This isn’t true for everyone, of course, but many women tend to tie their sense of self-worth to a good balance of personal and professional achievements. Their identity and self-esteem are connected to their friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, and careers. Men, on the other hand, tend to tie their sense of self-worth tightly to their jobs, and, furthermore, their wealth. It’s why career setbacks can send them spiraling out of control for weeks, while women can usually get back on track after sharing a bottle of wine and a good chat with a friend. It’s just harder for men to feel that their careers and their money aren’t where they want them to be.
If your partner’s finances aren’t what he wants them to be, you may find yourself having to walk on some eggshells. There’s basically only one thing that feels worse for a man than being in a bad financial situation, and that’s having a romantic partner around to see it. Men want to be providers for their partners, should they have partners. They don’t want to be a charity case. They don’t want to feel like your project. They don’t want you worrying about them: they want to be the one looking after you.
Whether he’s lost his job, taken a salary cut, had an investment not work out, or has a business that’s slow to pick up, if your partner isn’t satisfied with his money matters right now, he’ll be sensitive. It’s important to be aware of that, because accidentally hurting his ego can cause a huge fight. You probably mean well, but the mind of a financially-challenged man is complicated. Here are things that can hurt a man’s financial pride.
Bringing it up in front of others
Never, ever bring up his financial situation in front of others. If you’re hanging out with another couple who says something like, “We should all go on a cruise together this summer!” Do not say something to the effect of, “My partner can’t afford that right now,” or “That’ll be tough right now since my partner isn’t making much money.” He does not want outsiders to know he’s struggling.
Asking, “Can you afford this?” about a gift
If he gives you a gift that you believe he spent too much on, just thank him and accept it. Don’t start saying things like, “How much was this? No, really, tell me. If it was over $200, I want to give you money for it.” Or “Are you sure you can afford it? These are pretty expensive…I can return it and we can get me something less expensive.”
Clearly choosing the cheap date for his sake
When it comes to planning date night, this probably isn’t the time to choose the rooftop restaurant with the $25 valet parking and $17 cocktails. But also don’t try to convince your man that you genuinely feel like eating fast food on your date night or that you just have a hankering for microwave dinners. He sees right through that.
Lying to your family about his situation
You naturally don’t want your parents to worry about your partner’s ability to provide for you. But don’t jump the gun and decide on some lie, on your own, to tell them—like that his company just landed $200,000 in funding, when that simply isn’t true. Ask him what he’d like you to tell them. Or leave it to him to talk to them about his financial situation.
Offering to hire him
Do not, under any circumstances, offer to hire your partner. Things are tricky enough when you work with your partner and are equals in the business. Don’t you dare offer to hire your partner as your assistant or receptionist or something like that. That will destroy his ego. He should not work beneath you. It would ruin your romantic dynamic.
Offering to get him a job
Also don’t offer to get your partner a job. Don’t start making calls and pulling strings that he didn’t ask you to make or pull. It’s usually important to a man to do this on his own. He may ask for help from others—like friends or family—but he doesn’t want you to be finding him work. That is bad for his ego.
Asking to review his spending
Maybe you suspect that he doesn’t know how to budget. You’d love to teach him. But don’t ask for him to print out bank and credit card statements so you can review them, and point out his mistakes. That feels like a tutor shaming a student. You can have a casual, hypothetical conversation about spending—but don’t ask to see documents.
Giving him money
Don’t try to sneak a few hundred bucks in his wallet. Don’t Venmo him $300, claiming it’s for something you forgot to pay him back for last year. Don’t leave a blank check on his nightstand. Men need to work for their money to feel like they are useful. He doesn’t want to feel like a charity case to you. Ever.
Not accepting his payment for his half
If you two usually split the rent, utilities, groceries, car payment—whatever it is—accept his half of the payment. Don’t deny it, saying he needs to hold onto the money right now. Don’t give it right back to him. Don’t avoid him when he tries to pay you. Don’t make up excuses like, “Well I used more of the apartment this month because I work from home so I should pay more rent.”
Covering the bill before he has a chance
When you dine out or do something fun, don’t be tricky and slip the server your credit card to pay for it all while your partner is in the bathroom. Or secretly order the movie tickets online, in advance, with your credit card, only revealing to your partner you’ve already bought them when you get to the theater. You’re trying to be generous, but it makes him feel like your child.
Suggesting he could be a house husband
You could be sitting there thinking, “I make more than enough money to cover the two of us. It exhausts me to work all day and then also cook and clean and run errands. It would seriously help me if my partner would do all of that other stuff—it would be worth it to me to pay for both of us then!” Do not offer him to be your house husband. I’m telling you—he would be humiliated.
Asking his parents for help behind his back
If you know his parents are loaded and would gladly help their son if they knew he was struggling, that’s not on you to negotiate. Don’t call his parents and ask them to send their son money. It’s usually very important to men that their parents perceive them as successful and independent. You can make him feel like a failure in the eyes of his parents if you do this. He is the only one with the authority to ask them for help.
Telling him his income doesn’t matter to you
It’s noble and good that you don’t love your man for his money, and your affection for him doesn’t waver with his income level. However, don’t remind him, every day, “You know I don’t care how much money you make,” or “You know, if I cared about money, I would have married one of the rich dudes I dated before you.”
Making a “helpful” introduction
Before reaching out a hand to anybody, ask yourself how your partner wants that person to perceive him. So, for example, if it’s the head of a company that your partner hopes his company one day does business with, don’t call that person and say, “My partner is struggling. Could you mentor him?” Then he doesn’t see your partner as an equal, and that would devastate your partner.
Lying about what something cost
If the groceries you bought for the two of you cost $250, just tell your partner they cost $250. Don’t tell him they only cost $100 and hide the receipt so that he’ll only have to pay you $50. He’s not dumb. He can look at eight bags of groceries and know they didn’t cost that little. And this, again, makes him feel like a charity case.