Women, Breakups & Money – Fearless She Wrote
No matter how much we want to follow our hearts, money matters.
I’ve always had a strange balance of independence and codependence when it comes to relationships. Not a great combination, I admit. I’d rather hit something more in the realm of interdependence. Instead, I swing back and forth from one extreme to the other.
While I cringe at my codependent behavior and am always working to improve it, I am very proud of the independence I bring into a relationship. I like having time and space to myself. I like to have parts of my life that don’t revolve around my partnership.
One of the most important aspects of my independence in a relationship is my financial independence. While I see the necessity of having a joint set of finances, I have always been a “yours, mine, and ours” kind of gal. Simply put, I don’t believe in sharing all the money. It’s not a lack of generosity or inability to be intimate on my part. I just don’t think anyone should have to disclose every penny they spend to anyone — not even a spouse.
As a member of Generation X, I grew up with parents who had very traditional marital roles. My dad brought home the bacon and my mom raised the kids. They shared all their accounts, credit cards, and investments.
I was lucky that even in that traditional arrangement, they didn’t set a bad example. I had a lot of friends whose parents were in the same situation and whose mothers weren’t allowed to buy anything without first consulting with their husbands. My mom pretty freely spent what she wanted, but for some reason, I always felt trapped by their arrangement. What if she wanted to buy a new dress or go to the movies with a friend? Would my dad have to know her every transaction?
I just don’t think anyone should have to disclose every penny they spend to anyone — not even a spouse.
My grandfather, despite having had a marriage exactly like the one I had always dreaded — keeping his wife on a strict allowance — always encouraged me to develop financial independence. He was deeply worried about his granddaughters’ financial security. He drilled it into my head that I should always have my own money in a marriage to make sure I could take care of myself if a partner ever left me. He even normalized the idea of a woman wanting a prenuptial agreement in a world in which we are taught that this subject is something of a romantic taboo. He gave me the gift of knowing that if I got married, I should feel confident in my insistence on sorting out my own financial security before anyone said “I do.”
I feel incredibly blessed that I learned these lessons and made these determinations for myself at such a young age. When I was 19, after my grandfather gave me a large sum of money to cover my sophomore year of college, my abusive boyfriend asked me to co-sign a loan with him for a brand new motorcycle. Thank god that even being the people-pleaser that I was, I could hear my grandfather’s voice in my head saying, “Shit, no!” (He had a worse potty mouth than I do.)
So I told my boyfriend no. Looking back, I know that was a major moment in my life, when I could have easily been saddled with his debt after our breakup.
He gave me the gift of knowing that if I got married, I should feel confident in my insistence on sorting out my own financial security before anyone said “I do.”
When my last partner and I moved in together, his commitment phobia loved my whole “yours, mine, and ours” financial preference. We set up a checking account together, got a joint credit card, and kept our individual accounts and credit cards. We made sure that we each contributed our fair share to the joint account so we could pay the bills each month and we checked with one another before making big household purchases with the joint credit card.
Again, I look back on this and see it as such a momentous decision even though it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. When he left with his new girlfriend, he decided he wasn’t going to pay his share of the bills anymore and was going to leave me with the lease fee and other associated financial obligations. Thankfully, my own money was protected from him and his thoughtless decisions so the fallout was not too bad — and eventually, he decided to pay up, after all.