Dear Helaine: My husband and I split expenses 65/35 because he came in to the relationship with far more money and earnings than I did. This worked fine for a long time, but I felt burdened with the housework, and I recently asked him to do more. His response was that he already was contributing more with his employment labor and income, and my extra housework was fair and only balancing things out.
I feel blindsided. We never agreed to this upfront, and I had always said I wanted a 50/50 partnership without traditional gender roles. Furthermore, we are living in a more expensive residence than I want -- he argued at the time his earnings could help pay for the monthly rent -- so returning to a 50/50 split of expenses isn't immediately feasible. Our arguments are getting worse. How would you handle this? -- Love, Money and Equality
Dear Love, Money and Equality: One of the currently popular ideas is that married couples should keep separate accounts and pool some portion of money in a joint one for household expenses. It sounds to me like that's what you are doing -- otherwise, how do you and your husband know how much each of you is exactly contributing?
I admit I am not a huge fan of this approach, precisely because of the argument you are describing. I've seen it work very well for some and very badly for others. You are, it seems, almost certainly in the latter group. If you are married or in a committed partnership, there's no reason to nickel and dime each other. It's a formula for resentment and anger, not to mention power games -- as you clearly discovered.
My advice? You and your husband need to stop thinking about his money and her money, and instead think of all earnings as belonging to the both of you. Financial decisions should be made jointly and not driven by the partner who happens to be contributing more money.
Housework is a harder issue. It's a burden that so often falls on women that research shows even in homes where the female spouse out-earns the male one, she still does more chores. I would suggest the two of you sit down and discuss how to best run the household. It's possible some chores can be performed less often. At the same time, you might also want to consider -- should your newly equal and joint finances permit it -- hiring help to handle some of the cleanup.
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