Relationships are complicated enough, but having a drastically different upbringing than your partner can have real impact on how you relate to each other.
Here, people from drastically different socioeconmic situations than their partner reveal how it affects their relationship.
1/25. I grew up on food stamps and the free lunch program, my boyfriend’s parents are quite literally part of the “1%.”
There are moments – gifts from his parents are always well thought out high quality essentials, while my family… does what they can.
I got to stay home while they took him to Hawaii a few years ago.
It’s embarrassing at family dinners sometimes when his mom makes amazing roasted vegetables and I prefer the canned version because it’s the only veggies I ever ate as a kid.
He got to play instruments in school – I really wanted to be in band, but we couldn’t afford a trumpet.
There are a lot of little things, too. I had to do a lot of rapid learning once I got to college because good spending habits, organization, productivity, etc. don’t just appear out of nowhere.
There are also a handful of hobbies/activities that only happen with money (scuba, equestrianism, skiing, climbing, spelunking, water sports, even cycling). Hard to have experience with those as a kid unless your family has the money for it, and I personally do not deal well with the envy of opportunities I never had.
2/25. My perspective is weird. When I was a kid my family went through bankruptcy due to medical debt after my siblings all died. We were homeless for a bit. Middle school was rough while my parents struggled to pull things together and my mom gave birth to my little sister. When I graduated high school my parents were doing well enough to pay for my private university education in cash, and my little sister’s private high school was more expensive.
I’ve lived at both extremes of income, but not in the middle. My husband grew up with a dad in the military and a mom who was a teacher. They were pretty solidly middle class.
It’s odd the different things that trip us up. I find that when I really want something I have to stop and take a breath and calm down when I realize that we can afford it. When I was a kid I owned two pairs of pants that I wore to school and washed by hand every other night. As an adult I tend to find excuses to wear dress pants or nice shirts. I also keep $20 and a large candy bar in my purse at almost all times. I just like the security of knowing that there’s something there if I need it. I’m never going to be hungry because I can’t afford to eat or trapped because I can’t afford a bus.
I think my husband has a much healthier relationship with money than I do. He’s calmer about saving and uses it like a tool. I think he doesn’t always understand some of my hangups about it though. I find myself asking permission for things we can obviously afford. I’ll admit it’s difficult to understand when he meets my parents now and they’re heading off on their 4th or 5th overseas honeymoon or when my mom spent almost as much as my husband’s parents make in a year on our wedding because she didn’t like my idea of a small reception at the house or in the park.
That’s not how I grew up, but it’s all my husband sees when he interacts with my family. It’s a lot of culture shock for both of us.
3/25. My girlfriend in a small farming community whereas I grew up in an affluent area in a quite wealthy background.
Most of the time it’s just introducing her to stuff she’s never experienced before. Fine dining, really expensive wine etc. It’s mostly just new experiences for her and i think that’s a pretty awesome part of our relationship. I get to show her so many new things.
4/25. I grew up rich. Not private school rich, but once a month, my mom would casually have between 200-500 dollars she would decide to delegate to us going on shopping sprees and stuff. I never had to worry about anything. My parents didn’t live a lavish lifestyle and saved well.
My boyfriend grew up really poor down south. He used to have to constantly pawn his TVs and Amps and mom’s jewelry to keep paying the bills, learned to fix cars so they wouldn’t be stranded when the car broke down, and lived among what is apparently an INSANE roach infestation most of their lives.
So he and I now have something we call “going to the pool” (story continued on the next page…).
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It’s when both of us have the same memory, but through different socio economic eyes. This is also relevant when it comes to how we handle money and react to things. We realized this after both of us were sitting around remembering how much we loved going to the pool, and then had a good laugh about how different the circumstances of the event was.
When he was a kid, going to the pool was a huge deal. He would save up to pay for him and his sisters. He walked them and had to watch them the entire time. To him, the pool was a rare thing and a responsibility, but it provided his sisters with a rare luxury, and it was always worth it to him. He loved the pool and considered doing it to be quite special. They didn’t do it every day.
When I talk about going to the pool, I remember my community’s pool having water slides, and always grabbing change for snacks. I remember riding my bike there and it always being fresh and clean. I had a season pass and my mom would always give me cash for whatever I wanted when I went. I pretty much went every single day of the summer unless it was closed.
Both of our experiences had joy in them, and neither of our experiences invalidate each other, but we both relate to the memory of going to the pool in a completely different way. That’s sort of how we treat everything. In many ways, I think it helps us a lot. We respect how the other grew up, and both of us have gained from seeing things “from the other side”. It’s never caused problems for us, but it does sometimes instigate some really interesting discussion, and helps us understand each other a little bit better.
5/25. I’m in a really weird situation with my one. We didn’t really grow up in different backgrounds but when I grew up, me and my brother never wanted for anything we got nice things but my parents were not “rich” they just made money and we just lived our life how we wanted to. My parents were never in debt but never had huge savings either etc. Now my partner never wanted for anything either but her parents were more savvy with their money and didn’t just do everything they wanted to and “saved for a rainy day”, they’ve now got a lot of money and getting old with nothing to spend it on, although they do spoil my kids all the time.
This has caused awkward moments in mine and my partners life though as sometimes I want to “Live our lives and spoil ourselves” without putting us in debt whereas my partner wants to “save for the rainy days” and we don’t really do anything with what we’ve got. The other side actually involves our parents now, in that, her’s spoil my kids and mine can’t spoil them as much, but still do.
6/25. We turned 17 together a week ago. Two days apart. I was ecstatic that I had my first 5 driving lessons paid for me as my present from my parents.
Two days later and she wakes up to a 5000 car on the drive. Meanwhile in the same week I’m lending my mum 200 until payday so we have enough money for shopping and don’t have to borrow off my grandparents for the 5th week running.
She’s eternally grateful for everything she gets and not spoilt at all. But she grew up as the only child in a well off family. Had holidays to Hong Kong and India.
I grew up with two brothers and had holidays in a caravan in Great Yarmouth.
It’s the little things too. They won’t think twice about going out for a meal in the middle of the week just for the hell of it and paying a bill in excess of 100. We only go out on birthdays and have to be wary of how much we spend.
I don’t judge her at all and her family are hard working and lovely. It’s just hard not to be a little bit jealous sometimes.
7/25. My boyfriend grew up in a poor town under Jehovah’s Witness parents that forbade him from experiencing holidays. It’s been incredible watching him get to experience his first Christmas morning, carving pumpkins for Halloween, and all of the other shenanigans that the holidays bring now that he no longer lives with them or follows their beliefs. I’ve never seen a 22 year old squeal in delight at presents under the Christmas tree before. He constantly has a big smile on his face every time we look at holiday decorations and when he tells me about all of the gift ideas he has this year. It’s amazing watching somebody experience something for the first time when it seemed like everyday life to me as a kid.
8/25. I grew up lower-middle class, rising to solidly upper-middle class by time I was 18 or so, but the big bump happened when I was 15 and my mom went from $60k a year to $110k a year, so I am a pretty middle-class kid.
My wife has always been upper-middle class, but once she was 12-13, her parents broke half a million a year, and now make around $750k a year combined. Easily 1%ers, they’ve got over 3 million dollars stashed away for retirement despite paying for college for three kids who all went to private schools out of state.
As for the way it affects our relationship (story continued on the next page…)?
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She’s pretty grounded which is nice, but she still doesn’t understand that sometimes you can’t really afford to, say, eat out all the time, nor does she understand what it’s like to live without a safety net. It creates slight tension between us, but nothing too major. She doesn’t seem to care about money as much as I do as well, which drives me insane, when she generates $100k in revenue for her company per year but gets paid half that despite the fact there is no real support system required, it’s all direct revenue generation.
As a whole, I’d say the fact that her parents are loaded has been a huge positive. She has no student loan debt, but helps me pay mine, and has since we were engaged. Her mom and dad love me, they have taken me on family vacations for years now. I proposed to her in Belize, visited Italy and England, California this year, Ireland next year, Germany the year after… It’s pretty cool.
They’ve also set us up with a savings account wherein they deposit $10k a year for us to put towards a house or other expenses, and will probably give us $15k next year since we’re having a kid. We don’t have to worry about my crappy insurance costing us a ton in hospital bills or trying to save money on the birth and care, since her mom is willing to pick up the bill to ensure she gets high quality medical care.
They contribute $5,000 a year to a Roth IRA in her name. Her dad manages her retirement account, and produces stellar returns. He gives me stock tips all the time, and wants to fund a startup that I’m considering.
Additionally, her mom gave (yes, for free) my wife her 2010 Lexus with 60,000 miles on it since she was buying a BMW. Her dad sold me his Tundra (2011) with 75,000 miles on it for $2,000.
We had a nice wedding. Nothing insane, total costs around $17k, but they picked up of the tab.
They have promised to pay for my kids pre-k education, which will save me about $1,500 a month for 4ish years.
In general, the easy access and availability of fallback funds has really been a boon for our relationship, it’s allowed her to pursue a job that she loves and still have a family, and it’s allowed me to focus on my hobby and side business, rather than pouring all my money into a down payment for a home. It’s put her miles ahead of the curve in terms of retirement savings, she’s 29 years old and has almost 2 times her annual earnings stashed away. It’s allowed us to see the world together, and it’s created a tight bond between myself, her parents, and her siblings. Some people bitch about their in-laws, and god knows, I never will. They’ve done everything possible to give us a leg up in life and help us to become successful and financially independent.
Of course, they’re all Republicans, and I, on the other hand, am practically a socialist, so we don’t talk politics much, hah.
9/25. I grew up poor (I’m doing very well now though), and my girlfriend grew up wealthy. Honestly, the only differences are minor etiquette things, for example, I never learned proper dinner adequate, and will revert back to them if I’m not conscious about it. Ironically, in the relationship, she’s the frugal one and I spend freely.
10/25. I’m raised by immigrants in America… my significant other was raised by a well-off family.
Yeah… a lot of things are different between us, but because of this, things can be pretty exciting and fun. We both live in America, so he’s the one that has to adjust to differences. The top thing is — my family never went out to eat (except for the occasional McDonald’s, KFC, Old Country Buffet), but his family went out to eat probably one or twice a week at nicer restaurants, so I’m still amazed when he will order a drink, several appetizers, an entree, dessert, and even after meal tea. Another thing — every night my mom would come home and cook traditional meals (even now my parents refuse to eat out though they’ve made it to middle-class). His mother doesn’t cook.
11/25. I grew up in an upper middle class family and I once dated a guy that came from a poor Florida family. One thing I noticed was that he tried to save EVERYTHING. He had underwear that was full of holes but would still not throw them out, even after I bought him a bunch more. Also, he knew very little about life outside of his home state, was never up on current world affairs, and was ignorant to soooo much basic knowledge. He also only knew of and ate the most basic foods, like burgers, fries, noodles, etc. I tried introducing him to different foods, sushi, even but he’d refuse. The relationship ended up lasting less than 6 month.
Edit: Let me clear somethings up. When I was dating the guy he was no longer “poor”, he was doing well for himself. Because of his upbringing he chose to be willfully ignorant and never even try new things, that was my issue. No, I didn’t break up with him because he was poor, I broke up with him because he tried to live with me for free despite having TWO jobs.
12/25. Me-upper middle class.
Her-From a small farm town. She had a lot of stuff I never saw like live animals. She had a pet fox. and all these cool homemade items. I introduced her to big city life and I took her to Broadway, she took me to her county fair. It’s nice.
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13/25. In short this DIDN’T effect me at all. I come from a dirt-poor family. My parents were very hard working, but their jobs were very low paying. I have 7 siblings and money was tough. Had an alcoholic father as a kid. My mother hated my father, so me, my mother and siblings stuck together.
I grew up with hardly anything as a child. My Christmas’ we got 2 presents each, but the presents didn’t mean a thing to us. My whole family came around it was great fun at Christmas. I had to get jobs since I was 14 and give 80% of the money to fuel my dad’s alcoholism. I had to jog 5 miles each day to school and I worked hard in school, alongside working roughly 20hrs a week, it wasn’t easy. But it shaped me into who I am today. I am currently studying medicine and hoping to become a cardiologist specialist/consultant.
Contrast that to my SO. She grew up with loving parents and was privately educated. She had her own, huge room and an art room. She had lots of friends, a great childhood. Her parents owned property in London and several food wholesale companies. They are multi-millionaires. She has a Mercedes, personalized plates, her own town house etc.
But she is still so humble, as are her parents. You wouldn’t expect them to be multi-millionaires when meeting them (unless you turned up to their mansion). The only problem I have had during the relationship, is her horrible Brother. He’s 27, still living at home, no job, living off his parents. He goes to gigs, expensive skiing trips, travels to 5 and 6 star hotels… etc. Very regularly. He is massively ungrateful. But he is so competitive for his father’s affection. For example, I’ve worked all my life, so I don’t mind helping her Dad out from time to time. Her dad calls me the brain box, and my SO says he really likes me. Her Brother hates it and he tries to make me look a fool at times. He knows I study medicine so he sits their with his equally, disrespectful friends and looks up symptoms for rare conditions, trying to trip me up. So that’s the only downside of the relationship.
14/25. I’m the one from the poorer background and I never feel secure when it comes to money. Holidays and new clothes etc are hard for me to buy without feeling intensely guilty even if I have the money. For me there’s just anxiety around everything, spending too much on food especially. Boyfriend never gets this!
15/25. My father and step mother were given custody of me, they are hardcore bikers. I grew up learning learning how to sell drugs, fight, work on bikes, make moonshine, etc. My parents essentially neglected me. My SO comes from upper middle class, went to private school, family celebrates birthdays, having a fridge half filled of food is “getting low”, etc.
We learn from each other. She now knows how to field dress a deer and change her oil on her car. I know how to balance a check book and manage my college debt. We never worry about money because I can make a twenty feed us for weeks and she knows when to remind me to spend money on myself. Really, we just teach each other and love each other for or differences.
16/25. It was really hard at first actually. My partner grew up in a very affluent family, and my family was literally on food stamps for a bit when I was young.
Sometimes, she really just doesn’t understand my anxiety surrounding money, and why I’m constantly saving every scrap possible. She keeps telling me that I will enjoy life more if I let go a bit more, but all I can think of is ending up back on food stamps again…
17/25. I had to teach him how to do his own laundry. I’ve been taking care of myself and my laundry since I was 8.
He’s better now.
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18/25. This difference between my ex and I wasn’t very big–I’m pretty solidly middle class while he was pretty solidly upper middle class. Even with that, though, there were some pretty stark differences.
Going to his house for dinner was the biggest treat: fresh vegetables and organic meat for dinner every night, soups, desserts. My family usually had frozen pizza, mac and cheese, cereal, sandwiches, canned vegetables, fruits were usually apples/oranges/bananas. If he wanted specific food for snacks/lunches, he got it. My dad refused to take me grocery shopping because I would ask for too much.
He got a car and gas paid for. I got neither. He didn’t have to work for extra cash, I did. His family traveled internationally every couple of years, paid for a really expensive violin, paid for a school trip internationally, etc. In fact, my first time on an airplane is when his parents took us abroad (and paid nearly all my expenses). It’s just a different mindset, too. Like I said, my family is middle class but both my parents grew up poor. When we went on a trip to Florida one year, we could have probably afforded to take a plane but instead we drove 16 hours. My dad only ever buys used cars, usually at auctions. I thought one hundred dollars was expensive for a bike, my boyfriend’s parents bought him a five hundred dollar bike in high school (to be fair, my dad later did as well when I went to college–I used the not having car thing as a persuasive tactic). His parents were mad when he considered going to our state school–my parents were mad when I considered applying out of state. I had to convince my dad to let me go to the state school instead of a community college.
19/25. I’m upper middle class and Black.
The biggest thing I realize around Black friends who were not raised in the same economic class as me is that they don’t feel entitled to the world. I’ve always felt like I could do anything I wanted, question anyone, get in the face of authority, demand to know why, go after exactly what I want without feeling like I shouldn’t, etc. I am extremely resourceful and actively seek knowledge.
I noticed many of them just… accept their lot in life and stay there. From HS on I noticed this. They are conditioned to think they are less than, I see it in their actions and how they address problems. To challenge the status quo is unthinkable.
I have a freedom of mind that they never got growing up. When I started to realize this I got depressed about it and isolated even more, but now I am more understanding and try and gently help where I can and try not to seem like a snob about it, which is really easy to do.
Another thing that was strange for me with dating girls that were lower economically growing up is eating out at nice restaurants. They just NEVER do it and I really took this privilege for granted.
20/25. My husband grew up with anything he wanted, my parents worked in fast food. I find that as adults, I’m much more appreciative of things whereas he’s always got something to complain about. He also doesn’t tip because “if they need the money so bad, they should get a better job”. That drives me nuts, but rather than fight him on it, I’ll usually slip our server a tip on the way out.
I feel like I should mention that he’s not saying this maliciously, he just doesn’t understand why anyone would want a job where you have to depend on the kindness of strangers. He doesn’t tip to spite the restaurant that isn’t paying enough.
21/25. I’m from a poor family. My mother never returned to work after she gave birth to my older brother, and we survived on my dad’s income. He was on barely anything (or if he made more he never shared it with the rest of us). We grew up in council housing, and we got by on various tax credits as well as whatever money my dad would provide, never had anything that wasn’t second hand, and got by with making do.
My SO comes from a middle class background. They live in rural countryside (the rich kind, wherein everyone hunts pheasants and enjoys not having to live in a city), her father is self employed in a tech related field, while her mother runs the local post office (which they live in). They have two cars, and own a house which they rent out.
It honestly doesn’t affect our relationship too heavily. In part because she knows her family has worked hard to get to where they are, and if I mention it, she’ll tell me that there was a time before her father was self employed where they struggled. However I find this hard to really believe as the very first christmas I spent with her family, my SO’s grandmother gave me a card with 100, more money than I have ever received in one year from all of my own relatives put together. Makes it hard to accept they truly struggled as much as mine did.
But either way, aside from a few weird moments when around there, it doesn’t make much difference. My SO’s immediate family are pretty grounded, knowing that while they have money, they also know the value of it. Unlike her cousins, who are also well to do, but also spend a fortune on everything (one year, her cousin got given a quad bike as a Christmas present).
I think it helps that my SO strives to be independent from her family. She hates having to rely on any sort of handout from her family, and basically wants to prove she can support herself. Because we’re both earning similar incomes, and because I don’t see my own family very often, we both just sit where we are economically, not really wanting handouts, or being all that willing to ask.
22/25. Had an ex who grew up in a council house; youngest kid of about 11. I was the eldest of two and went to a private school (Which was mostly paid for by scrimping and sacrificing rather than being particularly wealthy, but to have enough money coming in that scrimping to that level was remotely viable was completely foreign to her).
I’m sure we’d love to hear the romantic story of “making it work despite different backgrounds”, but real life isn’t like that. A regular cause of arguments was her choosing to interpret every word out of my mouth as some sort of insult to her, her family and her upbringing.
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23/25. It’s affected our perception on schooling and extracurricular activities for our kids. I went to private school for most of my schooling and was able to participate in dance, instruments, etc. His family struggled financially so it wasn’t as easy and wasn’t a given to have those options.
His initial reaction is “they’ll be fine without those experiences” which is true, but there is value in having them.
24/25. I was born in an upper middle class family, but when I turned like 6 or 7, my dad made it big in the oil industry.
Growing up I never really realized that my friends weren’t in our financial bracket. Back then I could never understand “why” my friends couldn’t go to the movies every week, or only wanted to eat at cheap fast food places, etc. I always just assumed they liked those places better.
I think I was 15 when I asked my friends to go jet skiing with me in Miami and buy $400 tickets to watch a Miami Heat game with me and my best friend took me to the side and explained that none of them could afford the jet ski rentals, much less the tickets to the game.
At that point I just felt terrible about the way I had acted before, but my friend said that everyone knew I wasn’t acting snobbish or anything, I just didn’t know.
25/25. My SO come from slightly different classes. But I’ve never felt like there was a large economic gap. I’m a farm girl, he’s a bit of a city boy. We were both raised to not spend money extravagantly or on things we don’t need.
That being said. The biggest shock I had visiting his family was that everyone owns a tuxedo. My times visiting his family we were going to a wedding. After 6, all the men wear a tux. Never in my life had I been to a wedding where the guests wear tuxedos. It happened so often I kind of thought they just put on a tux every Saturday night!