That being said, as I have NO income, I dont seem to be entitled to much of anything. So its Filet Mignon and 5 star hotels every night for him and crying kids and chicken noodle soup for me.

    To say nothing about how this separation and resentment weighs upon us both.

    This is how he has always made our money for our house. And given our kids age, and the variability and instability of work, it doesn’t seem worth it for me to get a shitty job. How are we meant to bridge this? Just pretend its not happening?

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