Money and Marriage: Are You in Competition with Your Spouse Over Income?

money and marriage

Some couples come off as squabbling siblings due to intense competition. While it could be beneficial to be competitive in certain areas of your life, within the confines of a marital relationship, competition can be detrimental.

Marriage is best experienced as teamwork where you support and show up the other in their best lights. It’s often better without the toxicity of trying to prove who is better than the other.

In marriage, competition can come in different guises. Some parents strive to see who gets more attention and approval form the kids. They try to outdo each other in being the “better” parent and may feel slighted if the children show more affection for their spouse.

Competition in couples can also come in the form of societal acceptance. The spouse with more friends and more popularity is often envied by their partner. And this may, in turn, give rise to unhealthy popularity contest within the marriage.

But one of the most dangerous forms of competition in a marriage is that over money.

Money issues in marriages are in the top three reasons for divorce. Competition about money in married couples could center on who earns more amongst them, who is more successful or has the more prestigious jobs.

This state of competitiveness often ends up spelling doom for the relationship. A typical example can be found in the slew of celebrity marriages where the relationship starts to crumble right around the time when one of the partner’s careers took off.

So How Do You Know When You’re in Competition Over Income With Your Life Partner?

The tell-tale signs of unhealthy competition may not be easy to spot especially if you are the challenged party. But an honest and hard look into some of your attitudes towards your partner will show up your need to try to outdo them.

Here we looked at some signs which could signal the start of a financial rivalry in your union:

You feel resentful about their achievement

She comes home buzzing with excitement. She’s been recently promoted to COO and can’t wait to spill the excellent news to hubby. But to her dismay, the life-changing news was met with a pouty “good for you, I guess.” So much for sounds of popped champagne and backslaps

Do you feel resentful towards your partner for earning more than you do? Do their accomplishments rankle you?

This is most common with men, and it’s tied to gender roles.

While it may seem old-fashioned, the majority of people still believe the man is supposed to be the dominant provider in a marriage. Therefore, a situation where the man’s career and income are overtaken by his wife might leave him feeling emasculated.

Their ego and societal expectations may trigger them to see their spouses’ achievements as a challenge to their masculinity, and therefore, something to be matched or surpassed. These feelings often turn to bitterness towards the wife and affect the dynamics of the relationship even up to their sex lives.

When couples stop celebrating each other’s successes, the end of the marriage is not too far off.

Trying to outshine one another

When one partner constantly tries to outshine the other, they usually belittle them and their accomplishments. A man can tell his acquaintances at a small gathering how he won a big account or earned a massive bonus and his wife, not to be outdone will chip in that hers was twice as big. Her intent being is to make light his achievements as compared to hers.

This need to upstage one’s partner is usually borne out of feelings of inadequacy over their own perceived lack of accomplishments. A man may become resentful of the fact that his wife is moving up the corporate ladder faster than he is. Or even because she earns more than he does.

When you catch yourself trying to upstage your spouse, pause and ask yourself why you need to make their achievements seem small. It’s essential you allow your spouse to take center stage sometimes without feeling the need to show you are better off. After all, you are a team, and him/her successes are your success too.

Let him/her have their moments.

Keeping score

Another tell-tale sign of competition over money in a marriage is when you catch your spouse deliberately but secretly trying to sabotage your efforts. Since they realize it may be improper and not socially-acceptable to stop their spouse’s progress openly, partners find underhand ways to frustrate their efforts.

Though, some partners might not be so subtle about it. At a party, a female senatorial aspirant was trying her best to charm people to her side while her husband, at the other end of the table, was loudly telling who cared to listen, reasons why she shouldn’t run for the position.

Remember when Hillary was campaigning for the presidency? Bill Clinton made so much public blunder (the baggage of his scandals and impeachment hearings asides) that people believed he was trying to weaken her position subconsciously.

Some common ways subterfuge can be employed include creating a crisis to distract their partner and prevent them from giving their goals their one hundred percent.

Some men might guilt trip their wives about focusing on their career at the expense of their family. Accusing them of neglecting the kids are especially painful for women. They could also refuse to help out with chores at home or do an abysmal job of it so that their partner will have to do it themselves despite their overwhelming commitments.

How Do You Tackle Competition in Marriage?

Have you noticed some signs of competition in your marriage? Do you feel your spouse is not supportive of your aspirations?

Take time to reflect on this.

It’s crucial that you broach the subject with them early on. Tell them exactly how you’ve noticed they have been competing against you – belittling your wins, sabotaging your efforts or trying to upstage you. Positively reassure them of your love and affection.

Are you the jealous party? Maybe you are competitive by nature and sometimes forget that marriage is teamwork. Or could it be that you feel insecure for some reasons?

Come clean with yourself and try to get at the roots of your competitiveness. Finally, it’s essential you work it out and work as a team instead of trying to get one up on each other.

If you two are unable to reconcile your differences, it’s time you get professional help. A marriage counselor can help you patch things up with your spouse and find common grounds for you two to complement each other rather than compete. A toxic relationship can ruin your life including your finances as well.

BA in Accountancy, he entered the entrepreneurial world by starting his first online marketing business in 2004. Passionate about personal finance, the stock market and a digital marketing addict. I also love to read books on entrepreneurship and technology and always on the lookout for new opportunities. I'm an avid golfer and currently a 15 handicapper.

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