What It’s Like To Be Co-Buying A Home When You Can’t Contribute Half

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My boyfriend, Dan, and I are looking for our first home. We currently live together in an apartment where we split all the bills 50/50. Before I met him, I lived alone and paid all my bills myself, which makes me very happy. However, now that we’re looking for our first home, things will be changing financially.

Dan makes a considerable amount more than I do. Over double what I make, to be exact. This means that he will be doing the majority of the financial heavy lifting when we do find the right place. (And let’s face it, also the physical heavy lifting, because I can’t carry a whole bureau alone.) Not being in a place to financially contribute half to this process has been a constant sore spot for me since we started the process. Not to mention the house-hunting process isn’t all rainbows and dreamy project ideas. I’m having a considerably difficult time quantifying what value I bring to the home ownership table, since it’s not monetary.

I always had this notion that when I got to a point in life where I would be buying a home with someone, I was going to contribute half. Half is fair, in my opinion. Yet here we are. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m one of those people that gets massive anxiety just thinking about receiving gifts at holidays. I prefer to do the giving, always.

We live in a world where women are told they should be both more and less, at home and at work. They should contribute to the world just as equally as men. Women should not be confined by stereotypical gender roles, and are shamed if they choose those roles. Women are also judged if they adopt stereotypical male gender roles and tasks. I never in a million years considered that I would let a man partially provide for me, financially.

What’s a girl to do?

I grew up watching my parents work hard. I was raised to be strong and independent. Any time I wanted something growing up, I worked hard to earn it, even if our family had the financial wherewithal to afford it. The value, for me, was in the earning. I have a hard time accepting gifts from others, monetary or not. Because of this mindset, I have a hard time accepting that my boyfriend’s savings, retirement, and income are not his, but “ours.”

Dan has to remind me of a few different things, on numerous occasions. The first is that one of the main reasons he works as hard as he does is to be able to provide for a family. One of his lifelong goals is to have a wife and kids, and a big part of that dream, for him, is being able to provide for that future family.

The second is that he is older than me, and he has an entirely different career path than I do. Also, the field he chose is a much higher-paying field than the one I chose. He’s been at his job for 8 years, whereas I just started at my “career” job 10 months ago. Even though I’ve received a promotion and three raises since I started this job, he still has another 7 years of lateral corporate growth under his belt, simply because he’s been at it longer.

Lastly, the things that I bring to the home have plenty of value. The fact that I have a hard time seeing the value in those things doesn’t lessen the value of them for him. Namely, his cooking skills are limited to grilled cheeses (which are actually to die for), breakfast food, and macaroni. For him, my ability to cook has HUGE value. Apparently his dream of family included a more varied menu, and I’m more than happy to oblige. I love cooking, meal planning, and grocery shopping.

Which brings me to the point of those gender roles, again. Am I supposed to feel guilty for reveling in the stereotypical “female” tasks, while Dan brings home more money? I happen to love cooking, cleaning, and organizing. Women have made huge strides in the way of equality, and internet-wide, women get bashed for falling into the roles that women fought so hard to overcome.

I’m more than happy to have dinner ready when Dan gets home from work, which some women would find absolutely appalling. The key here is that I don’t do this because I feel I am obligated or required to do so. And trust me, there are plenty of nights where cooking dinner just doesn’t happen, because ~life~. He works hard to provide for us, so making dinner is an easy way for me to say, “I recognize you work hard, and I appreciate that.”

Someone shared this tidbit of information with my mom years ago: “Don’t begrudge someone the joy of giving you a gift.” I relate to that so hard on so many levels, because I love giving to others. Dan wants to be able to give our future the gift of financial stability. To be stubborn about accepting that generous gift, and the hard work he’s put in to get where he is financially, would be begrudging him a joy that we both share.

He feels great pride in being able to contribute financially to our home ownership journey. And as he often has to remind me (bless than man’s patience…) that, without the qualities I bring to the table, owning a home wouldn’t be worth it.

Samantha works full time at a private college in Vermont and is a content writer on the side. When she’s not working, she’s drinking copious amounts of coffee, making lists, reorganizing her apartment, or rescuing animals. She has a rescue Chihuahua named Sammy, that shares both her name and her pizza crusts. Follow her on Twitter here.

Image via Unsplash

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  • Rebecca Ann

    You’re not “supposed” to feel any certain way about your situation. The way you wrapped up this article is perfect. Just because women have fought against these gender norms does not mean that, if you happen to enjoy embodying them, you must push back or feel guilty, or feel the need to justify your situation. In the course of your lives, I’m sure you and your boyfriend will each have many ups and downs. Maybe one day, you’ll be making more than him. Or maybe circumstances will change that dictate that you become the sole breadwinner for a while. You shouldn’t feel guilty at all for being fresh in your career, and definitely don’t judge where you are against where he is, for all the reasons you listed. It’s comparing apples to oranges. And if you’re happy being responsible for more of the inside the home tasks, then you do you! I hope you find a great house to turn into a lovely home 🙂

  • Summer

    I feel you really hard on this one. My now-husband and I bought a house together in late 2014, before we were even married. He was able to contribute much [much] more to the financial bucket than I was, but it was certainly still a team effort because the mortgage had to be acquired in my name (he’s from Sweden and was in the US on a student visa at the time). My good credit and ability to gain financing allowed us to put his sizable down payment to use. Now we live in Germany (we still own our house in SC, but we rent it out through a property management company) and he’s making considerably more than I do, and like you, sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m not contributing as much value to the overall picture. But, also like you, I love to cook and take care of the groceries and I don’t mind cleaning and laundry and other household tasks. I work from home, so that simply adds to the reasons why I shoulder the bulk of the domestic duties. I don’t have a commute, so by default that buys me a minimum of 80 minutes of extra time each day that he doesn’t have (40-min commute each way), and regardless, it’s easy enough for me to throw a load of laundry in the washer or run out to the grocery store between work tasks. Gender roles aside, it not only makes sense for me to take on these duties, it gives me a deep satisfaction both because I enjoy them on a personal level, and because I know I’m doing what I can to help take care of my partner. Best of luck to you guys in your search for a house!

    • Moi

      I have one really strong dilemma here. Should I (when in situation where my partner is out-earning me) automatically take on more domestic duties to “contribute equally” to the household, partnership and family? Ok, I guess there are situations where there is some logic in it – one partner commutes to work and back and other does not or work at home, one partner works much longer hours or long night shifts, one has more business related travels and other does not etc.

      But is it really straightforward in situations where both have equally demanding career with the more or less same amount of hours but one works in much better paid career than other. Or one is older and therefore better paid due to experiences. Or one inherited money.

  • Shelby

    Perhaps you can’t contribute half financially but it sounds like you have a clearly equally partnership that both of your contribute to. Whatever your gift is, give it well.

  • Bidisha Dasgupta

    This isn’t a comment on this article (which was lovely) , but more a slight frustration I feel about most of the content itself. Although this isn’t TFD’s fault, I’m slightly over reading these kinds of articles where the male member of the relationship earns more and through that the women is allowed to pursue a life that would be otherwise unattainable. All of the TFD team members are like that. The majority of women that write to the site are like that. As a women who: a) doesn’t have a partner; b) when I did have a partner, he was earning far less than me; this content stings. Again, I’m sure this is more a reflection of the world than TFD’s own purpose. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard not to feel that, while all women who are partially supported by a man have their own legitimate problems, simply disclaiming privilege is not enough as it’s the narrative that is the most prominent on the site.

    • I feel the same way. I love reading this blog but I also feel that, if it’s going to publish content that depicts a woman earning less, owning a house, and having a husband who can support her in an otherwise unobtainable lifestyle; I feel the other side of the coin must be shown. I’d like to see more women who earn just as much (if not more) than their partners, and possibly making choices that are different to the traditional (old fashioned) route a life usually takes – ie. no children, no house, no cute pet dog.

      • Bidisha Dasgupta

        Exactly. I’m hoping TFD’s new verticals will be moving away from the framework of ” I have privilege which I’m disclaiming and here’s my story” to a more nuanced perspective. While disclaiming privilege is great and needed, it’s not enough if the majority of content on the website is echoing the same middle-class, two-partner lifestyle.

        • Violaine

          I agree with the comments abobe, yes. It kind of makes me uncomfortable because although I think everyone should do what they like, even if that means doing the laundry and cooking as a way to contribute rather than to contribute financially, it kind of makes me uncomfortable that this role often becomes the woman’s role. I want to write an article about why my boyfriend of 6 years and I get on well and split bills 50/50 and earn roughly the same but I still want to buy a house by myself without him 😉 That’s my way of making sure I have a plan B if we ever break up.

          I also feel kind of sad and worried sometimes when I read these things because obviously in an ideal world, they’ll stay together forever, but what if they break up? Cooking skills don’t really help when you need to move out of a home you do not own even though you lived there for years with a husband (I am talking in general, not about this article – I understand they both own the house and contribute to it), but money does. In 15 years when all the couples that got together with the man being the high-earner and the woman being the supporter split up, how are these women going to recover financially? My aunt has been with her partner for 20 years, they don’t really love each other anymore but she stays with him because she can’t afford to break up.

          I mean, sometimes you can’t avoid it and nobody should feel bad for contributing to the household by cooking and caring for it rather than by bringing in a big paycheck, but I always think these people should also have a plan B and a big F-U fund…

          • Bidisha Dasgupta

            You should write the article 100 %.

          • Moi

            This is one of the things that make me uncomfortable as well but I did not mention it above. My mom did that. She contributed lots and lots of work (and care and love) staying home for some years with us, taking care of the household, garden, helping my father with his business while he was “taking care of us” financially. Unluckily, everything ended with a very nasty divorce that was financially devastating for her. My father was owner of a lot more property than my mom (he inherited it). The money he “was earning for us” was in his account. He left her and us as well and did not contribute financially as he said he will. And, yes, due to the fact that she left work for some years to take care of us, she is going to have quite lower pensions when she retires. My case is quite extreme, I know. But statistically almost half marriages split. And still many times people endure their relationships just because they cannot afford to leave, especially when there are kids involved.

          • Holly Trantham

            Let me know if you’d want to write about this, Violaine – I’d love to read it!

          • NL

            I was going to pitch something similar to your second paragraph months ago, but from the opposite end of the spectrum (although I never did because I don’t actually write and people like you all can put pen to paper much better lol)! I have major trust issues and have had to support myself financially throughout the entirety of my adulthood, which has lead to some issues in the present. Although our relationship is great, I literally have a detailed exit plan including apartment prices in the area, a list of all of the things in the house that are mine and a massive amount in savings that could be invested elsewhere if I wasn’t so paranoid about having to up and leave under the cloak of night one day. I feel that there is a tendency to lean towards one extreme or the other when it comes to these issues and it’s difficult to find a healthy middle ground without leaving yourself vulnerable.

          • Violaine

            I would love to read about that! It’s interesting and somehow clever, although it’s sad it’s coming from trust issues. I think you should definitely pitch that!!! It’s another angle and it’s about finance and it’s great to see different perspectives, coming from people with different issues, fears, experiences, etc.
            About the talent for writing… I wrote two articles under two different names and Rebecca and Holly edited both and did a great job to make sure it was pleasant to read and faithful to my story – so don’t worry about it! Just write the best you can and trust them to do the finishing touches.

    • Moi

      I would also love to read more articles about achieving personal, financial and professional goals without relaying on your better paid partner. Or stories from the point of view of one who is taking care of the partnership/family financially in larger extend then a partner (man or woman, does not matter). Not because this would be better/something more, but because I am genuinely interested in those stories that are closer to my own situation as an individual and professional.

      • Bidisha Dasgupta

        Yes to all of this, as I am also someone who a) does not rely on a better paid partner; b) will one day be expected to take care of a larger family.

    • Holly Trantham

      Hearing from people without partners is definitely something we want to publish more of! Because you’re right, everyone on the TFD team has a partner, so we can’t write from those perspectives. A lot of the time, it just depends on the pitches and submissions we’re getting. If there’s a specific topic or perspective you’d like to see more of, I’d love to hear it!

      • Bidisha Dasgupta

        hiiii, so nice of you to reply. Yes, I understand its more the pitches then a reflection of your ethics, which is why I’m sure the new earmarked sections you have will provide a fresh perspective of these issues. Personally, I’d really like more articles which talk about how a woman is the higher earner or sole earner in the relationship where she essentially supports the man; or where the woman isn’t in a relationship and has to take care of people financially. I feel this site swings more to the women who has a better paid partner who helps her achieve her goals, and essentially seeing that reversed would be very illuminating. In another vein, it would also be interesting to see women who don’t have middle-class goals- who are financially stable but didn’t buy a house or have children because of various personal and professional reasons.

        I genuinely really like TFD, and I look forward to seeing how the site expands to include a diversity in perspective.

    • Samantha

      You should write and submit about that frustration! I love reading about what people in other situations are going through and experiencing. Knowing that my perspective, and those similar, are not the only perspective out there- makes me want to know more about what other people in this age group are going through. The purpose of TFD is to educate and talk about things that are difficult and, speaking for myself, I would love to hear what other people are going through. People with partners have all kind of different scenarios, and a writer can only write from one vantage point. It sounds like you have a very valuable vantage point, that I’m sure many others would also love to hear!

      • Bidisha Dasgupta

        Thanks for the vote of confidence! I’m very, very far from what I’m sure is TFD’s target group and my situation is probably unrelatable in that sense- but maybe I’ll submit anyway.

    • Lauren

      I feel this 1000%. I posted a similar comment about a week ago. My personal situation is way too weird to be its own article – no one would relate to it – but I make quite a bit more than my long-distance boyfriend (I don’t make a ton, but I feel financially sound) and when we see each other I easily pay for 2/3-3/4 of everything. And I’m happy to, because he’s worth it. But it’s frustrating to see so much content like this article that, when you see so much of it in the same place, makes it seem like the real solution to achieving your goals/dreams is to find a man that makes more than you. Obviously, this is NOT a reflection on each individual author, but as a whole this is how it comes off.

      • Bidisha Dasgupta

        Exactly, and I’ve been in your situation too, so I relate to it 100 %.

  • TheBrooklynHustle

    “Because of this mindset, I have a hard time accepting that my boyfriend’s savings, retirement, and income are not his, but ‘ours.'”

    This is just not true! It’s his! It’s his and he’s sharing with you but if you break up (because only married people get divorced) then you aren’t entitled to any of his savings, retirement, or income. It’s great that you two share funds but don’t fool yourself about stuff like that. Are you both going to be on the deed or the mortgage? What happens if you break up and he wants to be bought out? Or if you’re not, what happens if he decides to break up and you’ve contributed however much to a home you don’t own.