Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Ask Ellie: Fair division of expenses a must in relationship

Every relationship partnership faces division of shared costs, and joint vs. private savings

Dear Ellie: Do you think it’s important to discuss how much you earn with your partner? What if one person earns more than the other, how should they split the bills?


The most important factor in a romantic partnership involving separate/differing incomes IS discussion, no matter different amounts.

Keep discussing till you get to an equitable decision… i.e., even if the incomes and distribution of them cover different expenses.

Example: The higher earner may pay more towards the mortgage than the lower earner. Or the one with a better insurance and pension plan, might pay more to monthly costs for a shared car.

These divisions, however, must take into account whether one person already owned the house in which both now live, and feels that rent paid by the other, is a fair solution. Of course, that only works if both agree.

It may all seem very complex at the early stage of partnership, but stay aware of this reality: What’s truly fair or unfair is eminently recognizable. Work from that principle.

Reader’s Commentary: The story of the sister kept from her dying mother resonated with me (Big Bad Sister, April 19 and March 29):

“Because I wanted no regrets, I maintained a relationship with an alcoholic father who’d been horribly abusive to me. I considered my sister my best friend.

“However, she distanced from me and didn’t inform me of her husband’s memorial service. I’d been his sister-in-law for 42 years. I wasn’t invited. The exclusion was very hurtful.

“Previously, she’d had our father sell the family home and move to where she lived. She stopped speaking to me, using my hurt/angry email to my father about exclusion from the memorial service as excuse.

“After his death, my oldest son had DNA testing and informed me that she wasn’t my father’s daughter. I didn’t believe it though we don’t look related.

“I look like both my parents; she looks like neither except for her body-size like my mother’s.

“I had my DNA done and she was not my father’s child. She was terrified I’d tell him, but I wasn’t going to judge my mother and ruin an old man’s memories of her.

“Two weeks before he died, she had him change his will. He went for hospital tests and then I couldn’t find him. The hospital would tell me nothing because she’d had herself and daughter listed as the only “family.”

“I discovered that he’d died. She hadn’t let me say goodbye.

“I learned he left me $25,000.00 and she and her daughters got the rest of the considerable state. They paid all the legal fees out of the account including my pittance and my final inheritance was just over $1,800.00.

“There was nothing to be done about it because he was of sound mind.

“When I lost my daughter, I wrote the story of my life and had it self-published to help me heal. I even gave her a copy. We were on pleasant terms before his final stay in the hospital.

“I’d never have believed that money could be that important to the sister I’d previously adored. Had the situation been reversed, I would’ve divided the inheritance equally between us.

“However, my best revenge is that I’m happy, healthy and love life! Money has never been the driving force in my life.

“I’d been very close to her four young grandchildren. Losing them from my life is far harder to bear than losing all that money.”

FEEDBACK Regarding the wife who thought her husband was having an emotional affair (April 21):

Reader: “I assume it was a man who wrote this letter and wonder how he’d feel about his wife having a close male friend with whom she texts at all hours of the day, has lunch away from the office, goes on trips, etc.

“Yes, men and women can be good friends. But sexual relationships often grow out of friendship.

“Or, when a marriage hits a rocky spot, they can be an easy go-to remedy for injured feelings, boredom etc. That’s why people who are married wisely keep an eye on such relationships, whether their own or that of their spouse.

“They set limits on non-work time spent with the friend and of activities pursued with them. They’re open about those activities; and include their spouse in the relationship. Anything less is just courting trouble.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Every relationship partnership faces division of shared costs, and joint vs. private savings.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].