Should Couples Share The Cost Of Birth Control? That All Depends On These Factors

Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.
For most of us, modern couplehood means splitting the bill for groceries and dinners out, taking turns paying for gifts for friends, and sharing the cost of vacations, though every couple has its own rules when it comes to determining what shared and individual expenses should look like. If we’re this smart about Venmoing each other the cost of a burrito, then clearly, we should all be on the same page about who pays for contraception.
But money and sex are both often considered taboo topics, so it makes sense that combining them can be uncomfortable for some. Frank discussions about who should pay for birth control and contraception can be hard because they’re often a reflection of our most core beliefs, or values that are important to us. But that doesn’t mean we should shy away from them. 
Part of my job as the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Money Date by Zeta is speaking to couples about the tough conversations they’re having around their finances. At Zeta, the question of what falls under the umbrella of shared or personal expenses comes up again and again, so to get a better idea of how couples are paying for contraception, I spoke to over a dozen men and women and found that there’s not necessarily one way to do it right.

Perceptions of birth control as a shared vs. personal expense 

For committed couples who choose to combine their finances, birth control may be automatically seen as a shared expense. “Everything with me and my husband has been joint for a long time, even before we were married,” says Kelly, 42.
For others, health insurance coverage makes the decision about who pays for contraception much more straightforward. "After our daughter was born we did not want any more children. I did not want to mess with my hormones or have any invasive procedures and we decided that a vasectomy was the best option for us,” shares Michelle, who is in her 30s. “I think it was covered by my husband’s health insurance through his employer.”
But not everyone is tied to the idea that in marriage, or in any partnership, money should be automatically combined into one joint account. Millennials especially are less likely to entirely merge their funds than previous generations, according to a 2018 study from Bank of America. Keeping some finances separate is also becoming more and more popular among couples who want to save for their goals together but also spend and save their own money as they please. 
That said, it’s hard to compare the conversations we have over who pays the Netflix subscription with the complex issues that come up when discussing birth control. “We have trouble with things like disclosing sexual history or prior sexually transmitted diseases, even though these are crucial to safe sexual practices,” said Linda M. Nicoll, MD, Assistant Professor of Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Bringing up birth control is just part of that Pandora's box that, once opened, makes us feel vulnerable.”

Talking about income equality and expectations 

Who pays for birth control can also come down to who makes more money, another issue that can muddy the waters when it comes to talking about sex and personal finance. Maddy, 44, says that her previous boyfriend earned a higher salary than she did, so she felt comfortable asking him to split the cost of her IUD. “It was sort of a no-brainer — at the time my insurance wasn't as good, so we were paying out-of-pocket for the actual device, $800,” she says. “For me to swallow that cost altogether would have been silly.”
That said, when they broke up, she felt “a little strange” about having shared the cost of the device, especially since she moved onto a serious relationship after that. 
Of course, birth control isn't always just about preventing pregnancy. Kay, 34, says for that reason, it never occurred to her to ask her partner to chip in. “I have endometriosis, so I’m on a number of medications and require doctors visits regarding my period,” she explains. “I honestly never thought to ask my partner to help pay for the cost of this because it’s incredibly expensive.”

Ultimately, it’s your body

There are also reasons some women may want to pay for their own birth control and other reproductive health measures. While many are lucky to have loving partners in an equal and trusting relationship, that is not always the case for everyone. 
“Never put your health in someone else’s hands,” offers Dr. Nicoll.  “It’s imperative that women empower themselves to make decisions for their own health and safety. Not sharing decision making or costs of contraception gives the female partner power over that one aspect of the relationship. It allows her to protect herself from exposure to diseases and to the risk of an unintended pregnancy without relying on a partner whose investment in her wellbeing does not (and may never) match her own.”
Ultimately, the conversation about shouldering the cost of birth control is also one about financial decisions that can have implications for you both over the years.
“If your partner is unwilling to have a conversation around the cost of birth control or birth control in general, you can straight up ask him if he’d be willing to pay half of the cost to terminate the pregnancy or contribute to the cost of raising the child,” explains Erin Lowry, author of the upcoming book Broke Millennial Talks Money. “All the above carry their own health and financial risks years into the future.” 

Tips on how to have the talk

Schedule a money date
A money date is a great way of getting in the habit of talking about money with your partner every month. If you’re talking about your financial goals and concerns on a regular basis, it can make bringing up the topic a little less scary. Doing it over dinner, when the two of you can have some time alone, is the ideal way to kick it off. 
Discuss it from the point of view of your partnership
Tough conversations around money are part of being in a committed partnership. It can also be a question of fairness. For example, if both of you are benefiting from your contraception use but you’re paying $150 out of pocket for it per month, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to bring it up. After all, your choice affects your male partner as well, and he should know that. 
“We have a tendency in our society to put the onus of contraception on the female partner since, historically, a woman has more to lose than a male partner in the event of an unwanted pregnancy,” says Nicoll. “But that doesn't mean men aren't affected financially or emotionally by an unwanted pregnancy.”
Being able to have these kind of open conversations about sex and money aren’t just one-time things. Our health and situations change over the course of our relationships. 
“There’s no reason why men need to be treated as bystanders,” says Nicoll. “Their sexual and financial health is at stake too.”
Remember that it's ultimately up to you
“The fate of biology means that unless you're using condoms exclusively, birth control translates to the woman's body,” notes Maddy. “Cost-sharing is great, and a discussion that should be had — but at the end of the day, it's my body that is most affected by whatever form of birth control we use, particularly if it fails.”
Ultimately, it comes down to you and how comfortable you are in the relationship and the autonomy you need to have in making decisions regarding your sexual health. If you feel like it will take control away from you or prevent you from leaving a bad or unstable relationship, you may want to reconsider sharing the cost. 
Lindsay Goldwert is the editor-in-chief of Zeta’s love and money magazine Money Date and the author of Bow Down: Lessons from Dominatrixes on How to Get Everything You Want.

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