Dear Dating Coach,
I am a single girl in my late twenties. I always wanted to be a lawyer and feel very proud that I was able to accomplish that goal. I recently went out with a great guy who is a teacher in a local Jewish school. He is really smart and funny and I thought we were getting along well. Then he mentioned to me that when he gets married, he wants to be considered the “bread winner,” so he would want to live mostly within the means of his salary. I worked so hard to get my degree and I have an amazing job at a huge law firm. I make a generous salary and have no intention of pretending I cannot afford to live a certain way because my future husband has a chauvinist complex about money! Do I walk away? I feel like we connect otherwise, but this really bothers me!
I once almost got stuck in an elevator. Everything started off fine. I walked in, pressed G and stood in my allotted corner. The elevator doors closed with an ominous click (I may be exaggerating slightly here. But it felt ominous to me.) Then nothing. The elevator didn’t move. I was trapped. All. Alone. In. An. Elevator. This was a “call the fire department, bring the ladders, summon the helicopter” type of emergency. The air slowly seeped out of the tiny, minuscule, microscopic, itty-bitty space. The walls started closing in, the time slowly ticking, the doors stuck, forever holding me hostage.
Then I opened my eyes and noticed the two other lovely humans in the elevator with me. Suddenly, I felt fine. We would figure this out together! I took a precious breath determined to bolster my fellow prisoners, when the doors suddenly opened. Sixty seconds had gone by. I know, my bravery knows no bounds.
Feel the Gelt
Thank you for your question. You worked hard to achieve a professional goal and are certainly entitled to your success. You met someone that you feel you could potentially see a future with and were shocked by a statement he made. You may accept the idea that men may inherently feel the need to “provide,” and to make sure their future families have what they need. But today, surely, we have come to a place, you believe, where a disparity in salary is to be expected in some relationships with so many women in the workforce. You thought that certainly a man can’t necessarily assume that he will earn more than his spouse in 2022? You don’t have an issue with it, since you were open to dating a teacher who statistically earns less than a lawyer. What bothers you however, is his insistence that you would need to live within “his” means, instead of within “our” means.
On the Money
It’s time to talk. Carefully and respectfully raise this issue again. Explain to him that while your salary might be higher than his, your earnings would be used for your collective family. It would not be, “what I can afford” versus “what you can afford” but rather “what WE can afford,” based on what you earn together. If he, however, is nursing a deeper issue of gender roles and his inability to make space for your success, then you may want to take the time to reconsider the shaky foundation that your relationship will be based on. If he believes that the one who earns more is “more valuable” in a marriage then you might be on fundamentally different pages. He may not be able to see how hurtful his view is; how it marginalizes the “stay at home mom” and the worth of her negative salary role, how it diminishes your success, and how it minimizes couples everywhere and how they chose to divide their earning ability. A married couple shares responsibility, and together decide how they will balance the many tasks that a marriage and family bring, like earning money, raising children, household chores, etc. This is not a one person alone in the elevator obligation. Marriage means that you need to figure things out as a unit. With care, patience, and understanding, I hope that you can express that to him. Together is always better.