Money Matters: How to Discuss Expenses with Him
Finances can be a sensitive subject
It's hard to believe, but it's true. Many men are still threatened when their girlfriend brings in more money than they do, and they're not always willing to admit it, since it's such an old-fashioned way of thinking. But just because a guy thinks this way doesn't mean he's a bad seed. Many men were brought up in homes where their father made more than their mother, and that's how they viewed the world as a child. It's clearly time for them to learn to handle the reality of the world and talk about finances in an open and honest way with their partner.
Figuring how how your guy perceives the income issue, and how to talk to him about it, is essential to a healthy relationship. Who pays for what when you're at a pricey restaurant? Do you split the rent on that beachfront apartment? What about vacations to exotic locales?
Our experts share their thoughts on how to deal with this potentially sensitive subject.
Learn how to talk about finances
Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based relationship expert and author of "What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship", said that it's an essential conversation to have, and she offered pointers on how a woman can talk about finances with her partner.
"She should say, 'Despite the fact that I make more, I want us to find a nice balance so we can enjoy the same things. Let's work out a plan that's comfortable for both of us.' She needs to work out how she wants him to contribute, either financially or around the house, because sometimes women are content with the man being more hands-on around the house (laundry, dishes, etc.) or even just paying for the rent. One girl was happy to pay for all their entertainment and trips, while the guy paid the rent, phone bill, etc. - the staples. As long as they have a plan they're both comfortable with, it should work out fine."
Dr. Greer said, "A lot of times the men are way less sensitive to it than women expect because they really enjoy their schedules and tend to be less threatened by the discrepancy. Depending on the circumstances of course - if they're making less because they lost their high-powered job, for example, they tend to be more sensitive to it than, say, someone who is an artist or following their own path that isn't driven by the dollar."
Don't skip the fancy vacations
A woman should pay more than half for an expensive vacation if she can afford it and he can't, Dr. Greer said.
"As long as they have a balance in place, that's fine. It's like the couple I mentioned earlier - the girl pays for all the trips and the guy pays for the more hands-on expenses. The guy may even be more flexible to your preferences or your destination of choice since you're footing the bill! Then you won't be resenting him (e.g. if you're paying for the trip and he decides he wants to go skiiing, but you don't even like skiing, that would cause a problem). By footing the bill, you're not indulging his needs, but rather allowing him to mutually meet your needs."
With specific items, sometimes the person who makes more should pay 100% of the cost of an item, such as an appliance or vacation.
"It varies by each couple. I've had couples who're more than happy to pay for the big-ticket items because they want them in their lives (but the partner can't possibly pay for, say, a trip to Paris or a new Mercedes). Feel that you're taking care of yourself, not taking care of him at your expense."
It is easy for a couple with an income discrepancy to live together in harmony. "If that's her comfort zone and she would feel resentful like she was parenting him by paying more than half, then it's better for her to pay only half. She needs to feel like a partner, not a parent. The key is, again, that whatever plan you work out as a couple, keep yourself feeling like mutual partners as opposed to turning it into a parent-child relationship where the woman is taking care of the guy," Dr. Greer said.
Don't flaunt your extra money
Carole Lieberman, M.D., an Emmy award-winning Beverly Hills psychiatrist and relationship expert, said, "When a woman makes more money than her man, she needs to be very careful not to make him feel emasculated by flaunting it. If a man isn't 'bringing home the bacon', or at least not as much 'bacon' as his woman, it makes him feel inadequate. So, a woman needs to make him feel as though he's contributing to the
relationship in other ways to make up for the inequality in money."
For example, Dr. Lieberman said, "If a couple lives together, creative ways need to be found to divide expenses. For example, each could put the same amount or the same percentage of their income into the account that pays bills, or bills could be divided so that they each pay the same number of bills,
but the woman pays the more expensive ones. On the other hand, a woman who makes more money than her man needs to be careful that she has not become a 'sugar momma', as these
relationships never end well. The man ends up feeling emasculated and wants to prove that he's still a man by
Whatever the status of finances in your relationship, it's always better to talk about it and bring any issues out in the open rather than ignore them and hope they disappear.