Who Pays for What in a Relationship

(Last Updated On: 07/31/2010)

The subject of finances is as complicated as is touchy in dating and in any romantic relationship. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about money with their romantic partners, believing that there is no space for money talk in love and romance. There is no reason we should not be able to accept and embrace the obvious value of money and the importance of being open about it with our romantic counterparts. Suppressing our financial issues in a relationship is as damaging as suppressing any other problem – it is bound to blow up and turn into a much bigger problem than it would have, had it been addressed promptly.

Although the way each couple should handle their financial affairs should be specific to their unique situation (like it is with just about any other aspect of their relationship), there is one factor that can establish ground rules of who pays for what in a relationship that can be useful to remember and follow, and that factor is the earnings of each partner:

1. If the guy is financially accomplished and a woman is also accomplished but less so, the guy should probably cover 70 to 80% of their expenses. The woman should contribute to any expenses associated with their activities together and fully cover the luxury items that are only used by her, such as high end shoes, jewelry, perfume, except, of course, his gifts to her.

2. If both partners are equally financially accomplished, the guy should pay for about 60-70 percent of their mutual expenses, and the woman should by her own luxury items, except gifts. The reason the guy’s burden here is lower is because it’s only fair that a woman who makes more money than the one in the first situation would contribute more to the overall basket of expenses.

3. If the guy is doing well and the woman is not doing well financially at all or if she is unemployed, the guy should obviously cover the vast majority of the basic expenses, if not all of these expense, because here the woman simply has nothing to contribute, and taking the last few dollars from her will not make anyone happy.

4. If the guy is doing ok but not really that well, and the woman is not doing well or she is unemployed, the guy should cover 80% of the mutual expenses, and the woman should neither purchase nor expect luxury items as gifts.

5. If a woman is doing well and the guy is not doing very well, the guy should contribute as much as he can, and the couple should generally not be doing things that are out of that man’s budget. In other words, the role of a man remains that of a male regardless of his income, and if he cannot afford taking the woman into an expensive restaurant or a high-priced show, they should both go and do things that the guy can afford comfortably and still feel like a man in a relationship. The more accomplished woman can surely treat the guy once in a while, but once she feels that she “turns in a man” by being the provider in the relationship, it will likely make her resent the guy subconsciously, or even worse – feel like a mother. Even the most financially secure woman, wants to feel like she is being taken care of. And, this doesn’t mean that her guy has to spend a lot of money on her, but he does have to take charge and take her out to make her feel taken care of.

6. This leaves the last situation, where both partners in a relationship are not doing well financially or are both unemployed, or are very poor for other reasons. Because in this case, which is hopefully temporary, the money subject is so difficult to deal with, they should share their expenses equally, as this might just be the best solution under the circumstances.

It goes without saying that no one expects you to take the above as some kind of exact rules regarding percentages that you should follow, and the above numbers are only provided as guidelines for apportioning the expenses in a way that will minimize the financial friction between the relationship partners. This is also the right time to note that few things are more unattractive than pettiness, and a petty person might even be a bigger turn off than a stingy one.

Financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce and break-ups in long-term relationships. Handling financial stress promptly, and considering to even seek professional advice, whether it is couples counseling, financial planning, or both, can be of critical value to saving such a relationship from the fatal end.


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