Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money

You’ve weighed your career decisions, filtered your values and what’s most important to you, and decided on a job that will help you not only bring in a good income, but also balance those values and pursuits in the best possible way for your family–or so you thought. Suddenly, you’re getting outside pressure from your spouse to up your game…and you’re not sure where it’s coming from.

Money is a hot-button issue in most marriages, but the it tends to really hit a nerve where individual income is concerned. Whether one or both spouses is working, it’s not uncommon for at least one person in a marriage to feel like the other should be bringing in more money. If your spouse wants you to earn a better salary, there are probably multiple reasons for this–and you might need to dig deep to pinpoint some of them.

Today, we’ll explore some of the motivations for one spouse pressuring the other to raise their income, and a few ways you can approach the issue together. Chances are, you and your spouse share more common ground than you realize when it comes to your dreams for the future and your desires for your family’s security.

What’s Your Angle?

It’s painful to realize that your and your spouse’s life dreams are out of sync. A great place to start exploring your differing viewpoints is to try to understand where your spouse is coming from. Did your spouse come from a family of origin that placed a high value on material possessions, job security, or a certain income level? Does he or she want a higher level of income for more freedom, more opportunities, or the chance to travel and have experiences that require extra money? Is he or she hoping to spend more time at home with the children? Or does your spouse want to pursue a degree that requires him or her to work fewer hours in the meantime?

Understanding your spouse’s motivations will give you empathy as you attempt to approach the situation in a constructive way. Most likely, your spouse isn’t trying to be destructive by asking for more money, but their emotions around the subject might prevent them from seeing your side of the coin. Now that you know where his or her mind is, you can make your case more effectively.

Does your spouse realize what you’d be saying “no” to if you said “yes” to a more demanding job? Maybe you work a job that affords you plenty of time with your spouse or your children, and you don’t want to give that up in favor of overtime or a more demanding position. Or you might have chosen your current job because it’s a means to an end that allows you to pursue your true passion on the side–a job that, if you gave it up, would prevent you from pursuing your dream.

Explain to your spouse what he or she (or your family) stands to lose if you take a higher-paying job. Maybe you currently provide them with quality time you’d be giving up, or you might have responsibilities at home you’ll no longer be able to maintain.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Work together to identify and weigh the pros and cons of you bringing in a larger income. You can get everything in front of you by dividing a piece of paper into “Pro” and “Con” columns, then making notes on each of your stances. Remember to value your relationships with one another and your children over financial resources, and check in with yourselves to make sure your priorities are in order.

More importantly, don’t assume your spouse has his or her priorities mixed up; he or she might want more money for the family to take adventure trips or have special experiences together that you currently can’t afford. It’s important to remember you might just have different ideas of what you can accomplish together, based on your income.

As you make your list of pros and cons, you’ll probably find that you have many more dreams and desires in common than you realized before, even though this issue feels highly polarized. And your spouse may bring motivations to light that he or she didn’t know how to put into words before. If you can both get to the crux of why raising your income is so important, you’ll stand a better chance of pursuing a constructive solution.

Finding a Mutually-Beneficial Solution

Once the two of you have hashed out your motivations and dreams for your family’s finances, you can land on a solution that works for you both.

If your spouse is craving a sense of financial security–perhaps because of fears stemming from a financially insecure childhood–work together to create a plan that provides more emotional safety. This might involve finding a way to get extra money into savings, or having a solid fallback plan if your current career is uncertain. Your spouse also needs to be willing to become a part of meeting those security needs in a way that works for your family so all the burden isn’t resting on your shoulders. Taking ownership of that fear of financial crisis will, ultimately, make your spouse feel more confident and peaceful about the family’s finances.

If your spouse’s motivations tend to be more material in nature, consider whether your values line up enough to pursue a higher-paying job–but don’t get into the frenzy of trying to achieve a lifestyle that doesn’t fit what you deeply value. If the idea of a weightier job doesn’t work for you, the two of you might agree instead on a contained amount of overtime that will help you achieve specific financial goals, like taking that vacation you’ve been talking about. And if your spouse simply can’t let go of that higher-income dream, you can offer to commit more time to responsibilities at home to allow him or her to take on earning that extra money.

You both have good reasons for choosing the stances you’ve taken regarding earnings and career pursuits. And it’s always possible that your spouse is making a legitimate case for you to pursue a higher income. As the two of you explore your individual situation, we encourage you to each take an honest, objective evaluation of yourself, your career, and your family’s income and material needs to determine your next steps.

Have you and your spouse clashed about how much money you make? What did you do about it? Let us know in the comments!

9 Comments

  • Monica says:

    I wish you had discussed the other side, what to do when the reasons to request more income are to pave the way out of the marriage ? Or how to discern that type of intention?
    Your advice assumes good faith from both sides, and adding a comment at the end of your blogs for the difficult situations, would be more realistic and helpful for all your audience.

  • Stacy says:

    It’s tragic to see Christian marriages/relationships go the way of society and live down to the world’s ways than live up to God’s. We live in a fallen world but, as the redeemed, shouldn’t continue to fall with it.

  • Denise says:

    What about a spouse who wants YOU to make more money, because they refuse to work, as they pursue their “entrepreneurial” pursuits for which they want YOU to work and fund? at the same time, you are also funding the home, the family, the bills and the children’s post-secondary education! some godly wisdom is needed here.

    • Kileen says:

      I have no advice. I can only say I’m in the same situation (except I’m funding preschool and my children’s 529 funds rather than their post-secondary education) and I know how tough it is.

  • Lorraine says:

    I understand compromising for the household finances and other household priorities. It is difficult to compromise when a spouse wants more from you because he has the pressure of taking care of other family members who do not live in the home.. Everyone in the family are adults however, they expect my spouse to take care of their household as well. My spouse works so much that there is hardly any time to build a strong positive bond between us , enjoy quality time, and does not take time for their own self-care. How do we compromise on this when the other is dead set on being the provider for all households but at times neglect their own.

  • Annette says:

    I find in the church community when you have young children (up to teens) they expect you to be a stay_at_home Mum. There is a lot of pressure to work in the school community as most of the Mums and Dad work substantial hours. As Christians we are called to be different to the mainstream community. Puzzled where this leaves us?.

  • Sherry says:

    I just learned 4 months ago my husband has been in major debt for 3 years. And the Bank demanded 1/2 of my savings! Why? The bank kept my paid land mortgage since 2008 and used for my husband debt and to get the paid mortgage, I had to pay the bank 162,000.00 savings! I am now asking how can I save the rest of my savings because my husband is still in debt!!

  • Charlotte says:

    For as long as I can remember, money has become a taboo topic unless we want to fight and argue. I tend to want to avoid conflict or fighting. Any suggestions or recommendations, which I attempt to make are considered controlling. In order to have a peaceful home, I try not to bring it up. I remain silent and wonder whatever has happened to the confident woman who could conquer the world and had it together. Math and organization use to be a gift and strong point at one time. Trying to accept and settle for a long time marriage which has no team effort and limited communication . ~ call me a woman with no voice

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