Whether you’ve been the main breadwinner from the get go, or you recently received that long-awaited pay rise, earning more than your partner can create some challenges.
“One of the main issues is that we tend to follow patterns from our childhood. When we deviate from those behavioural patterns, it creates issues for one or both partners,” says psychologist Sabina Read, referring to the expectations amongst many males that they will be the main breadwinner, just as their fathers did.
But while traditional notions of marriage and the family unit can exacerbate the issue, Read says a pay imbalance does not mean the relationship is destined to suffer.
“It’s about how a couple balances and manages the difference. There are so many roles that we play in a couple, and earning money, while it’s an important one, is certainly not the only one.”
According to Read, couples need to have an open dialogue early on in the relationship about where they’re moving towards and how each partner contributes to those goals.
During these discussions, Read says couples should avoid assuming that they know what their other half is thinking.
“Discuss beliefs regarding how each individual links self-identity and self-worth to jobs and income, because there are so many other ways that people give to a relationship,” she says. “That needs to be discussed openly to acknowledge and recognise what each partner is bringing [to the relationship], so that resentment and guilt doesn’t build.”
Read’s other tips include discussing practical financial issues early on in the relationship, and continuing to have this conversation going forward. Couples should also keep sight of the bigger picture, including their goals and dreams, so that each partner can see what each one brings to the relationship or family unit.
The partner pay gap: source of tension, or opportunity to explore different roles in a relationship? Have your say below.