The root of all evil

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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.

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