I make a lot less money than my boyfriend and even though I know it shouldn’t bother me—money doesn’t matter, follow your dreams, blah blah blah—I’ll be honest: it does. Here’s why.
I’m competitive. I know that this is a toxic mindset but I grew up with three bothers—I spent my entire childhood trying to be better than boys and feeling bad when I wasn’t, and that attitude didn’t just disappear when I went off into the real world. Even though I know it’s a bad habit, part of me still has that chip on my shoulder and feels the need to prove myself to the men in my life. Because of that, this salary differential makes me feel like I’ve failed.
I don’t like being the gold digger. I smile and endure the jokes, but being framed as the freeloader in my relationship is something that really bothers me. I like to think of myself as an independent person and I like to think of my partner and me as equals. His salary and the ensuing comments make me feel like we’re not.
It’s hard to go out on a budget. My heart says five-star dinners and nights on the town while my wallet says home cooking and staying in. I feel like I’m limiting myself socially, but I also feel like I’m limiting him because his budget would allow for these extravagant nights and he feels obligated to stay in with me instead.
I feel like I’m not good enough for him. I know that there’s so much more to life than money, yes, but I’m super insecure, and sometimes when I see a value written out in numbers, I believe it. Sure, salary doesn’t equate to worth, but it’s hard not to feel that way sometimes. Especially when you’re not making much.
He can’t relate to my financial woes. Finances are a huge source of stress in my life, but when I try to get some empathy from him, the issue goes right over his head. He can nod and say “being broke sucks,” but there’s a shallowness there that comes from not being truly empathetic—and how can I expect him to be?
I’m jealous, but not of his money. Of the freedom that comes with not having to budget, with not having to enter every single expenditure in a spreadsheet or carefully calculate how much gas you can buy to make it through the month. Sometimes it’s hard not to let this jealousy turn into resentment.
It threatens my independence. I like to think that I can take care of myself, that I don’t need help from anyone to do anything, but sometimes when he offers to pay for something he knows I can’t afford, it makes me feel like I’m not independent—or worse, that he doesn’t view me as an independent person.
Being tight on cash stresses me out. I’m not a good girlfriend when I’m stressed all the time. No one is. I’m so wrapped up in budgeting and managing my money that sometimes I forget to take a step back and enjoy the moment when we’re together instead of mentally calculating budgets and other costs. My financial stress has started to influence my personal life, and it’s a lot easier to manage a tight budget than your mental health.
It sets a weird tone for the rest of our relationship. If we continue dating and end up together—definitely something in the very distant future, if at all—I don’t want him to feel like he has to take care of me just because he’s making so much more money. I don’t want to be the gender stereotype just because it makes financial sense, and I don’t want our salary differential to make him feel backed into a corner.
I feel like caring about my salary so much makes me a shallow person. This makes me worry about being shallow in other aspects of my relationship. What other superficial things do I care too much about? And how can I make myself stress less about my finances? I know that financial planning is important, but so is balancing it with my own ingrained societal conditioning and mental health—and that’s something I’m definitely still learning.
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