If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It?

As the door slammed shut, Arti slumped on the floor. Feeling defeated, she wept bitterly. Moksh’s voice echoed in her ears.

“Buying a flat now is out of the question! How can you even think of it? Who will pay the down payment and EMI? It’s not like you’re working and contributing anything!”

4 years ago when Pakhi was born, they unanimously decided that Arti would be a stay at home mom. His parents lived with them and were happy to help, but it wasn’t a good idea to depend on them to care for such a young child. Arti was keen to care for her child and readily agreed to quit her well-paying job.

When Pakhi was a year old, Arti started art & craft classes at home. She also went back to oil painting and making decorative items for friends and family. She sold some but most often, she would give them away.

She loved the feeling of getting her old life back. Even while in college, she sold her paintings and craft items to earn pocket money. She felt like she was going back in time. Life was good.

About a year back, Moksh’s company went through a major reshuffle. They offered to retain him in a different role. He wasn’t happy but with no option in sight, he accepted. Simultaneously, he began job hunting. That’s when he spoke to her daily about going back to work. Pakhi had started pre-school, was becoming independent and between his parents and Arti, was well looked after.

But every time this conversation came up, Arti would feel cornered and they would argue. She wasn’t ready and felt that she would find something suitable when Pakhi began secondary school.

Moksh was the sole breadwinner and although Arti had investments, most of her savings had almost depleted. Apart from monthly expenses, Moksh paid her extra for her personal expenses. She managed everything within that including buying stuff for her painting and art classes. While working, money didn’t really matter to her. She earned well and spent without a thought. Money was a means to an end only. Now when she was nowhere close to earning like before, the value and importance of money became pronounced.

She became prudent about spending – she budgeted her monthly expenses, stopped spending money on herself (unless absolutely necessary), began exercising at home instead of gymming etc.

She understood that Moksh needed reassurance that if anything untoward happened then she would be there to support the family. Sometimes she sorely regretted quitting her job after childbirth! Yet, she kept resisting and began to hustle like crazy, doing odd jobs that paid her meagerly but made her feel good about herself. She paid for some expenses but it wasn’t enough and she continued to dip into her savings. She would think of breaking her investments but feared that Moksh would find out and it would make matters worse.

She was torn between doing the right thing and doing what was right for her.

Every time they fought, Arti would decide to give up painting, the side hustles and find a job. Job satisfaction or career growth wasn’t the objective. She just needed a regular income. Yet, immediately after, the work she did from home would feel more appealing and empowering.

She felt guilty about understanding Moksh’s position but not doing anything about it!

A nearby apartment was up for sale. She wanted to tell Moksh because they were looking to invest. This morning when she did, he was livid. For the umpteenth time when he ridiculed her for not thinking about their wellbeing and making an effort to find a job, she was heartbroken. Her confidence took a beating and she felt gripped with self-doubt. Being dependent felt humiliating. She realized that earning money wasn’t only about money. It earned you respect and self-worth. But if she felt so strongly about it, then why wasn’t she taking up a regular job? Why was she unwilling to share his financial burden?

Then the penny dropped. In the past, professionally she had faced two huge losses. One time, she was doing extremely well and was being promoted. It meant a great deal to her yet her happiness was short lived because simultaneously, Moksh was offered an overseas posting. She quit and moved with him. Another time, after she’d rebuilt her reputation and credibility, Moksh changed his job and had to relocate. Again, she quit. Both times, his jobs were financially more beneficial than hers were.

Now when she felt alive doing something she loved, she was again being asked to quit. Standing at the crossroad having to choose between her happiness and the family’s happiness, she stubbornly refused to give it all up.

Was she punishing him?

(If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It? was first published on Women’s Web on March 7, 2018 / Images source: pixabay)

Are you right for me?

Madhavan and Paro came from differing backgrounds yet fell in love when they met in college. Parents from both sides, were against their relationship. They cried, argued and fought trying to make their parents understand the importance of their relationship. At times, they were also willing to pay heed to their parents’ concern only so they could use the opportunity to reiterate that they were baseless and both of them were perfect for each other. Neither of them were willing to elope since they wanted their parents’ blessings so after six years of bitter battle, their parents finally relented and they were married with much aplomb.

But 8 months after marrying with everyone’s blessing and societal approval, they filed for divorce on grounds of incompatibility!

Initially I thought perhaps the parents on either side were at it again and making life difficult for the couple but on close interaction found that it wasn’t the case. Irrespective of the many “I told you so” remarks floating around they broke up solely because they couldn’t live with each other!

Similarly another couple fell in love and married against parental wishes. They probably wouldn’t have married at all if there was a neutral someone who had simply asked them to look inwards in terms of what they truly wanted from each other, from their relationship – someone who nudged them to see that they were not right for each other as was starkly evident to outsiders. Unfortunately, no one did. Today, their every day is enmeshed in bitter arguments and adjustment issues. Even the birth of their child didn’t help matters.

When I began writing this post, I was thinking of discussing parental beliefs and viewpoints – how important these tend to be when deciding if a life partner is right for us. Consciously or otherwise, they are indicative of our future life. However, what I found truly intriguing was the underlying issue of how couples unanimously stood up to the world as one yet were unable to uphold that stance when face to face with each other!

Why?

In these cases, is it because for the longest time, their relationship solely meant adjusting and compromising to their respective families instead of addressing each other’s emotional needs? The battle with their parents took up so much mental space leaving them with hardly any time to talk about their expectations from each other, their personal beliefs, fears and goals, their future together amongst others. These are hardly issues when one is dating as then conversations mostly centre around likes, dislikes, enjoying moments of togetherness and physical intimacy. The physical intimacy phase is also one where the intention is to please rather than being vocal about being pleased or pleasing oneself.

Every person is unique and invariably upbringing, value systems, financial backgrounds, personal internalized conflicts influenced by respective families all determine and play a significant role when choosing a partner. Sometimes people look for partners who are totally different from themselves or their parents or their experiences as they feel that it will help to change their lives. After all, we’re all looking to live different lives. On the other hand sometimes we’re drawn to certain qualities or habits that unconsciously or at deeper insight are actually the kind of relationships we’ve seen growing up simply because we believe that we’re capable of changing them. Our future will be better and we will live different lives!

4cd1adc1775c3ce544bfe2a2612075c2But the irony of the situation is that the constant justifying to parents can take a toll on the personal relationship. I believe that some times having to justify also pressurises couples and puts them in false positions – someone might highlight a valid negative point which the couple might have overlooked or ignored but feels forced to take a side to keep up a front. Some times couples feel defensive if they’ve realised the same yet don’t know how to discuss it with their partner. Yet again something said during these arguments might have hurt the other partner – so although on the face of it things might seem ok but the person might be unable to forgive or forget how it had made them feel. And invariably it finds a way into future discussions and arguments!

It is crucial to try to understand our partners but more importantly we should first get to know ourselves better. If we don’t respect our own wants, needs and desires then we risk having to live someone else’s lives or their expectations. During such times, the power of love takes a backseat and we start regretting marrying the person we love. As seen with the second couple, although they’re not keen to divorce because of their child, that hasn’t meant that they’re civil to one another.

Thomas Merton in No Man Is An Island says “the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

Choosing the right partner is such a challenge and much has been written about how to pick them. So perhaps at times, it’s easier to just accept that something didn’t happen SIMPLY because it wasn’t supposed to!

Money in marriage!

Some time ago I read an interesting article that stated “as the US economy improved the divorce rates worsened!”

I’m sure if one were to do a similar analysis in India, the trend would be the same. We might still falter in terms of acceptance from society at large for being divorced but the trend would nonetheless come as no surprise.

What did it really mean?

I would think that it meant that most people look at their own happiness and satisfaction when it comes to divorcing their partner – even if the relationship has gone on for years. To an extent I am generalizing but it is true that when one is financially strong and independent, that is when thoughts of divorce are mostly entertained. If your basic survival depended on the earning member of the family then even though some might refer to it as the Stockholm syndrome, one does tend to find reasons to justify staying on.

It isn’t easy to live on your own – apart from society and sometimes losing friends and family for taking such a step, it is difficult to be responsible for every little thing in everyday life. Sometimes it helps to pass on the responsibility to someone else. But as the current situation and environment is no longer conducive to such expectations, more and more women are moving towards being financially independent.

Psychotherapist and author of How to be a couple and still be free, Tina B Tessina says, ‘financial independence is important in a marriage because it can also mean ‘independence of thought”. Its value is equivalent to a sense of self.

Why do most people believe that money and relationships can never get along? It’s perhaps because money is measurable, i.e., the give and take is quantifiable. Therefore how much the relationship will be impacted by money is dependent on the couples’ spending and saving habits, their experiences with money while growing up, their communication about the same and how they personally view and value ‘money’ and what it stands for to them as individuals.

In addition to this children and expenses related to them, financially dependent parents or siblings, property and inheritance, hobbies which by themselves are expensive to maintain (like diving, photography etc.), filing taxes – can all add pressure on one’s financial commitments.

Some time ago the joke doing the round about a wife’s view on money was, ‘darling what is yours is mine and what is mine is mine!’ This notion will not find too many takers today – unless of course, only said in jest! More and more women marry late today or get into live in relationships by which time they have their own place, have planned their financial responsibilities and earn well enough to want to continue exercising the option to make independent decisions about key things in their lives. As for the men, they too more often now see their role as the sole bread-winner changing – their wives/girlfriends are not only equal partners but in some cases earn more than them.

Some exercise the option to split their bills equally or in some form of equitable manner. This allows them the flexibility to use the remaining money on themselves or however they deem fit. The advantage is that it starts off as being reasonable but can lead to resentment over individual purchases or expenses. Also it tends to limit the couple’s spending power.

Some agree on which partner will pay for the bigger expenses (like purchase of property or white good) while who pays for the regular expenses (like rent, or monthly grocery etc.). Some might agree to maintain separate accounts yet open a joint account in which they input a certain amount every month which only goes towards living expenses while some might simply have a joint account for every kind of expense since they are now married and should share their lives together. To each his own!

Whatever the relationship or agreement – money is a key essential element that has the potential to lead to arguments and breakups. How one deals with money matters is solely dependent on each couple as there is “no right or wrong way” of doing it!

Being a Christian and marrying a Hindu, we had a Christian wedding followed by a Hindu wedding along with the legal registration thrown in between! We spent a lot of our own money before the wedding – money that were spent not only on purchases meant for the ceremonies and celebrations but was a way to share expenses with our parents and also have a say in the wedding arrangements. This meant that we were in debt when we married and it took us over a year to become debt free! In other words we both walked into the marriage carrying a substantial financial baggage!

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to money, its best to clear debt at one go and as soon as possible even if it means that I’m living hand to mouth for the rest of the month. My husband on the other hand believes that one must always have loose cash handy for emergencies (he never allows his bank balance to reduce beyond his own set limit) and debt should be cleared in a systematic manner without hampering that. Although we individually cleared our debts, his cleared faster as he was methodical while I struggled.

I don’t enjoy shopping and do so only using a list or I buy what I want when I need it or feel like buying. Also I only like to entertain close friends and family and don’t like to eat out too often. My husband, on the other hand, enjoys the experience of visiting different shops, evaluating the offer (either offline or online), taking his time to decide and then goes ahead and buys exactly what he wants. He mostly shops during sales and therefore always lands up getting a bargain. He loves company and likes to meet up with colleagues, acquaintances and friends for a coffee or drink. He also likes to eat out and enjoys exploring new cuisines or restaurants.

It’s evident that our perspectives on relaxing and spending money are different thereby indicating that we have different “money personalities.” Sometimes we’ve been able to sort out our differences, sometimes we’ve argued bitterly while in recent times (especially since I took a sabbatical from work with the birth of our child) we discuss to get each other’s views and then mutually agree to spend or save according to what works for him within the present situation as currently he is the sole earning member and we have a child to support.

Money matters are a constant in a relationship and therefore should ideally be dealt with as a couple! It’s important to share the work of budgeting, paying bills and handling finances. Otherwise, the person who handles everything could become resentful while the one, who doesn’t could be left without knowledge of the family’s finances especially in the case of illness, separation or death.

Most couples will agree that the crucial agenda with regards to money is not so much who is earning it (and how much) but who keeps control and takes the decision about spending it. That’s where money as power tends to raise its ugly head and if not addressed as a couple with sincerity and sensitivity, it will most definitely lead to trouble in paradise.

Money matters!

I was appalled years back during the pre-marital session at Church when some of the other couples were cagey about sharing details regarding money matters with each other – some believed that women tend to spend too much money and therefore as bread winners they wouldn’t want to be open about how much they earned – some preferred simply to hand over a fixed amount to their wives in the beginning of the month on the premise that she wouldn’t ask for more – some wanted the wife to play no role in financial decisions – it would solely be the husband who would decide.

My husband and myself didn’t believe in any of the above as we were both independent thinking people and strongly advocated that financial matters had to be a joint decision. We each began supporting our parents immediately after getting jobs so didn’t want to let go of that after the marriage, we knew that we wanted to spend a certain amount of money on ourselves and we knew that we would want to spend money as a family and within that save up for the future – ‘our’ future together.

Why is it so difficult for people to accept that money matters and does play a huge importance in our lives? Why should it matter if one partner earns less than the other? Why is it so difficult to cope with the money equation? What is it about money that makes one feel insecure?

Money = Power

Could this be the only reason? Money matters as money talks – so the person with more money has more power! After all, earning more doesn’t make one a better person. Nor does being in the same income bracket as your partner guarantee everlasting happiness.

Also, if that’s the case then the basic premise of a ‘equal partnership’ becomes baseless. Being a couple, togetherness, a unified marital identity does include money as one of its crucial pegs to stand on – indicating that an imbalance can create undue pressure – but which also means that the relationship will continue to stand its ground if the other pegs are strong.

Each partner carries their own baggage about money – their understanding of money matters, respect for money and its potential, acceptance of roles with money, their own earning potential to create or provide a comfortable haven – all are based on how they’ve been brought up, their parents and family’s reaction to money and what roles they’ve demarcated for themselves through their various life experiences. Even what money can buy or cannot reflects this baggage. Therefore a compromise has to be sought between partners – clarity of each other’s perspectives needs to be taken into account and it’s crucial to be honest with each other. Being in a relationship is all about maximizing each person’s assets including accepting what each partner brings to the table over and above the paycheck.

Loving someone and having that person love you back for who you are knows no price tag. My husband earns much more than I do – I’ve moved cities with my husband as and when he’s changed jobs. Yes it has impacted my work – yes it has meant that in every new city I have had to rebuild my professional career, I’ve had to establish my net worth – yes it’s meant that there have been breaks in my career. But simultaneously, it’s also true that no one pressurized me to take those decisions. We wanted to be together – as his earning potential increased it meant that our lives together became more comfortable. It opened up our perspectives on life in general and broadened our horizons. It also brought us together as a couple since in each new city we had only each other to depend on and make a new life together.

There is a clear understanding between us – we each pay for certain fixed costs, we each continue to support our families, we each have our salary accounts, we have separate saving accounts, insurance policies etc but we’re each other’s nominees, buying household goods is a joint decision (although my husband does most of the research in terms of companies & their offer), sometimes we pay each other’s credit card bills (especially if we’ve returned from a holiday or bought something for the house or if during a particular month one of us is stretched), we eat out regularly so either one of us picks up the tab or sometimes it’s only one of us paying for it and it’s the same with buying personal items.

Having said that, we’re not perfect – we continue to have our battles over what is necessary and what is not, how much is enough, who spends more, loosing track of monthly budgets, our struggle with saving money etc.

Therefore as life happens, the process of continuously balancing the sheets is essential for happy living.