The Financial Confessions: “I Make Nearly 200k A Year And My Fiancé Has No Idea”

fiance

I met my now-fiancé on a dating app two years ago and since then my income has skyrocketed, but he has yet to find out just how much I make. I’m 34 years old, I bring in almost 200k a year at my job as a senior strategist at a tech company, and for a long time I had zero plans on telling him how much I was worth. I used to imagine I would always tell him AFTER we got hitched (when I absolutely needed to), but the situation grew more complicated by the day as our relationship progressed. Here’s my story.

I’ve been burned countless time by dudes who were intimidated by my ambition, my career, and my salary, and I’ve been dumped three times before I met Paul (we’ll call him that even though it’s not his real name). The story was always the same: I’d meet a guy, we’d hit it off, things would move along, we’d skate the “money talk” for a few months until it finally came up awkwardly when I’d reveal my salary, and the guy would get weird. I typically date creative guys since I’m so Type A and I have to be with someone who balances me out, which means I’m usually finding men who don’t make a lot of money. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but once the man I’m dating understands the hours I work, sees my spending habits, and then “aha!” figures out how much I make, their behavior shifts. I don’t know if it’s me or if they’re intimidated by the nature of my profession (which is fairly cut throat, and unfortunately for them I have no plans to stop climbing the ladder). Anyway, revealing what I make to my partners has historically not panned out well for me, and it’s been frustrating as hell.

When I met Paul a few years back, I was on the cusp of transitioning into a new role that I had been working upward on for the better part of two years. Within a few weeks of meeting Paul, I was still working in my old role, and I wanted to have the money conversation as soon as possible to see what his reaction would be. We talked salaries, savings, money goals, and finances. At that point, I wasn’t making as much as I am now, so my figure was lower than today. Paul was impressed by what I achieved at work, and didn’t seem weird about money in the slightest even thought I made more than him. He was everything I had hoped for in a partner: kind, intelligent, good looking, creative but extremely practical and rational (not one of those coding a website in his underwear until 4pm types, which I have dated), and an overall wonderful man. I was so fearful to screw things up because I could finally see myself settling down with him.

Fast-forward seven months later and I got the promotion I had been dreaming of. Along with it came a $25k salary raise and a 30k bonus. In the same day, I had increased my earnings by more than I could have ever imagined — I could hardly believe it myself. But shortly after, I began to feel an immediate pit in my stomach at the thought of telling Paul that I was now outearning him by even more. Should I tell him? Did I need to tell him? We were only dating about eight months at that point…did he deserve to know? I was so fearful of our dynamic changing like I had experienced so many times before.

I came home that night and gave Paul the good news, but I left the financial logistics out of the story. I simply said “I got a bit of a pay bump” and left it at that. He seemed content with that information and was proud of me, so we went out for drinks to celebrate the good news. I was so relieved that he didn’t push me to divulge anything beyond the one-liner I gave him, and we left it at that. I was enjoying the “honeymoon” stage of our relationship so much that I was terrified for it to change, I was in my 30s, and I just desperately wanted to settle down with someone who could accept me for who I was, even if it meant they had to “man up” if their own ego took a hit.

You see, it took me a long time to get over the emotional baggage of my childhood and my parents’ fucked up marriage. My mom never worked and my dad treated her as a kind of ward. She had to ask him for money when she wanted to go shopping, they’d always fight about money during the holidays when she was overspending, and my dad would chide her like a petulant child. It was always tough for me to swallow the dynamic of their relationship, and I vowed to myself to never EVER rely on a guy for anything, much less my financial security. (Maybe that’s what always kept me insanely motivated at work…)

I would be damned if I repeated the same mistakes my mother made and settle down with some loser whose sense of masculinity and ego would be threatened by my own successes. No thank you. I more or less stayed away from guys who were similar to the dad I grew up with; But, some were better at hiding bad behaviors than others, so it took me longer to figure out. However, I always found out through one insidious comment or another, and the relationship soon fizzled out.

However, as my relationship with Paul moved forward, it was clear that things were becoming more serious. We complimented one another in all the right ways, he had his shit together, he was family oriented, we wanted the same things for our future — it was the truly “adult” relationship that I had always been waiting for. About a year and a half after we started dating, we made the decision to get married and he proposed to me in a quiet restaurant a few days after we had rung in the new year together. At this point, he still didn’t know how much I made at my job, and I was starting to feel ashamed for keeping it from him. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it up for much longer because we were each planning to move out of our apartments and into a new one together, so our finances would have to be laid bare. Also, we’ve been planning our wedding, and while we’re not having a big affair that will cost a lot of money, I know I need to be up front about what my contribution will be and how our shared finances will be managed.

As I write this, I haven’t yet told him, but the confession is imminent. One part of me hopes he won’t be upset or feel betrayed that I wasn’t forthright with him in the beginning, but knows some damage might be inescapable. I’m nervous and get shaky when I think about doing it because bad memories of past relationships come back to haunt me. But, what I have to remember is that Paul is different from everyone I’ve ever dated, and I know that he loves me for who I am. I just hope that we will be able to move past whatever snag you want to call this, and that I never have to reveal a “secret” of mine to him again.

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  • Violaine

    I love this!! My long-term boyfriend (six years) knows how much I earn but he doesn’t know how much I have in my saving account and how much I save a month and I don’t plan to tell him. We earn nearly the same, and we agree on a lot of things but saving is one thing we see differently. My boyfriend saves the minimum (just enough to say he’s saving, but not much and definitely not so much that he has to be careful with his spending). What he does not spend rests on his account and a couple of time a year, he goes on a cool holiday with friends or his brother and a few weekends away with me (that we both pay for). He has no student debt while I do (not much because it was in the UK, but about £300 a month over 5 years, so still…), he knows about this and he assumes it means I can’t save much and I let him think that way even though I save quite a lot because I go out less than him, take less holidays, etc. The reason I don’t tell him is because he thinks saving is important but that it’s fine not to save much as long as you save “a little” because he plans to buy a house but that won’t be before several years. While I want to save as much as possible because even though I agree on the timeline to buy a house, I want to have big savings to feel secure. Also because even though we get on well, I want big savings so if we ever broke up, I could still buy a smaller house in several years without his contribution. Which sounds pessimistic but I just want to have a plan B.
    I think if he knew how much I save, he would probably encourage me to splurge a little bit more, telling me “just save a bit less this month and go on a longer holiday” and telling me not to sacrifice too much, while I actually want to be aggressive with my saving strategy and would rather see more money on my saving account and go on holiday for a week than going for 2 weeks and have less savings. It’s a minor disagreement but I don’t want to deal with him telling me one more week won’t make a difference and that I’ll just save more next month… So I just keep quiet!

    • laura

      Not meant to disrespect at all, but this is very understandable if the relationship isn’t so serious. If you have plans for the future you need to have the same goals, in my opinion.

      • Violaine

        I disagree and my relationship is very serious, thanks.

        • laura

          Ok! Sorry if I was a bit harsh, and good luck anyway!

  • GBee

    Honestly, any man worth marrying would be ecstatic to know that their partner does so well financially. However, I would caution you to not frame this conversation as “so… I’ve been hiding this because I’m worried you’ll feel inadequate” and instead casually say “hey, I think we should share some important details of our finances since we are taking this big step” and then lay it all out there. Don’t make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be just because you dated some crappy guys in the past.

    • Moi

      I agree with this. Probably he has not laid out his financial information in detail as well, since you have not had this discussion before. No need to make too big deal out of this.

    • laura

      Yeah, I agree that it has to be well worded. Even pointing out the problems that you’ve had in the past and your subsequent fears could be a good idea.

  • Money complicates relationships. Life has taught me that it’s not dating someone that makes close to your salary that’s important, it’s dating someone with similar financial goals.

  • Jackie

    I mean… he must have some idea by now about how successful you are, right? He has to know that Senior Strategist + Tech company = $$$. If he’s never asked for a number by now I don’t see any reason to make a big event out of telling him. Why not just have a candid conversation with each other about your individual financial situations and how you plan on combining (or not) them?

    • Christian Gonzales

      That, plus knowing her salary before her big promotion, and knowing it came with a pay bump makes me believe he has to know it’s a pretty big number. The fact that he didn’t press for more info or freak out after hearing about a pay bump on top of a great salary makes believe the author shouldnt be as nervous as she is!

  • betty

    It’s less about what you both earn and more about your attitudes towards money. And it’s probably better to have told him a while ago and had the chance to gauge his reaction over time, than doing it so close to the time you’re going to get married and be stuck with each other forever (a bit dramatic, but you get my meaning).

  • heyqueen

    I wonder if the responses would be the same if the genders were switched but the situation where the same.

    Keeping that information from him for this long is weird to me.

  • laura

    I’m not here to judge, of course! 🙂 But I think you should definitely go through with it before getting married. If by any chance he has a bad reaction (which I don’t think will be the case, since he’s been cool with it until now), it’s obviously better to know sooner rather than later.
    If he’s the intelligent and thoughtful man that you know he’ll understand your fears and ultimately be ok with it. If he doesn’t it means that he’s not the one for you. By avoiding the matter you’re potentially lying to yourself.
    Good luck!

  • Pearl

    Girl power! That’s what I feel when I read this article. My two cents: Tell him upfront that you have been burned by other men before, and explain that you are excited and ready to share the good news that you are awesome at your job and paid well for it!

    Also for what it is worth, my husband and I do not share a joint bank account. We both contribute to our savings, but I don’t police his spending and he doesn’t police mine — partly because we are in separate accounts. We divide up the bills so we each take care of the same bills each month (I pay for heating, he pays for cable etc) but we don’t force a strict 50/50. In the end, we have decades of our lives for money to be contributed towards the same goals.

    Having separate accounts doesn’t feel weird or stingy to us at all! We both agree that we don’t want to have a partner with all of the monetary responsibility and power.

  • Stephanie_Robinson

    please get a prenup. seriously. like pause on the wedding plans and go visit an attorney.

  • AN

    If he’s never asked upfront, then I don’t think it will be as big of an issue as you’re imagining it will be.

  • lister

    First world problems…