Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money

By July 26, 2017February 23rd, 2018Careers, Communication, Conflict

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!

15 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.

    • Lalo says:

      This struck a nerve for me! So hard to watch your spouse grind for others but take little time to care for self. I just want my spouse to be more attentive to our needs and personal needs. Tough when like you said, “grown” family members are the issue.

  • 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

  • Pete C says:

    My spouse works in a high profile corporation earning probably four times more than me, as I have been running my own business even before our marriage. We have two lovely children. Her rationale is that i should be working for a corporation as well (as i used to work as a highly paid executive for corporations but deep down was at conflict with the corporate lifestyle, and lacking the required stamina) to continue earning the big bucks for our children’s future and enjoy life with what money can buy. The thing is, somehow she’s always made me feel like my worth is equivalent to what paycheck i bring home. My business has taught me the values of compassion, creativity, positivity, patience, which i teach my children, and these weren’t so accessible to me in my corporate life. Perhaps, i don’t know any better. but it just doesn’t feel right when someone sees the worst of you rather than the nurturing the best of you.

    • Kerri says:

      Maybe she feels exhausted and stressed at her job as you have more freedom? What are you doing to offset her stress and make her feel loved and appreciated for working a high demand job? Self Employment and high profile corporation jobs are two completely different jobs. Perhaps she should agree to do it for a set amount of years then switch and you take the high pressure and she take the less stressful, seems fair.

  • Jen says:

    My spouse works a low level job and does not seem to want to do anything to move up. He makes me feel guilty for wanting to take classes or do something to improve my skills, work extra jobs, go to school, etc., because it takes time away from “being with him” or my health may suffer. He does help out by giving me some money from his paychecks each month and I’m grateful. If I ask he usually will help out, but often he just has nothing left over after his own expenses. I have 3 teens at home from my prior marriage, so I realize that I need to shoulder most of the financial burden. But, he was an alcoholic and left me totally bankrupt. They aren’t his kids and rent is so high. I realize that he could get by in a little studio on his own. It makes me feel unloved though. I feel bad, like I’m being materialistic. It is just that I need some security. He keeps telling me that I need to work on not being so afraid and worrying about tomorrow. It is a sin to worry about the future. He talks about when he was married before and he made a lot of money and paid for his wife’s stuff like hair and plastic surgery. But, I guess he thinks I’m not worth any of that. Not that I want anything fancy, but it would be nice to be able to afford a haircut.
    We barely make rent, he has unpaid bills, we have no savings, go without. My kids work to buy all their own clothes, glasses, school stuff. He spends money on stupid tattoos, cigarettes, things for himself. I am struggling physically (I have health issues) to work full time, in so much pain each day. I worry that if I can’t keep up working so much we will be homeless. We are 50 and not getting any younger.

  • Roberta says:

    My husband and I have been together for 20 years (married for 17), and we have 2 daughters (13 and 15 years old).
    At the beginning of our relationship, I worked and supported our household (I was working 8-12 hours per day and doing all the housework); my husband was studying and working on building a business. We lived in his parents’ apartment (parents were not living there), and we did not pay rent. I was responsible for all the other expenses. Our agreement was that we were sacrificing a few years of our lives, but we would have enough money to live comfortably. In 2008-2009, my husband’s business failed because of the economic crisis. He lost much money, and at that point, we had money borrowed from the bank in both our names for his business. The loan ended up unpaid, and our Romanian credit history is damaged.
    When I gave birth to our daughters, I was responsible for all their delivery expenses and their needs (food, clothing, medical care, daily care, etc.). When our younger daughter was 2 months old, we moved from Europe to the US. I had a job that did not make much money for a few months. My husband decided to be a truck driver. He was not good enough with taking care of the children while I was at work, I was not making enough money, I was coming from work to find the house a mess, and starting to clean up, cook, do laundry, etc. He, again, said that trucking would make us enough money, and I would only take care of the children while he was making sure we had everything we needed. I disagreed with his decision, but I had no choice but to live with it.
    He did make money, but he soon became tired of working for other people. So, he pushed I was going back to school. I did explain that getting a Master’s Degree without having a job in that field was not a good idea. He insisted that I did it. He even threatened me with divorce if I did not do it. At that time, we owned a small trucking business; he was on the road weeks at a time, I was working 8-10 hours /day for his business, I was taking care of the house and studying. Periodically, he would cause arguments because I was not making money.
    After a few months, we ended up buying a house. At this point, I was working for his business, taking care of the children and the home, I was doing a Master’s program, and took over taking care of a third of an acre property (mowing, cleaning, etc.). He was constantly belittling me for not making money. Several times, he has hurt me physically. I should mention that I had never received payment for my work. The money was for the family, and I had to explain if I took money out other than our basic needs. Also, he was “giving me something to do” because I was not doing anything, and I could not find a job. He was also capable of doing everything for the business, “a one-man show,” and I was useless. However, I was invoicing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, booking loads, bookkeeping, taking care of the legal matters. He expected me to negotiate any repairs, delays, mistakes happening in the company. Get credits when needed, sometimes within 1-2 days when there were breakdowns to continue to run the business. I did all that. Just to be told that “all you know is borrow money.”
    In 2014, I graduated, and I started looking for a job. My husband expected me to make $8,000 after tax per month right after graduation. He made it very clear that I had to stay and work for our business if I was not making that money. He was, however, threatening to stop working and complaining that I was not making money. I could not find a job that was paying so much money without experience or having any connections in that field (I did my Master’s online to support our family). I was looking for jobs; I had no time for volunteering or taking a part-time job. I had no connections and no way to make that kind of money. He was more and more threatening towards me emotionally and physically.
    Eventually, I got a full-time job with a different company, for a 4th of what he was expecting, which resulted in much criticism. I was still doing bookkeeping, invoicing, and accounts payable/receivable for his company. I was not doing enough. I eventually resigned from the position because I could not take the pressure that I was not making enough money. I was determined to start a small business of my own while still helping him. Several times, I asked for his help. The response was, “you do the work, and I support you emotionally.” Should I tell you that he has never asked me to help him with his business? He just ordered me to do so without any training or knowledge of the business. I had to learn on the spot. Should I also mention that any mistake was my fault?
    However, shortly after my resignation, we had to close his business, and both of us took other jobs. He is still a truck driver; with his experience, he makes more than double my wage while I am struggling to recover from all those years of “not working” and lack of pertinent references. In the meantime, I do all the housework (cooking, laundry, cleaning, yard work, like always! It is true that sometimes the girls help).
    My entire income goes into the home. He is upset because I do not make enough money. I am currently at the point where I can get a supervisor position, but it is not happening fast enough. So, even though he makes more money, he still puts much pressure on me to pay more and more. I have to get a second job (which I have tried without him suggesting it, but I work in a rather stressful environment, and I have a somewhat awkward schedule with much overtime that does not easily allow getting another job).

    I should also mention that back in October 2021 he went to Romania for his 30 years high school graduation. He tested positive for Covid, so he ended up staying there for three weeks instead of 10 days. 2 of those weeks, he did not talk to me because I tried to control him (I told him to contact my brother if he did not feel good and needed medical care). I did not know where he stayed; I did not know who he was with, I did not know if we had enough money to support ourselves since he had not worked for 3 weeks (he has a bank account that I cannot access), I did not know what to expect since he blocked me on social media, phone, etc. I thought that he might not want to be together anymore. So, I was preparing for a potential separation/him not returning from Romania. One of the things that I did was buy a car while he was not talking to me. We had two older cars, none in my name, and I wanted to be prepared for anything.
    Buying the car made things even worse than before. He returned. I am paying for the car. I am paying even more than I did before purchasing the car with my overtime money. I donated plasma and worked as many hours as I was allowed to work; nothing is enough. I pay for his health insurance; I pay half of the mortgage (even though the garage and basement are overflowing with all kinds of things for the trucking business that are not useful anymore, yet he will not sell or discard). He is eating 1/3 close to ½ of our food. I do his laundry, clean his car, etc. He has no regard for the cleanliness of our home. He is never helping with other than seldom cooking and leaving the kitchen a huge mess afterward because “I cooked”.
    Today he has decided that he will not pay for our daughter’s tutoring because “it is your turn”. He yelled that I had to take a part-time job since I did not have a lot to do (he never does yard work because I do not make enough money). I feel used, disrespected, not understood, tricked, etc. I wish I could divorce, but I am in a cycle of dependency and not enough money; that is scary.
    I do not even know where to start and what to do. He threatened to make the girls hate me; the girls insisted that I divorce. I think that, I am trying to find out if I should feel guilty or not. I am feeling guilty for not making more, even though I am doing the best I can. I can understand that it is frustrating to have more financial responsibility, but he is not helping me in any way so I can work more. I feel that he wants me to do everything I am doing now, and participate with more money.

    What would you do?

    • Roberta says:

      Also, during the years he made many purchases that I did not agree with, yet, I have to pay for now. I do have debit card debt made while I tried to start a business, or support his business. I am paying for some of it with my income. Still does not make a difference.

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