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A controversial post about couples splitting travel costs has folks debating love and money

A controversial post about couples splitting travel costs has folks debating love and money

It all started with an AITA ("Am I the Asshole?" for the uninitiated) on Reddit, in which a man explained how he and his rich family went on a ritzy vacation and invited his girlfriend along, expecting her to pay her share of it. He comes from a moneyed family and makes $150,000 a year. She's a teacher, making $45,000. She took a second job to be able to afford to go on the trip, but still had to duck out of some outings and meals because they were too pricey for her budget.

The man wanted to know if he was the a-hole because he was disappointed that she didn't just tell him she was struggling with the cost. As if it weren't obvious, and he couldn't have offered to cover what she couldn't. The whole story was wild, and his responses to people's comments were even wilder (as he came to the realization that he "deserved more" than her) so yeah, he was most definitely the a-hole in the situation.

But the post did prompt a lot of interesting conversation about what is actually reasonable to expect financially in a relationship between two people who make drastically different incomes.


It's a big question, considering that how often couples fight over finances. A study of more than 4,500 couples in the journal Family Relationships found that arguing about money early on was the strongest predictor of divorce, so you definitely want to get that piece ironed out early on.

Some people take the "equitable, not equal" approach. If one partner makes significantly more money than the other, then they should pay a larger share of the couple's expenses.

But does that go for all expenses or just the non-negotiable bills? What if one partner is a big spender while the other is more frugal? What if the person who makes less money is the one who wants to spend more?

What if the person who contributes more then feels like they have more say in or control over financial decisions? What if the person making less money turns out to be a freeloader? See? Talking about money can help you figure out elements of your partner's personality that might end up being a dealbreaker down the road.

Some suggest having yours/mine/ours accounts, where you share one account for shared expenses, but maintain separate accounts so you have some independent money that you don't have to consult your partner about. Of course, you still have to determine how much each person contributes to the shared account. A percentage of income might be fair, or a percentage of expected bill amounts.

According to advice from Quicken, keeping an account of your own isn't a bad idea. They recommend that each partner maintain a separate bank account in their own name, even if they have a shared account for most things, so that they can have some amount of money that they have complete control over.

Then there's the "pool it all together and share everything" approach. This is what I and my husband of 23 years and I have done, and it's worked out just fine. We've each made varying amounts of money during our marriage, with him out-earning me by a lot during most of it since I worked part-time from home while the kids were young, but we see the money we earn as the family's money for the most part, so it's not been an issue. If we want to buy something outside of the norm, we talk about it.

That approach works for us because we share the same values around money and are both conscientious about spending. For some people, especially those who have been in relationships where money was used to control or abuse, total sharing might not work. Each couple has to choose what works for them.

The key, as with almost any other aspect of a relationship, is communication. Make clear what you feel is important when it comes to money, and acknowledge that what your partner feels is important carries the same weight. Sometimes you'll have to compromise and sometimes each person will have to concede something.

But whatever you do, don't wait to talk openly and honestly about money matters in a relationship. The girlfriend in the AITA post likely skirted disaster with that boyfriend, as it sounds like he would have been a nightmare to be married to. She's lucky to have found out now what he truly values.

Money isn't everything, but it's a pretty big something in a relationship. Get it figured out early, and you'll save yourself a lot of stress and frustration in the long run.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

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