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The key to a happy marriage or relationship is not always clear, as every individual has their own wants, needs, and personal desires when it comes to choosing a long-term partner. One striking issue that is often the cause of upset and divorce throughout most cultures today though is financial stress or financial insecurity, with one source of this often being a money imbalance in a relationship.

There are many financial problems in marriage statistics that appear time and time again, regardless of the length and duration of the marriage itself. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the CDFA, or the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, more than 22% of couples admit to getting a divorce due to financial strain or monetary issues.

And if you have a financial imbalance in your relationship, it’s more than possible to begin to feel resentment or strain on your relationship, even if consciously you are working through your monetary troubles together. 

Identifying and pinpointing problem areas that need repair can help to preserve your relationship while you are experiencing a money imbalance. Although a money imbalance may not be a dealbreaker or an issue for you whatsoever, it can cause you to feel stressed and frustrated subconsciously if you feel one of you is not pulling your weight over time.

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What does having a money imbalance in a relationship mean?

Having a financial imbalance in a relationship typically means that one partner in the relationship is generating more income. This can cause stress from one party feeling like they’re over-contributing or the other party not feeling as if they are contributing enough around the house to offset the income their partner is bringing in. 

A money imbalance can be extremely important for some couples, and less essential for others, often depending on your overall financial picture and future plans.

When you experience a money imbalance in a relationship, you may begin to question the overall strength and foundation of your relationship, especially if the issue is often pushed aside or is ignored altogether.

How can a money imbalance affect a relationship?

Understanding how a money imbalance can affect a relationship is essential if you are struggling in your relationship or if you do not find the balance in your relationship to be fair enough.

1. A money imbalance can leave you feeling less than

Whenever there is a financial imbalance in a relationship, one person can start to feel inadequate, especially if you are not the one generating an income. When you are unable to bring the same amount of financial gain to the table, you might feel as though you are slacking or falling behind in the effort department. 

While this is absolutely not always true or the case (especially as there is more than money to bring to a relationship), it is important to identify your own feelings with regard to your finances and the financial situation you are in with your partner.

2. It can increase arguments

Relationship finances can cause major arguments, like if you are struggling financially or experiencing financial strain due to a job loss or even unforeseen circumstances. Knowing how to properly navigate financial strain is essential to maintain an ongoing relationship. 

frustrated couple dealing with a financial imbalance in a relationship

Experiencing an increase in arguments over money is never pleasant, and can quickly lead to the deterioration of any relationship. If you find yourself aggravated over the following situations, it may be time to sit down and have a discussion about your finances and how they are coming in between you and your partner:

  • Whenever you are paying bills
  • Keeping up with household chores, supplies, and grocery items
  • Whenever you are attempting to plan a trip or travel, but cannot do so due to current financial restrictions or limitations
  • Anytime you are discussing short and long term financial goals, especially how you want your finances to look in the future with your current partner

3. It might cause you to feel unhappy

If you are tired of arguing over money or if you are unable to see the financial situation in your relationship changing any time soon, this may cause you to feel extremely unhappy. Feeling unhappy in a relationship may eat away at the genuine love and connection you have with your current partner, even if you do not blame them for the issue at hand. 

When you are struggling mentally due to your financial stress, it is imperative to communicate your needs to your partner to attempt to remedy the problem as quickly as possible. Some ways to tell if you are unhappy or in need of time to reflect on your relationship include:

  • You find yourself increasingly stressed, anxious, and worried any time you think of money or your financial situation
  • You find it difficult to plan for purchases, investments, or trips that were once a source of joy to you
  • If you feel growing feelings of resentment and anger that are directed towards your partner due to monetary struggles and financial woes
  • If you are feeling increasingly frustrated anytime you are near your partner due to growing resentments and a lack of communication regarding your financial struggles

4. Causing you to feel guilt

In some cases, you may also begin to feel guilty if you are unable to contribute to your relationship financially as much as the other person. If your partner is unable to contribute, he or she may also begin to harness feelings of guilt. When you feel guilt, you may find it difficult to live to your fullest potential, as you will always have a mental and emotional block standing in your way. 

Without proper communication and resolutions in place, the guilt you feel will only become more exacerbated over time.

5. It may cause you to focus on the negative

When there is a financial imbalance in a relationship, partners can become increasingly emotionally distant and separated. If you begin to feel resentment regarding finances, spending, or even the amount of income you and your partner are earning, you are more likely to continuously focus on the negative. 

Focusing on negative elements of life can quickly become draining, causing a rift between you and your partner. If you find yourself becoming increasingly negative and focused on anxieties and worries regarding finances, it may be time to take a step back to reevaluate your own wants and needs.

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How to deal with a financial imbalance in a relationship

1. Identify core problems

The first step to take when you want to address a financial imbalance in a relationship is to take a step back to identify the core problems that are contributing to the issues in your relationship. Take time to identify and address why you are experiencing financial stress and what it is that you can do to remedy your feelings. 

Do you feel as though you should be contributing more? Do you feel as though your partner is not earning enough money or putting enough effort into your home and relationship? In order to fix and remedy the financial imbalance of any relationship, you will need to take a complete and honest inventory of the situation at hand.

2. Define your relationship priorities

Every relationship is different and unique in its own way. If you are in a relationship where money is not the most important aspect, it is important to keep this in mind. 

couple discussing the money imbalance in their relationship

This is why it’s a good idea to define your relationship priorities and goals as they pertain to finances and contributions. In particular, if you find that you are bringing in more money than your partner, maybe there are other ways in which he or she can contribute to help maintain balance over time.

What is most important to you in your relationship? Do you find financial wealth and abundance to be a top priority, or are you more concerned about the time you are able to spend with one another? Ensuring that you are compatible with your partner in terms of financial goals is also essential if you want to make a relationship last longer.

3. Encourage open and honest communication

One of the biggest problems in marriages and long-term relationships often stems back to a total lack of communication. When you are unable to communicate openly, honestly, and directly with your partner, you will have many more issues to deal with later on, aside from finances alone. 

For that reason, whenever you are confronted with financial strain, the best course of action begins with a conversation. Having the ability to speak openly and honestly regarding the money imbalance in your relationship as well as your own needs in relation to this can help to put you and your partner on a path that is right for you.

4. Make a plan, together

While it is tempting to address and resolve issues that are nagging at you on your own, it is best to work on improving the financial health of a relationship together with your partner. Making a plan with your partner is a way to ensure you are both on the same page and that you both have the same vision for your future. When you make the effort to craft a working plan of action, you are also more likely to stick with the plans you have set in place.

couple discussing to deal with money issues in a relationship

If you are unsure of how to go about making a financial plan with your partner, use the following tips:

  • First, define your own financial goals and assess your current financial picture. Do you have debts you need to tend to? What is most important for you in terms of saving and investing? Do you want to become a homeowner with your partner, or are you thinking of investing your earnings in stocks and even your own business? You cannot create a working financial plan with your current relationship partner if you are unsure of where you want to go yourself.
  • Assess your income and goals to determine what moves you need to make in order to achieve them, with or without your partner’s help. It is recommended to first assess and create a plan of action for yourself independently before you begin considering adding a partner to your plan.
  • Discuss your partner’s finances as well as their contributions to the relationship. Learn what is most important to your partner in terms of finances and savings. Discuss how you intend to reach goals and milestones you have set for yourselves financially while also growing together as a couple. Determine whether or not you have the same financial goals in mind.

Related: 17 Brilliant Financial Planning Quotes to Inspire Your Money Makeover

5. Seek financial unity

One of the best ways to improve your relationship while minimizing the financial strain and stress you experience, including in relation to a money imbalance in the relationship, is to seek financial unity with your partner. 

Financial unity means having the ability to sit down and discuss financial woes that are bothering you or even interfering with your relationship and current way of life. Work together with your partner to help improve your financial situation and to feel as though you are both on the same page and path as one another. 

Some ways to help improve the financial unity in your relationship include:

  • Discussing your finances openly and honestly
  • Taking an inventory of your spending habits and getting to know each other’s problem areas in terms of overspending and not being frugal enough
  • Honestly discussing your plans and goals in terms of finances
  • Creating a roadmap of your financial plans and goals to help set and achieve milestones together

Is it a problem when one partner makes more money?

In some relationships, it can be a problem when one partner makes more money. This is especially true when both partners in a relationship are extremely self-motivated, driven, and independent. In other relationship dynamics, it may be perfectly fine for one partner to make more money than the other if the other partner is contributing in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

The best way to deal with any financial strain or stress in a relationship is to discuss the matter at hand directly with your partner. This includes, in the case of a money imbalance in a relationship, being clear on where you both stand on this point.

frustrated woman as partner talks to relationship therapist

For example, if one partner is earning more than the other, you may want to both discuss how expenses are split as it can be reasonable for the higher earner to pay more in line with their increased earnings. In the longer term, this could also involve the higher earner contributing more to your shared financial goals, so the lower earner isn’t “left behind”.

If you split expenses with one partner earning significantly less than the other, it’s also a good idea to keep an open path of communication to ensure that the higher earner isn’t spending more than the other one is comfortable with. That is, if the higher earner wants to, say, go to dinner at a fancy restaurant that may be outside the lower earners budget, the other person needs to be comfortable raising this or else resentment can build on both sides.

On the other hand, if you’re not comfortable with earning less, it is important to consider your own options in terms of employment and your ability to generate a higher income. Perhaps you want to live without a job for a while to go back to school to train in a field that earns more money or maybe you can start a side hustle? This can also be a great topic to discuss with your partner to seek their support for your new venture.

Should I date someone who makes less money than me?

Dating someone who makes less money than you is certainly possible, especially if you are not adamant about being financial equals. In fact, it’s entirely normal for a couple to not have identical incomes. However, to avoid issues arising from this, it’s important to make sure you’re both willing to openly communicate about your financial concerns.

In particular, if you do not find money as the ultimate sign of success, it is possible to date someone who does not earn as much as you. In order to determine if you are compatible with someone who earns less than you, consider what means the most to you in a relationship and what matters in terms of connection, trust, and building a long-term partnership.

If you enjoy being the breadwinner or providing for a partner, it is much easier to jump into any relationship, regardless of your partner’s current financial situation or abilities. If you prefer to be the main breadwinner, it is advisable to seek out a partner who is comfortable with not contributing as much or contributing financially whatsoever.

While you may feel great about dating someone who does not earn as much money as you, it is equally as important to ensure that your partner feels the same. Dating a partner that does believe their income level matters can quickly lead to arguments or them feeling inadequate as you become more serious in your relationship with one another.

Should you marry someone who makes less money?

If you are open to the idea of dating someone who makes less money or who does not bring an income to the table, it’s certainly possible to marry someone who makes less money than you. However, it’s important for both partners to be upfront on any financial issues before they marry to avoid issues later. 

That is, while marriage is a long-term and serious commitment, you will not feel any different from marrying someone who makes less money than you if it was not an issue while dating and getting to know one another.

couple discussing their relationship finances and one-sided financial relationship

If you choose to marry someone who makes less money than you or does not contribute financially, there are a few tips to keep in mind, such as:

  • Giving a voice to both partners. Both partners involved in a marriage should have a voice with regards to finances, even if one partner does not earn an income or doesn’t earn as much. If you agree to enter into a marriage knowing that there is a money imbalance in your relationship, like if your partner does not make as much money as you or does not make any income at all, it is still important to give a voice to your partner even when discussing financial matters. For example, if your partner helps to contribute to the household by completing chores, cooking food, and taking care of children, you will still likely wish to have your own say and input on the matters from time to time. Similarly, providing your partner with a voice regarding financial matters is a way for them to feel more adequate and as equals.
  • Being open about your financial picture. Both partners involved in a committed relationship should remain open and honest about their finances at all times and this includes being able to discuss any financial imbalance in your relationship. Once you have made a commitment to one another or are committed to marrying someone who makes less money than you, being transparent with your finances is definitely a good thing to allow you to deal with money issues in a relationship. Partners who choose to keep their finances separate while avoiding disclosing income or spending are much more likely to experience growing frustrations and resentments when it comes to finances in the future.
  • Long-term financial goals. If you are thinking of marrying someone who makes less money or someone who does not bring home an income, consider your long-term financial goals. If you have long-term financial goals in place, like reaching financial freedom, it may be more challenging to marry someone who is not bringing in an income, especially if your income is only suitable for one person. Always ensure that the financial goals you have in mind for your future and for long-term purposes align with the partner you have chosen to enter into a relationship with, even if you are not yet married and even if there is a money imbalance in your relationship. Determine whether or not financial stability, growth, and expansion are important to you before you choose a partner who is unable or unwilling to contribute to the financial aspect of the relationship.

Can marrying someone with no money work?

Yes, marrying someone who does not have money or even a stable income can work. However, these scenarios are best suited for individuals who are wealthier or are financially independent enough to support their family without a secondary income source. 

For those who are struggling to make ends meet or living frugally, marrying someone with no money may cause unnecessary tension and feelings of resentment, depending on the dynamics of your relationship.

If you are someone who values time and effort when it comes to cooking, cleaning, and rearing children, marrying someone who does not earn an income may be entirely suitable for you. If you prefer to live a life of traveling the world, exploring, adventuring, and trying new things, you may do well with a partner who can also contribute financially if you are unable to support both of you.

Final thoughts on dealing with money imbalances in a relationship

Relationship finances and strains are rarely simplistic in nature, and must account for the individuals who are also involved in the relationship themselves. In a partnership, it is rare to deal with a one-sided financial relationship issue, especially if you are equally involved in paying or managing household expenses and bills.

Knowing how to deal with money issues with your partner, including if there is a money imbalance in your relationship, is not always simple or straightforward, especially if you are new to a committed relationship or just getting to know someone on a truly personal and intimate level. Understanding what is important to you in terms of finances and how much money matters to you is essential when searching for a long-term partner that is genuinely right for you. 

With knowledge of money matters, a financial plan of action for your future and a commitment to open communication, you can better navigate your relationships to determine what type of partner is most compatible with you.

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About the author

Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been seen in Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. She’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom using the experience gained from turning $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio. Find out more.