She Said, He Said: Don't let ‘she makes more’ concerns sabotage your relationship

Dear Lori and Jeff, 

My girlfriend and I have been together for about six months and everything seems to be going well except for the discrepancy in our incomes. I’m an artist, truly love what I do and make a reasonable living at it. She makes quite a bit more than I do but still supports me in my chosen profession. The challenge is she likes to travel first-class and eat at expensive restaurants and I just don’t have that in my budget. She is very generous and offers to pay when I can’t, but I’m worried that my financial status isn’t going to be attractive enough to her in the long run.

Signed,

Don’t Want a Sugar Momma

Dear DWASM,

Jeff: It’s been ingrained in the minds of men that we have to compete for women by offering more than the next guy—more wealth and greater security. Historically, the ability to provide food, shelter and protection for raising offspring was a key selling point. Today, we like to think that this dynamic doesn’t play out in couples’ courtships but for many it still does. A residue still exists in our subconscious that whoever has the most wealth to offer gets the girl.

Your girlfriend clearly doesn’t care about your ability to financially provide for her. It may be more of an issue in your own mind about how you measure up against other men who might have more to offer (and could potentially win her over). Based on our cultural history, this fear is understandable but your job is to love fearlessly. This doesn’t mean loving without fear, but feeling the fear and loving anyway.

Lori: Even up until a decade ago, having a wife as the higher income earner increased the risk of divorce. Why? Women who were earning more often tried to protect their husbands’ masculinity. They would minimize the income gap by under-employing themselves and overcompensate at home by doing more of the domestic work. Over time, resentment would build as wives felt stifled. These women were also losing respect for their husbands, but not because of their paychecks. Wives were frustrated, overburdened and disenchanted as husbands let shame or emasculation from earning less get in the way of fully showing up in the marriage. 

But times—along with roles, identity and expectations—are changing. A 2012 study by Reach Advisors found the median income of single women between the ages of 22 and 30 is now greater than the income of single men in that same age group in most cities throughout the US. 

And “she makes more” divorce rates are dropping as couples redefine the expectations of partnership to value what each person—rather than what each gender—can give. Be proud of what you contribute. She doesn’t need money; she already has it. She needs you to bring your best self to the table; to bring more joy, beauty, love and companionship into her world. 

Lori and Jeff: Be the best damn artist you can be, support her in her success and let her spend her money how she chooses—even when it’s spent on you.