Sleeping With Money: Out Earning Your Partner
“Perfect love cannot be without equality.” – Scottish Proverb
Last week, Jim at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity posed a question (primarily to straight men) as a way to learn if they are / would be bothered by their wives earning more money than them. Some of the comments were quite interesting if you care to click over to understand how the heteros relate in their marriages.
I think it’s a fascinating topic because I’ve always thought that people assume roles in relationships based more on earnings than gender. For obvious reasons, that’s easier to prove in queer partnerships and I’ll use this week’s Sleeping With Money post as the case in point. Some of our straight readers… feel free to chime in with your comments below.
In a previous post, I likened my first partner to Helena, the wealthy lesbian socialite from The L Word. Partner #1 was much nicer than Helena (and nowhere near as good looking) but over time I witnessed a huge shift in power. The shift was subtle at first. I was taken by the gifts, the expensive dinners, and nice vacations. But then all of a sudden I found myself in a relationship where she held the power and control.
I learned during this period that the person making the most money in the relationship maintains a certain amount of control and leverage with a lot of the decisions.
Lorna Wendt founded the Equality in Marriage Institute in 1997 after her public divorce and fight for equality put her in the national spotlight. She writes, “Equality in a relationship has many dynamics. Essentially, for a partnership to be healthy, both parties have to feel equally valued in relation to emotions, lifestyle, finances and objectives.” Since money permeates practically every aspect of life it makes sense that this can be such a big issue in relationships.
Partner #1 earned 20 times more than me. Yes, 20 times… that’s not an exaggeration. I was 27, self-employed, and making less than $30,000 annually. She was thirty and had just been given control of her mother’s business worth millions… it was long term care related and her empire has only grown with the graying of America. God love her. Life is easy when you’re rich.
The problem back then was that she was wealthy. I wasn’t. I recall one trip to New York where I thought we were there to meet up with my best friend. When she said that she only wanted to meet him for lunch and I insisted on dinner and the evening, she said, “If you want to pay for the weekend, then we can do whatever you want.” Hello… I could barely afford cab fare uptown let alone the two nights at The Plaza she was sponsoring. We had lunch with my friend.
We were together almost three years and during that time I gained weight and this was a big issue. Mind you, she was chubby from day one, but deserved the thin girlfriend because she was rich. Of course, she didn’t actually say this… but it was apparent even unspoken. She ordered dessert, I chewed gum. And yes, before you ask… she always paid for dinner.
She called the shots and had first right about anything that required money. Most things cost money. Get the picture. I know I’m painting her into a monster when she actually was quite lovely in many ways. Not to mention… the sex was adventurous. She was fun as a person. All my friends loved her. Life of the party. Easy to be when you’re rich.
But it wasn’t the life for me. I learned then that equality is important. So maybe you don’t have to make the same amount of money but in my opinion the decision making about money needs to be equal. At least that’s what works for me. And life is better when you get to eat dessert.