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How To Navigate Salary Gaps In Your Relationship

How To Navigate Salary Gaps In Your Relationship

IDK about you, but I’ve never been in a relationship where my partner and I make the exact same amount of money. There have been times where my salary is higher, and others where the person I’m dating is earning more. 

No matter what your salary differences are (big gaps or small ones), though, it’s tough to navigate. And there are so many valid questions to ask! Like, should rent be split equally even if one of you is making way more? Who should pick up groceries for the week? Should we invest in a joint bank account?

To answer your salary gap questions, we’ve tapped the likes of expert therapist Sophie Cress, LMFT. “Navigating salary disparities in relationships requires honest communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to work together on financial decisions,” Cress explains. So here’s what you need to know about dealing with those gaps in your own relationship… 

When Do We Talk Money? 💵

Obviously you don’t want to bring up money on the first date—and probably not on the second or third one, either! In the beginning stages of a relationship, you’re just getting to know each other’s personalities to see if you mesh. But once things get more serious, money talks are fair game. If you’re officially partners, it’s totally fair to start asking questions about salaries, budgeting, and the like. And once you’re considering moving in together? Nothing is off limits, TBH. 

Converse With Care! 💸

“Both partners should acknowledge and accept the fact that their salaries may not be the same. It is crucial to approach the topic with sensitivity and understanding,” says Cress. Why? “Income inequalities are common and do not reflect individual worth or contributions,” so it’s necessary to have an open dialogue about your joint financial goals. Ultimately, “each partner brings unique strengths and contributions to the relationship beyond financial means, whether it's emotional support, household responsibilities, or other forms of support,” Cress explains. 

Pay Proportionally! 💰

“To make financial arrangements feel fair in a relationship, one effective strategy is to use a proportional contribution approach. Instead of splitting costs equally, both partners will pay a percentage of their income towards joint expenses,” Cress says. For example, if one partner earns 60% of the household income, they would pay for 60% of the shared expenses such as rent, groceries, utilities, etc. The other partner would pay for the remaining 40%. “This method ensures that both partners contribute based on their means, which can help alleviate feelings of inequality or resentment,” says Cress. 

Budget, Budget, Budget 💲

It’s important that you’re transparent with each other about your spending habits, debts, savings, and the like so that you can create a budget that works for you both. Why? It can help “manage expenses effectively and alleviate any tension stemming from income differences. This involves discussing shared expenses, discretionary spending, and long-term financial plans,” Cress says. “Establishing clear boundaries and expectations around money can prevent misunderstandings and resentment down the line.” And if you’re feeling super stressed about this? You can always discuss it with a financial planner to help you pin down your priorities as a couple. 

Flexibility Is Key 🔑 

“When navigating salary gaps, flexibility and compromise are essential,” says Cress. Afterall, your financial situation is bound to change depending on various outside circumstances (career advancements, job loss, or other factors), so couples should be willing to adjust their financial arrangements in the process. “This might involve renegotiating how bills are split or reassessing financial goals to accommodate shifting incomes,” Cress explains. 

Overall, talking money with your S.O. can be tough. (It’s not that romantic or fun, after all!) But if you want to live happy, long lives together, it’s crucial that this is a point of discussion, K? Let us know how your convos go, and remember, we’re always here to help 💜.

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