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?