Money and Power in my Marriage
Kenneth has generally earned a paycheck larger than me over the course of our marriage. My pay came pretty close for a few years when I worked for MMI Products, Inc. as an organizational development manager. However, my pay never matched or exceeded Kenneth’s and that is true to today. That’s like many relationships; one partner out-earns the other— sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. So common is this that couples often don’t pay attention to a question it raises: Does a fatter salary come with special privileges?
Here’s what I mean: Your spouse earns more money than you, right? Perhaps, his or her pay is the only income in your relationship. So, should he or she get a breather when it comes to chores around the house or greater say in how the family’s money is spent?
The immediate answer many couples give is “no.” That’s because “no” is the right answer. It is the answer almost everyone knows they’re supposed to give. “No” says that you and your spouse are equal despite any pay disparity. “No” means that you both agree on how much to save or spend, that both are decisions on which you have joint say. Of course, that doesn’t mean “no” is the truthful answer. Rarely is it that cut and dried for couples to AGREE on money matters.
In many marriages, husbands and wives often assume - even if silently - that a bigger paycheck provides special perks. The special perks sometimes sound like “I’m free to spend what I earn; after all, it’s my money.” Sometimes, spouses might believe that because they bring in more money, they’re already contributing more to the relationship, thereby absolving them of obligations such as cleaning, cooking, or handling childcare duties. The tacit assumption is that a lower paid or no paid spouse must contribute more in other ways to be equal.
Relationships are all about figuring out what works for you and your spouse. When one of you earns more money than the other, that person’s money has to be used to support the family’s livelihood. Did you both agree that one of you would work while the other not work? Despite the gap in your finances, your family needs the income until the other person can contribute financially, if necessary.
If one of you isn’t working due to laziness or poor life choices, your root issue isn’t financial alone, is it? Possibly not. Your root issue could be that your spouse needs to make corrective changes immediately to rightfully support your marriage.
I am a woman who makes much less than my husband. We agreed a few years ago that I would oversee the operations of our growing business/ministry. That there would be times when I would have to forgo purchasing “things” I want when we can only afford the “things” I need.” It’s a trade-off that works for us. As a great provider, Kenneth manages our finances masterfully. I trust his financial acumen. I trust his leadership over our financial goals. We stiffly juggle the expenses of business/ministry ownership and all the sacrifices that come with it – with one income; it’s worth it to us.
In my marital experience, we have learned to communicate four major financial areas that keep things running smoothly around our house:
Paying The Bills – we stay current with paying our bills. I’m thankful God has blessed us to pay our bills on time, which has strengthened our credit score. We discussed our approach to paying the bills especially the ones we want to pay-off early. I’m thankful Kenneth seeks my advice, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t contribute financially to our marriage.
Spending Allowance – let me just succinctly say, “I can do better in this category.” So, to remain compatible with my dear husband’s expectations, I have sought to communicate my desires often so when I’m ready to make the purchase, he has had time to weigh in – yes or wait. I must admit, Kenneth is kind and will work with me on my requests.
Helping Others – considering we are both givers, we have a rule about helping others that stems from being burnt repeatedly. God has taught us the meaning of “give to others as you have them give to you.” Ouch! Let’s just say, we are not where we use to be a few years ago relative to this category. We have learned to give to others without expecting any returns.
Support the Kingdom of God – we had to grow together and in God’s Word in this category. We didn’t share the same doctrinal beliefs on supporting the Kingdom of God some fifteen years ago. We had to study and pray together for the Holy Spirit to give shared revelation on supporting the Kingdom of God. We’ve always supported it, but over the past fifteen years, we have made it our business to keep our support of God’s Kingdom top priority.
This sounds easier than it really is. Most couples are so busy working, raising kids, and running a household that they hardly have time to talk to each other. You may have to go out of your way to schedule a conversation about your finances, twice or three times a year. The idea is to treat it like an important work-related appointment you must keep.
Interestingly, did you know that female breadwinners are becoming the norm? For those who have a supportive spouse who celebrates your success – enjoy it. For everyone else: work hard on the communication in your marriage, have empathy for your spouse’s position, and never make them feel less-than. Maintaining this healthy attitude will do wonders for your marriage.
The idea is – don’t allow money to dictate who has the power in your marriage.
Marriage is a financial partnership—and like any successful partnership of equals, it depends on compromise and mutual cooperation.