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You can't judge a partner by his salary

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Earning potential is no measure of a man's value as a partner

New York: What's your opinion on women who grossly out-earn their partners? I'm a raging feminist yet have difficulty with the fact that I make much more than my boyfriend. He doesn't have a college degree, so his lifetime salary ceiling is capped. If we ever buy a home, I'll have to pay more — but he can fix almost anything. Then I shudder to think "he's earning his keep."

How do people avoid resentment? If I made $250,000, I'd care less, but I don't want to face a lifetime of struggling with bills and never feeling financially secure (especially once we have kids) while dealing with the fact that he can't contribute equally.

Carolyn: If a boyfriend grossly out-earned you, would you lose sleep over his paying "more" toward a house? The lenses through which you're viewing this situation aren't doing you any good. Making it a male-female issue is a loser, because it's breathtakingly unfair; you can't demand/expect/capitalize on equal opportunity ("feminism") and then be dismayed at or disparage the men you out-earn. The inevitable consequence of a bias-free system is that roughly half of the women in hetero couples will have to get used to the idea of making more than their sweetumses.

If you use the equality-of-contribution lens, then you're still in trouble. First, you needlessly (and arbitrarily) limit your potential-mate pool. And, you ignore a big, salient fact of life: Careers soar and stall or get shelved entirely. An equal earner now can kick your butt in 10 years — or be a house spouse after a layoff. Your guy with the low "lifetime salary ceiling" could cash in on hard work, ideas or opportunities ... or get a degree. Are you going to revisit your choice of spouse with every career turn?

Please look at this man for who he is. Then, decide whether you're ready to throw your lot in with his and label it all "ours" — even through bad times, because everyone has them. If he's good to know in bad times, then that will prove priceless.

Re: New York

Anonymous: "(A) lifetime of struggling with bills ..."? Then don't choose a house/car/lifestyle that costs more than the two of you make, with breathing room and savings, right? I don't even understand her statement; it's a life they haven't even started to live, and it's already too expensive? We should each already feel financially secure supporting just ourselves.

Carolyn: Can't argue with that, thanks.

For New York:

Anonymous 2: My sister's boyfriend wanted nothing more in the world than to be a police officer. She knew they'd always struggle, but loved him and knew he was a good man, so they married and did okay.

A few years later, a traffic incident (not his fault) led to a forced retirement and unemployment. He decided to study up on financial counseling.

He now makes a six-figure salary with yearly trips to the Caribbean. Go fig. Money comes and goes; try not to get too hooked on "this will always be this way."

Carolyn: With character, though, it's wise to accept what you see as what you get. Thanks.

You can't judge a partner by his salary 05/15/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 15, 2011 5:30am]
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