Marriage Diaries is a column by Telegraph Family in which people share snapshots of their relationships and their dilemmas. It is published every Wednesday at 5pm
After a four-hour drive from the top of Sardinia to the bottom, my wife could barely contain her disappointment when we turned the bend and the accommodation I booked came into view.
“It’s rustic,” I shrugged, apologetically, as we pulled up in front of the wooden cabin. It was also cheap, as was the flight to Olbia that I’d booked instead of flying to the airport that was just 20 minutes away. The drive, I told her, would be an ideal way to see the island.
Our Airbnb was functional. The loo flooded, the electrics were exposed in places they shouldn’t have been, and it was infested with spiders and ants, but it had the basics – walls, windows, a door with a lock on it.
We were there because, as is customary on our summer holidays, we shared the financial burden. I booked accommodation for the first half of the break; my wife booked the second. And so, after five days roughing it, we got back in the car and drove another four hours to the glittering Costa Smeralda and a five-star hotel with spa and private beach. You could see several oligarch-owned super yachts moored in the harbour.
The juxtaposition between my poky shack and the air-conditioned luxury and fluffy towels of my wife’s hotel was an allegorical representation of our marriage. While I’m a self-employed creative, she works in the corporate sector, runs her own successful company, employs several staff, has a PA and earns, on average, six times more than I do. She has contracts with multinational companies and travels the world in business class. Meanwhile, I was recently offered work for the publishing equivalent of Uber, picking up small change to write homework for schoolchildren with more disposable income than me. She gives presentations to audiences of up to 1,000; I share a draughty office with the cat.
When it comes to spending, I simply cannot keep up. I tried for a while and it left me nursing painful credit card debts. Instead, as she earns more, a gulf between us grows. It shouldn’t irk me, because she is generous and doesn’t expect me to keep pace, but it does.
I blame my upbringing. I grew up in a traditional household where, like previous generations, the man was the breadwinner. My mother worked part time and her wages were classed as pin money. She was largely kept by my father. Times have, thankfully, changed and I’m fully on board with equality but, in terms of earning power, I’m well below par.
The reminders of this earning gap are everywhere. She has a shiny SUV with full warranty. When my clapped out 10-year-old Honda broke down recently, I cycled everywhere for two weeks until I could afford to fix it. I was too proud to accept her offer to buy me a replacement. She travels to meetings on limo bikes and in first-class carriages, while I get the bus, split rail tickets and endure long waits for connections in remote towns to save a few pounds.
A few weeks ago, we went shopping on Oxford Street in London. From Oxford Circus underground station, she turned left towards the designers in Selfridges and Liberty, while I skulked right to Uniqlo. I sometimes worry that she’ll financially outgrow me and that the disparity will drive us apart, which I know is silly because, despite her appetite for the finer things in life, at heart she is not driven by materialism.
In reality, I’ve won the lottery. She pays for all the improvements on the house we live in. We travel extensively, thanks to her. Next month, I will get to accompany her on all-expenses-paid trips to Delhi and Cyprus. I am thankful, but there remains a caveman in my psyche who grunts with frustration each time we eat out and I, surreptitiously, have to book a table before 7pm to take advantage of the cheap set menu, because I can’t afford the full à la carte.
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