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.

The Equal Partnership

‘Togetherness’ is what provides the staying power in a marriage. Staying together, thinking together, sharing together, mutual respect, taking decisions together, planning together, saving together, learning together, forgiving each other – togetherness is just what matters.

The word ‘equal’ needs to be defined clearly here – it doesn’t necessarily mean equality in every sense of the word. There will be moments, situations when one will need to take the lead. There just needs to be a sense of comfort and acceptance of that fact.

Two people – with their commonalities and differences come together to create this ‘partnership’. It is therefore necessary to build a sense of marital identity – a sense of ‘we’ – ness in addition to and different from themselves as individuals. There is a fine line between thinking of oneself as an individual with one’s own needs and wants and thinking of the partnership as being together with common needs and wants. As the partnership grows in strength this line sometimes blurs, sometimes becomes more defined – either of which is fine as long as there is mutual acceptance.

The partnership is also a ‘responsibility’ and each partner is accountable for its success. There will definitely be moments or times of pressure when there will be one up-man-ship, manifestation of stress, financial burdens which perhaps one partner needs to take a lead on etc. Ego will play a huge role to either pull one apart or bring you together – as long as its ‘you’ exerting control over the ego instead of letting the ego take the lead – all will work out.

The equal partnership has to be a peer-to-peer relationship. Sometimes you need your better half to be a friend rather than a spouse. This flexibility ensures that you’re open to playing whatever role the marital situations demands of you. This is the best part of marriage.

The partnership is a safety net – a place that feels safe for love, hate, conflict, dependency, play, openness, fun – it should make you want to always go back to the safety net.

An equal partnership therefore is crucial to help make a ‘house’ truly one’s ‘home’.

The Power of Love

Love, the universal language is an interesting concept.

According to Wikipedia, love refers to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from pleasure (“I loved that meal”) to interpersonal attraction (“I love my partner”). Love may refer specifically to the passionate desire and intimacy of romantic love, to the sexual love of eros, to the emotional closeness of familial love, to the platonic love that defines friendship, or to the profound oneness or devotion of religious love. Love may be understood as part of the survival instinct, a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.

This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states.

Love changes over time. Does it really? Or is it that just our response and reaction to the love we feel changes?

Wanting to spend every waking hour together, constantly sharing thoughts and an admiring look, the urge to touch, however briefly all adds to the charm and excitement of love before marriage.

The same immediately after marriage – begins with the feeling of euphoria at having got what you’ve wanted, the open acceptance of sexual attraction and display of physical intimacy, then settles in with the reassurance of having comfortably become part of your partner’s life.

Sometime later, the urge to spend every waking hour together recedes – not because your love changes but you take it for granted that you are together anyway, so what’s the point of wanting to express it. The mundane, surrounding environment, demanding careers, money matters, building a future, in-laws, relatives and children’s influences seeps in slowly, vying for equal attention. The response to the love you feel translates gradually into acceptance of the duties you must perform.

Perhaps sometimes the duties no longer feel as pleasurable and then, you respond to the love as pressure to adhere to the norm wanting to break free from it all.

Then again, sometimes a brief recollection of a moment spent together or a passing comment from a stranger makes you relook at your response. You delve into that moment to rebuild on the love you had felt, to draw strength from it and change your response.

That I suppose is the power of love – to adapt, mould, conform, accept, let go and refresh itself as and when required.