The root of all evil

1

My partner and I are not on equal financial footing. She has way, WAY more money than I do, which comes from family investments over several generations. She owns the home we live in outright, as well as her car and the bulk of the furnishings. The upside for me is that I don’t have to pay housing expenses. The downside is, well, she owns pretty much everything.

I sold or gave away most of my belongings when I moved to be with her. On top of that, jobs are really hard to get here and I took a nearly 50 percent pay cut when I finally found one. So, although I can pay my bills (my and my daughter’s car payments, insurance for both cars, cell phone, miscellaneous children’s expenses, and a couple of low-balance credit cards) and buy groceries for us, I don’t have a lot of extra to play with. As it is, I have been supplementing too much with my savings account and not being able to put anything back in. It’s dwindling at a rate that keeps me up some nights.

We do have one combined account, which we opened when I found out it was necessary to do so to add her to my health benefits. There is just enough in there to make it interest bearing, and we don’t use it much except for minor household purchases. I don’t ask her to pay for any of my expenses and she doesn’t offer. And, I don’t even know that I would let her if she did offer. That pride thing gets in the way.

Challenges arise when we want to do things and I can’t afford it. We have been buying furniture for the house recently — replacing some of what she had before with things that combine our different styles — and although I can contribute to some pieces, she ends up buying the bigger ticket items, which makes me feel like I’m not pulling my weight as an equal partner.

There are also times when I’m stressing out over an expense relating to my kids that my ex-husband is not wanting to help with, and she will say things like, “Forget him; we’ll be fine,” or We’ll handle it.” Only, there is no “we” that ever handles it, so saying these words only make me more stressed because I CAN’T handle it alone. And, I feel like she is being flippant about my finances when she says things like that.

She comes from a big family and her siblings are all in longtime marriages. Things are just understood with them. They live as a family because they are a family. We are still in the “yours” and “mine” phase, except when I remind her to say “ours.” I’m hoping this is something that will change with time. She has lived alone all her adult life, never had to share things and never had to worry about money. I know this is what has shaped her, just as my growing up with three sisters who I had to share everything with and watching my parents struggle to break a poverty cycle has shaped me. Add to that my previous 25-year marriage where I had to compromise a lot. Neither is necessarily better than the other, they just are what they are.

I would say most of the couples in our local circle of friends have combined finances. Because the cost of living is so high here and wages are comparatively low, they need two incomes to get by, and many of them have more than one job. Sometimes I envy them for their struggle, because they are struggling TOGETHER, toward a common goal. If they can’t afford to do or buy something, it’s because TOGETHER they can’t afford it. There is no imbalance.

Her nephew is getting married a month before Christmas and the hotel the family is staying at is $170 a night at the discounted price, although we are looking into less expensive options. On top of that, the wedding is in another state that is too far to drive to. It’s expected that we are going to fly in, but all I can think about is it’s going to cost me about $700 to attend a wedding at a time I absolutely can’t afford it. I’m thinking of bowing out altogether, but don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s hard keeping up with her family when none of them have the financial worries that I do.

Ugh, money.

Advertisements

That same thing, revisited

Aretha knows.

Aretha knows.

So, the very next day after I posted my dilemma on this blog, the same friend came by my office and asked if I wanted to have lunch. (We work at the same place, although rarely see each other.) I said yes, but the whole time I was wondering if my partner had mentioned my concerns to her and that’s why she was asking me to lunch.

It turns out it was just a coincidence.

We had a really good talk. She told me about her past relationship that had ended abruptly and in a way that left her devastated. She talked about her past and what a hard time she had in high school and college until finally learning to accept herself. We also talked a lot about boundaries and I mentioned how my partner was just learning how to set them. She said she would be a willing test subject and to let my partner know that she would not be offended if she wanted to practice on her. She said she considered us “aunties.” (She is about 20 years younger than my partner; 17 years younger than I.)

I felt really good about the whole situation after we left, sure that things were going to get better. Well, they really didn’t. The three of us are part of a women’s performance group, and we have weekly practice. The day after our lunch, we met for practice and the friend was all over her again, in what was an inappropriate way. My partner still didn’t say anything, even though I could tell she was uncomfortable.

Then, that weekend, we ran into her at breakfast with another lesbian couple we know. She came up behind my partner and grabbed her around the waist, nearly getting an elbow in the face because, as I have said before, my partner is not used to that kind of touching. She knows she needs to say something, but doesn’t know how without being rude.

In the meantime, I dread being around this friend and I am getting pretty fed up. We just met her this fall, and aren’t that great of friends yet, so it seems just too much too soon. I thought we would get a reprieve because she just started dating someone, but may have scared her off with wanting to be exclusive after a couple of lunch dates. At the same time, I feel bad for her because she is trying so hard to find a connection with someone but hasn’t been able to for the past few years. And, she has that past of being hurt.

Anyway, that’s where we are now — same place as before. Just wanting a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Nice to meet you! Now help me with this problem.

MjAxMi0zOTRkNzljMGM2ZGE2YmUx

So, I know we haven’t had any formal introductions yet and all, but it’s because of this issue that I started/restarted this blog. I need to unload all these feelings, and what better place than the interwebs. We’ll get to the social niceties later, I promise. In the meantime, nothing like starting off with a bang.

**********

I think in the lesbian world it’s far easier to get away with flirting with someone in a committed relationship than it would be in the heterosexual world. If a straight man sees another guy groping or pressing up against his wife or girlfriend, you can bet he’s going to say or do something. It just isn’t done. Why then, does it seem more permissible among some gay girls?

I am facing this issue with a mutual (single) friend of my partner’s and mine. She has a lot in common with my partner, and I know she feels comfortable joking with her. She actually does this with both of us, but because she is a mini-me of my partner she seems to do it more often with her. Along with the teasing, there is some grabbing and full-body hugging, again to both of us. After the last time she did this to me, I decided it was crossing the line and told myself I wouldn’t let it happen again.

I like her — she’s fun to be around — but I am personally not comfortable with anyone pressed up against me in that way except for my partner. My partner used to be the total opposite of touchy-feely back when she was closeted, so it surprises me that she lets this friend get away with grabbing her. My thoughts are that because she hasn’t been in a relationship in 25 years or so, she hasn’t had to set boundaries. On top of that, being closeted caused her to build walls, and she gave off those “do not touch” signals very well. Now that she’s out, she is more comfortable with sharing herself.

I honestly believe this friend is not interested in my partner (or me) in THAT WAY. She’s like a big, eager puppy dog and acts the same way with other people in our group — even the straight married women. I also think if my partner and she were both single, they would not get together. So, I don’t think what I’m feeling is jealousy. I can be jealous, something that piggybacks on my insecurity, so that was the first place I went when I was trying to figure out what was bothering me about this whole deal.

After a lot of thought, I figured out that what I’m feeling is annoyance, irritation at the lack of respect for a relationship that took a long time to build. I know this friend admires what my partner and I have and wants the same for herself. She has told me this. I don’t think she means harm.

But.

My partner and I had to go through a lot to be together — my divorce, a two-year long-distance relationship, our coming out to our families and friends (including my children), my cross-country move after leaving a job I really loved. In between all of this, there were many tears, rough moments, misunderstanding and so many things to work through. Thanks to a lot of love and patience, we are now happily living our life together. Family, work, play — our lives are entwined.

That someone thinks they have earned the right to take any shortcuts is irritating to me. I think there should be clear boundaries of what is and isn’t allowed, gently communicated, mind you. I think these boundaries should be constant, no matter who is doing the talking or touching or hugging or grabbing. My partner doesn’t agree with me on this. She thinks this friend is harmless and that because she does things in a joking manner, we should overlook them. She think we should have different boundaries for others who might have ulterior motives. I think it’s a slippery slope and to rely on pure judgement leaves too much room for miscommunication.

Because women are more touchy-feely, we think nothing of hugging, kissing or touching another woman as a way to express our feelings. It’s natural to us, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than simple affection. But, if there aren’t any boundaries in place, the waters can definitely get murky.

It’s happened so many times before.

So this is my struggle.

I am a big believer in boundaries and in respecting my relationship. It’s why I didn’t accept a certain Facebook friend request. It’s why I avoid being alone with certain people who tend to cross the line. It’s why I do my best not to put myself in situations that can be or turn iffy.

Even though I can put my own boundaries in place, I can’t draw them around my partner. I feel it’s her place to say what can or cannot happen to her body, what is acceptable to her and how she chooses to honor our relationship.

This isn’t a new problem in the lesbian world, at least according to Google, who patiently answered the questions I had about the subject. It’s one of the biggest causes of the dreaded lesbian drama, something I thought at our age we were beyond. Not that there’s drama — yet. But unless we come up with clear-set boundaries we can both agree upon, I can see this problem coming up again.

And again.