Elizabeth Davies says she's learning that a committed relationship is not a financial competition

Elizabeth Davies says she's learning that a committed relationship is not a financial competition

By Elizabeth Davies

They say one of the most common reasons cited for divorce is stress and disagreements caused by financial issues. What’s mine, what’s yours and what… if anything… is ours?

I’ve always been pretty good with my money and from a young age have tried – to the best of my ability – to be financially independent. I’ve never taken out a loan, had a credit card, or borrowed money from family or friends. I live within my means and pride myself on paying my own way. I’ve never had a sugar daddy and for the most part in my relationships we’ve always gone dutch.

I never wanted to feel like someone had power over me by financially supporting me. I never wanted to feel like I owe someone something because they’re paying my bills. So far, apart from thoroughly appreciating the years where my family supported me, I’ve happily stood on my own two feet.

Here comes the first big test of my long term relationship. Now that we have moved to Tauranga I do not have a full time job. I work Saturdays and Sundays as well as the writing I do for Interest.co.nz. As a result I’m now, to a certain extent, financially dependent on my partner Mike.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a big change and it’s difficult. For the first time our very title ‘partners’ is being redefined and balance is becoming about more than financial contribution.

In situations like this it’s easy to see how relationships become strained, and resentment can develop. Either I resent him because I’m now in the situation where I rely on him, or he resents me because he has to support me.

Thankfully neither of these issues are effecting us at this stage. I financially contribute what I can, as well as keeping the house running by cooking, cleaning and looking after the dog etc. We’re striking a balance, and each pulling our weight in different ways.

For a lot of people relationships and commitment can be measured by the extent to which your two lives are entwined.

Realistically, in life and relationships, and everything else, money is power. When you allow someone to financially support you, you give them all of your power. That level of commitment is terrifying, especially when experiencing it for the first time.

The last person to financially support me was my Dad, and it goes without saying I don’t want my relationship to resemble that of a parent/child.

It takes a huge amount of love and trust to allow yourself to rely on someone else. I’m learning that in a committed relationship it’s not a financial competition, or it sure as hell shouldn’t be. It’s not him versus me in a unhealthy money power struggle. It’s not about him supporting me, it’s about us supporting each other.


Elizabeth Davies is a 24 year-old graduate of the Auckland University of Technology post graduate journalism course. She writes a weekly article for interest.co.nz on money matters and financial struggles from a young person's perspective.

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With salaries being deposited in a joint account, discrepancy between wages is irrelevent. Paying regular bills are simpler. But there will always be the negotiation required for individual-specific purchases.
From your previous posts it is obvious that you are not a big spender. If your partner is not one either then its looking very good for the future       :)

Strokes for folks, you must find you comfort level with how much you share.
From very near the beginning of my 20+ year relationship, as soon as a family was planned, it was all in joint funds. Knowing and recognising that all contributions of labour, unpaid within the household and paid outside, should be considered equal regardless of the amount of funds they generate or save is key.
Jealously guarding your share or claiming higher entitlement in some way is the friction point in most cases.
At times we both have assumed the sole or major income earner role. As a result we were able to raise 3 kids, complete studies, buy appliances, cars and furniture, relocate several times, weather unemployment and illness, buy our first home and upgrade to a second and now third, with only minimal sacrifice, but not hardship and only budgeted manageable debt. We have credit cards for purchase convenience, but have paid no interest on them at any time.
Discussions about money have been few and only lightly stressed as we affirmed the common goals as far more important than dwelling on the volume of individual contributions. Now may be a time for you to accept the goodwill graciuosly in anticipation that it may be your turn to provide it in future.

My wife (used to be partner, but then one day we got married, I'm off topic already) quit her job to follow me overseas to further my career. It was part of the deal, we wanted to be together, and she was willing to give up her job so that we could do it. She has since had other jobs and is really good at them, winning awards, etc. She has agreed to quit her current job to follow me overseas, yet again. I feel fortunate that she is so supportive. I am also glad that when she does work, she gets paid well. I hope interest.co.nz pays a good rate for the articles :) And I am sure other opportunities will arise, too. All the best.

That reminds me, we might get a dog when we come back. We work from home a lot, and it would be great to have a 4-legged companion.

Go for it Elizabeth.  You are rediscovering what everybody used to know.   As a system it's an oldie but a goodie. 

well when  you've been made redundant a few times, and gone through some actual money stress you might find that iife isn't a walk in the park for the less fortunate.  I hope you never have to find out.

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