Should everything really be equal?

A friend recently came to me for advice regarding her and her boyfriend possibly moving in together. She wanted to know what it was like to live with your boyfriend, did it change the relationship, and if she was doomed to become boring and domesticated. I told her the scoop, that yes, things change but they are not bad.  There will be times when you need your space, you will find out little quirks, but overall it is just dandy.

Then she asked me a question that took me by surprise. She said, “What about paying rent? He makes way more money than I do.

I thought about it and in my most diplomatic tone, I said, “You’ll figure it out and do whatever is best for you guys.

The question got me thinking, should everything really be equal? In my feminist head, I’ve always thought I want to pay my share and have things be equal. I never want to rely on a man and I don’t want to owe anyone any favors.  But her logic makes sense….if her boyfriend makes roughly two times as much income as she does, shouldn’t he pay more in rent?

My boyfriend and I split everything fairly evenly, now. When we first started dating, I had a career and he didn’t have a job. At that time, we mostly split everything but there were a few times I paid just because I wanted to share an experience with him, knowing that he didn’t have the money. It came down to me wanting to share something with him, and if money were the problem, then I’d take care of it.

During the two years of long distance, we had pretty independent lives and used to switch off on who would pay for flights. At that time, we were just so happy to see each other that money was not that much of an issue. When I finally made the move to be with him, we were in similar financial situations for the first time. He was a broke student with part time work and I was a broke seasonal employee with massive student loans. 50/50 just made sense and we got creative to make things work together. It wasn’t fun, but we could relate to each other and offer support in hard times.

Now that I have a full time job lined up (!!!), right as my contract is ending, I am thinking towards the future. For now, I will definitely be making more money than my partner. I am hoping upon graduation, he can find his way and we can both be successful. We have often talked about ways of working together and slaughtering our debt (he has student loans too). Since my debt is worse, we’ve talked about when he gets financially stable, having him pay all or the majority of rent, so I can focus on eliminating my debt. Once my loans are gone, I will pay the majority of rent so he can then eliminate his too.  Of course, we’re not at that place yet, and I wonder what the years will bring.

Although in my head, I have a somewhat rigid idea of how couples work together financially, I know there are a variety of different situations that work. Every couple is different and may find certain situations work better for them. My father has not worked in 15 years (a subject that is painful to me), and my mom supports him financially. It is a situation that they are both comfortable in and works for them.  I also know other couples that have different financial agreements; one works, one stays at home, both work, they live off one income, etc.

At the end of the day, I guess it’s not really about being equal, but about finding a balance of what works for both parties. So many things in a relationship are beyond financial and it’s hard to calculate those things. Add to that household labor and hard times, and sometimes it turns out that one person is pulling the majority of the weight. And that’s ok in my book, so long as it’s not permanent. I highly doubt that there are couples that make the same amount of income and equally split all the bills and household chores.

I’m curious; do you have any special financial agreements with your partner?


18 responses to “Should everything really be equal?

  1. J doesn’t feel comfortable “officially” paying more than me in the relationship, so we split the rent exactly 50/50 but because he doesn’t have any debt and makes double my salary he “unofficially” helps me out by paying for groceries and most of our dates out.

    • I think that’s nice and makes a lot of sense! It’s interesting the different ways we manage money, time, energy, chores, food, etc in relationships. It all seems to even out.

    • You are right! Fair is way more important than equal. It’s hard when one person is a saver and one is a spender. I’m in a similar boat as you. I make more and am the saver, while he makes less and is the spender. With my encouragement, he now has a nice savings account though (something he didn’t have before). I really like your article and it’s so interesting how different everyone is.

  2. T makes more than me so we split the bills based on percentage of income. He brings in about 65% of the income and I bring in 35% so he pays 65% of the bills and I pay 35% for the most part. For us, we feel this is fair and it allows me to pay off my debt and save more than I would be able to if we split everything 50/50%. If I was less responsible with my money and didn’t save for our future then I could see us changing that split up a bit. For now, it works for us.

  3. My husband supports me 100%. We live off his income and that allows me to put whatever income I make towards my debts. He’s also in the Navy and the allowance he gets for housing pays our rent, but I still consider that part of his income. I’m not sure what we’d do if they do not allow him to reenlist in 2015.

  4. Our finances are completely combined so there is no “mine” or “his.” So, we don’t worry about who is paying what.

    But everyone has to decide that for themselves. As long as the two parties involved are happy with what they decide that’s all that matters!

    • That’s awesome. I would love to get to a point where there is no mine or his, but we’re not there yet. And to be honest, don’t know if we ever will be. We might keep separate checking and have a joint savings eventually…..we’ll see! But I agree, what matters is that both parties feel satisfied with the situation.

  5. B makes more than me so he pays for a bigger chunk in mortgage, as well as the HOA, electricity, and cable bills. I pay for part of the mortgage and internet, and we split the groceries (though he pays a bit more since he eats more). I end up doing most of the chores and do all the cooking, though, so we both think it’s fair. I agree it just depends on the couple’s working styles so that it’s a fair compromise.

    • Nice! We split rent, but I also try to get my partner to pay more for groceries as he eats everything in sight! We split cooking, even though sometimes he does more, but I do the majority of dishes.

  6. On paper, my wife pays the entire rent…and most of the other living expenses. My income goes towards debt payments and savings. It is set up that way because her income is pretty predictable and mine… isn’t.

    • I think that’s a very fair and reasonable agreement, given the situation. Before, our income was unpredictable so it was hard. Now things should be better for me, but his is still unpredictable. It could be feast or famine and we both have to prepare for that! And work together to pay off our massive student loans. UGH!

  7. that’s a great question. Although I’m not in that situation, I would see myself wanting to split evenly, but making sure it’s a place that both of us could afford to split evenly. Now if they said, well I want a bigger place and I’d be willing to pay x amount more than you, then I’d be willing to do that too.

  8. 50/50 for all shared expenses including gas and household equipment (like mixers). No exceptions.

    Our working styles are similar — both freelancing, so paying 50/50 is perfect for us.

    It is not fair that I would pay more or he would pay more because he’s “earning more”. He’ll just have to live with a smaller apartment and pay what I can afford as the 50%, or else he has to fork over more money to upgrade to something he likes, but I can’t afford.

  9. I pay $1400 and my boyfriend pays $1000 a month. I also make over 2 times more than him. When he lived alone he paid $1000 a month so I didn’t want him to spend any more than that just because I decided to buy a nice house. Since the house is in my name I get the tax break but I am also paying for the majority of the house remodel. I don’t really care If it’s not equal because he makes me happy. He also does all the cooking which definitely makes up the difference!

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