This week’s post is from Veronica Viesca a new member of our clinical research group. Veronica shares her experience and struggle combining finances in a new marriage. Her experience highlights the difficulties couples can experience when one person makes more money.
Money and power two words that in our society seem to go hand in hand. People with more money seem to have more power and those with less money or none at all seem to be powerless.
Given this, how does one couple go about creating equality in their relationship when one member holds all the money and power?
This is the question I have been asking myself for the past month. You see, almost one month ago, I married my Prince Charming, Jeff. He is amazing and our life is basically perfect with our perfect puppy and our perfect home with a white picket fence with one big exception… money. I am a girl with needs and for the majority of my adult life, I have maintained a way of life that has afforded me almost everything I could want or need- great clothes and shoes, trainers and boot camps and the most costly private school tuition. And yes, at times, this life style meant using my financial aid to buy new jeans or pay bills, but I made it happen and I loved my life. So when Jeff and I agreed that I could be unemployed to pursue every opportunity my PhD program had to offer I was ecstatic. It had been a dream of mine to have someone else pay my bills! That is until I began to get annoyed with having to text or call Jeff to ask if I could eat lunch or buy a drink at Starbucks or get gas. Outside of feeling like a bug-a-boo, I was feeling stripped of my power. One month ago, I was working full-time feeling like I had power. I could buy new clothes, have lunch with the girls and spend my money on whatever I felt like at my own discretion but now I was stripped of that. Most of all, Jeff and I have struggled to see eye to eye on what “important” really means.
I think Veronica is making a really important point here, that having more money doesn’t necessarily give the power, but who decides what is “important” may be where they power really lies for some couples.
Now before I get ahead of myself, let me say that Jeff never asked me to call/text/talk to him before making purchases but during the joining of our “assets” we thought it best that I join his bank account and during that transition I quit my job and closed my bank account. So there I was on Jeff’s turf with a debit card that had my name on it, but felt it did not belong to me because it was Jeff’s account and he was the only one contributing to it. We had agreed that Jeff would manage all the bill paying. So somehow in our negotiations, Jeff ended up with all the fiduciary power. Had we made some kind of newlywed mistake?
I quickly took to the phone and called my mother. She and my father had been managing their money together for as long as I can remember. My dad managing their retirement and my mom paying the “household” bills. But almost every weekend, the two would come together and discuss what needed to be paid and where the money was going to come from. Alas, while my mom was supportive that things would fall into place and we would find our routine, she was not able to offer any concrete advice because both she and my dad have both always worked full-time or brought in income to contribute to the household.
While Jeff and I attempt to find our footing in our new life together, I continually remind myself that equal does not mean the same in the context of relationship equality. Jeff and I will not be putting the same amount in the pot, at least for the next few years. So we have to figure out how our financial equality will take shape given that our tangible contributions have such a large disparity. If all else fails, we will just talk all the power right out of it. Jeff and I are always looking for contributions and would love to hear from people who have navigated tricky financial situations while maintaining equality in their relationships.
I think Veronica and Jeff are already making important progress in preventing issues from arising from this unbalance. First they are aware of the power difference inherent when one person is the breadwinner and they are having conversations about how this may impact their relationship and the position this puts each person in. Secondly, they are seeking help from others who may have pearls of wisdom to give about successes and failures.