The Hillratt’s Voyage—Money & Independence

Today Sara is back, talking about her concerns about giving up her income and being supported on her husband as she embarks on her journey around the world. When Sara first wrote me about this dilemma, she kept beating herself up about struggling with this, when she was lucky enough to journey around the world in the first place. And I told her to be kinder to herself. Because first of all, who among us doesn’t admire someone brave enough to give it all up and take a life changing adventure? I don’t envy her that, I applaud it, because it makes me braver just by hearing about it. But more to the point, I suspect that most of us will have to deal with this thorny question at one point or another in our lives as wives. Maybe we loose a job, maybe we have a baby and are on maternity leave, maybe we hate our jobs and decide to quit. But when the moment comes when we are dependent on someone else’s income to eat, we run hard and fast into some serious questions. And with that, I’ll let Sara (of Stofnsara) take it away:

The other day I explained that my husband (Stof) and I are about to embark on a bloody marvellous voyage across the Pacific with nobody other than each other (well, for most of the time). As should be expected, this has raised a number of ‘issues’. While my current quandary has arisen because I’m a lucky fish who gets to sail half-way across the globe, I think there may be many more women who grapple with the same tension between her income (or lack thereof) and her identity as a ‘strong woman’, but for different reasons.

I currently work as a lawyer – as I have for the past five years. For those familiar with the legal profession in (most) commonwealth countries, I am a barrister. This means that I am largely self-employed and I specialise in court work. It can be enormously intellectually and financially rewarding. BUT I have had enough: there is too much of my capacity that is not being used while I am my lawyer-self. Even if we weren’t embarking on our adventure, I would be making some kind of professional shift. As things stand, I am immeasurably grateful that I can “bow out” of the profession with grace and a jolly good excuse.

Stof is also self-employed, but his business is internet-based and easier to maintain while voyaging. Before we became a serious couple, he bought a house with gorgeous ‘bones’. Together, we renovated her into a beautiful home and filled her with splendid art and furniture. Earlier this year we moved the art and furniture into storage and sold that house. With a portion of the house money, we bought a boat in Mexico…

OK! Here comes the juicy bit: Because we both run our own businesses, when we married we kept our finances separate. Now that we are embarking on a Pacific passage, I must (and willingly do so) give up my work. Stof, however, will continue to earn money. We will both be dependent on that income (as well as the income generated from the balance of money from the sale of [his] house). I am about to become (at least while we’re travelling) a “kept woman”.


I love making my own money. I have had my own income – no matter how measly at times – for over a decade. There is also a definite link between my (perceived) identity as a strong woman and the income I contribute to our household. So it’s a somewhat difficult to get my head around the idea that a few years will pass where I will (a) not earn any money and (b) live off my husband’s earnings in (c) a boat that was bought from the proceeds of my husband’s asset. It’s freaking me out and I feel like I am letting go a little bit of being the feminist I believed myself to be.

Clever women grow up learning and believing (and knowing) the importance of having their own income and how that effects their sense of independence. Sometimes, whether for babies or study or moving or travelling or other important reasons, we have to give it up. Giving up an income, no matter what the circumstances, is a kind of a sacrifice that I believe many wives make. It’s a sacrifice that I have not often before heard discussed in the context of what it is to be that woman who no longer brings in an income, as opposed to (say) how tricky it is to negotiate a household with one less salary.

Stof and I have lately spent a great deal of time talking about money and the role it plays in our relationship (and the roles we play in bringing it in). At first he didn’t realise why it was important for me to feel financially independent and I have found it difficult to articulate at times. We’re in the process of making a serious shift in how we view our finances to more of a “team” mentality. Part of that is reaffirming in our own minds and each other’s that we married each other for what we can become as a unit: not what proportion of our net wealth we each bring in from year to year. We’re certainly on our way to figuring it out, but I’m still dreading the day my last invoice is paid and I cease to bring home the bacon.

POST SCRIPT: Because boys are simpler… I showed Stof a draft of this post before sending it on to Meg. His response: “Tell them that I really don’t mind if you earn all the money. Then I can just sail.”

Sara Hillratt is planning to is planning to travel across the Pacific with her husband, starting with sailing from Mexico to Australia. Their adventure starts in February 2011. She’s writing about it at their blog Stofnsara, but also here, as part of exploring what a marriage can be on Reclaiming Wife. If you want to start closer to the beginning, you can read all about their trip here, and about Sara & Stof’s marvelous South African wedding here.

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  • Thank you for sharing this! It’s so great to hear that other people have similar thoughts around these things…

    I’m not traveling the world, but I’m planning to quit (today!) my job that makes me unhappy, working for an employer that doesn’t take care of its employees. A huge part of making this decision has been embracing the “we’re a team” idea; a team in the ways we promised on our wedding day, and a team financially, which is still very new to us. Individually, no, i cannot afford to leave my job. But on this team? We can afford to take care of my mental health.

    As I was reading, I was thinking about whether this is different for women in same-sex or hetero relationships, and I wonder if it’s easier for me, being married to a woman, to not feel like I’m giving up independence as a feminist… what are other people’s thoughts on that?

    • That is such an interesting point. I would guess that people in same sex relationships have to deal with very little of the gender stereotyping and the knee-jerk reaction to such stereotyped roles that many strong women (in my scant one-husband experience, gender stereotypes are not such a big deal for the man) in heterosexual relationships have. Maybe that is exactly the mental shift that needs to be made: Saartjie, you’re not dependent on a MAN (as Rachel so eloquently states), but on your partner, because partnership by its nature will demand each person to be dependent on the other at different times.

      I’d also love to hear from more people in same sex relationships on this…

      (And congratulations on the resignation! You must feel great!)

      • Rizubunny

        For me…I absolutely panic at the thought of being dependent on my partner financially. For context: I moved out of my parents’ house and started college when I was 14 and have been completely financially self-sufficient since I was 17.

        I would be fine with being the sole “breadwinner” (we actually had to deal with that issue a little bit this year, because her business was not doing so well), but giving up bringing in money would be very, very difficult for me. I’m working on this issue – for example, I used to keep track – down to the penny, in a spreadsheet – how much we each spent when we went on vacation and how much we “owed” each other. I no longer do this, but it’s still a struggle for me. Much of it has to do with my need to be in complete control of my life and be able to walk away from anything, instantly, should I need to. Of course, it wouldn’t *actually* be that easy, but because I earn my own salary I still have that illusion of control. She has much fewer hangups about money and what it signifies than I do.

        Like I said, I’m working on it :)

        • Rizubunny

          Edit: I’m now 27.

        • ka

          Dude. I still have those vacation spreadsheets. They are a major PITA, but I have such an OCD compulsion with it….all my issues, not my fiance’s…

          2011, I swear, I will work on my hang ups and we will dive in to some sort of system of combined finances…

          • Rizubunny

            We’re reading through “Smart Couples Finish Rich” right now – and I definitely recommend it. We talk a lot about money and goals anyway, but it has some interesting exercises for making them more concrete, and thinking and dealing with money as a team rather than as two separate people who might happen to agree sometimes.

            I think what really made the difference for me was when I had to cover some of the bills because she hadn’t gotten paid in almost 2 months – I got, for the first time, that it really is *our* money (despite the fact that we have separate accounts) and we’re both committed to taking care of our family. For some reason, it clicked and I thought “hey stupid, you could stop obsessing over it so much.” We’ve been together five years – and I’ve just now come to that realization. Crazy.

            (Meg, I’ll submit a wedding grad post after our wedding next September, I promise! :))

          • KA

            Thanks for the book rec! I actually have that book sitting in my stack of things to read, so glad to hear it’s worthwhile–maybe this weekend I’ll get on that. We’re also getting married next September, but are thinking now is the time to open a joint account to use to save/pay for the wedding, so this week of posts is well-timed!

    • Lethe

      Yep, another same-sex couple here, and I think I may feel the same way. My fiancee’s and my situation may be a little different, because while I’ve had various jobs to support myself through several periods in school, I’ve never really had an “adult” full-time decent-pay job through which I was 100% supporting myself with no student loans or other recourse. Perhaps if I had a self-supporting income, I’d feel worried about giving it up. But either way – I’m not nervous about the periods where I depend on my fiancee’s income, or she on mine. I always figured it’d happen that way since we both have demanding careers (law and academia) which may require geographic and monetary sacrifices on both sides. I think it might be a lot harder if I had a male partner, because then I’d worry I was falling into stereotypes whenever it was my turn to sacrifice. Not to say same-sex relationships have no inequalities (all relationships do) but I do think it operates differently.

      • I’m with you, Lethe. All relationships do have their inequalities, but I don’t really have a problem with my (female) partner supporting me financially. We’ve talked about this already, because I’d like to stay home and do something (raise the kids, renovate a house, something) rather than work outside the home. I think I would struggle more with it if I were in a relationship with a man though.

        However, I will say this — I personally am not really comfortable with her supporting me financially until we’re married. I have thought a lot about why, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I just feel better about contributing in only non-financial ways once we’re married. Maybe it has to do with the financial security issues that are brought up in some of the comments below, but I really think it has more to do with the fact that once we’re married, we’re a “team” in a way we aren’t before marriage. It’s a big part of what marriage means to me.

    • Lethe

      …also, congrats on leaving your job!! NOTHING is worth giving up your sanity.

    • Just another comment from someone else in a same-sex relationship: first of all, kudos to you for ditching the job that makes you miserable. That takes a lot of guts!

      My wife (of 5 days! :D) and I currently earn very similar amounts, so our contributions to the household bottom line are nearly identical right now. We’ve been living together for over 5 years, and up until about 2 months ago, we kept a spreadsheet of everything we bought for the other and made sure it balanced eventually. Abandoning that was a HUGE step for our relationship. While we’re making similar amounts of money now, it’s likely that this will change at several points in the future (one or both of us going back to school at various points, taking maternity leave, etc.) Since we’re both women, I don’t really feel that the idea of earning less will make me less of a “strong woman”, but the idea of being dependent on someone else’s income does freak me out a little. And honestly, I’m more concerned about the prospect of making less than I am about the prospect of making nothing (perhaps this is because she and I have had numerous joking arguments about who will be the stay-at-home-mom…answer: likely neither of us because whoever works would be so jealous of the one who spent every day with the kids!) For some reason, in my mind, being responsible for childcare, etc. during the day feels like an equal contribution to the household bottom line, whereas working full time but earning less than my partner seems like it’s just likely to make me feel inferior. But clearly that’s an issue that I’ll need to sort out for myself if/when our income diverges at some point in the future.

      • meg

        WEDDING GRAD!!! Have you been noticing the dearth of Lesbian weddings up on APW recently? I have, and it’s making me sad. I bet you wanna make me happy Becky! Yay! Not that I’ll love your wedding for it’s same sex ness, I’ll love it for it’s awesomeness. But still. It’s an extra reason to harass you. Thank you, and goodnight.

  • Cass

    I am also in the legal profession, and accustomed to making my own living. My fiance is a Ph.D. engineer, who also earns a comfortable living. I am grappling with the idea of when we get around to having kids. Will my husband resent me for living off his wage, when we’ve each been so independently successful?
    But, this has calmed me. I’m sure his response will be much like Stof’s: I really don’t mind if you earn all the money. Then I can just sail.
    (The metaphorical sail of being a stay-at-home-dad, of course.)

    • meg

      Well, I mean, you will be growing humans. So I think that counts as contributing.

      I didn’t weigh in on this post, because I’ve said this in previous posts, but it’s important that we remember that we’re each contributing to our partnership in different ways at different times. The important part is that we’re both contributing, not that we’re both contributing cash at all times.

    • Liz

      i’ve wondered about this too, cass! so far, i’ve been the breadwinner. and that’s probably going to change come june-ish. i plan to work from home- but in this market, realize it’s not a definite.

      what i don’t understand about myself is how i can willingly make all the money. but then wonder if josh will resent me when he must do the same. so silly.

  • Elizabeth

    I currently make minimum wage (after 2 promotions!) at a grocery store- I make significantly less money than my fiance who is already done with college and luckily got a great job back when jobs were hard to find. My annual take home pay is a fifth of his. Even though I have a job, I do not make nearly enough to provide any real support to our household. Money has always been a sticky subject between the two of us, I suspect because the way our parents’ style of money management is quite different (his parents divorced and had to divide and rebuild everything, my parents remain married and my mom stayed home with me for most of my childhood). The styles clash, and sometimes it feels like we’re not on a team. Which leads me to expound that even having a job doesn’t always prevent you from feeling like the kept woman. I am working, going to school, and (generally) taking care of the house, but whether because of a fight we’ve had or my own wishes to contribute more money than I do- I feel guilt. I’m not doing enough. That thought sometimes leads to resentment, because right now I’m juggling more balls in the air than he is. It often seems that pay rate directly influences time valuation, even outside the workplace. Better to have the person worth less do more…

    P.S. I’m sorry if I sound bitter- I’m head over heels in love with my fiance even though we have different opinions about money. What I hate is the expectation for regular women to have superpowers (aka take care of everything) but to be generally be valued less than men in the workforce and at home.

    • Amy

      I think this is an excellent point – and definitely there is a tendency to have “pay rate directly influence time valuation, even outside the workplace”. What has been hard for me to work out is the fact that even though I get paid less than my husband does (because I was not blessed with the math skills to be a financial analyst) my hours in a large corporate environment are often much much longer and involve more travel. So he’s home more often, but I still find myself doing more housework/social planning/etc. as a way to almost make up to him the fact that I earn less.

      • meg

        You know, I’d urge you to sit down and talk about this and reconsider this. It shouldn’t matter who is making what, it should matter the energy that you each are putting into the household. I would argue that if you work longer hours, he should be picking up more of the slack at home. You’re not a business, you’re a partnership. He’s earning for you both, as are you. The way we calculate it, it’s not that he makes $10 and you make $5, it’s that you both make $15. Now you have $15, hooray! Who has time to do the chores?

        • Kat

          Yes, yes, yes! I totally agree. If you earn less but are working more hours then feeling like you have to do extra chores to make up for earning less probably isn’t the way to go.

          I was fortunate enough to avoid most of these issues as we basically merged finances when we moved in together – 4 years before we got married. But for the last year I’ve been finishing my PhD after my scholarship ended and we’ve been living off his income. I feel bad about how we have less sometimes and I know he misses the extra money we had coming in sometimes, but he doesn’t mind supporting me (and would quite like it if I supported him in the future – so he can ‘sail’) but chores carry on as normal (a super-equal split, carried over from our flatting days). When I’m extra busy he does more, and when I have more free time I do more.

    • I also make considerably less than my husband, which causes money to occasionally become a testy subject. Most of the time me manage to strike a pretty good balance. I know that I feel a lot more stress over it than he does, because like you, I wish I could contribute more than I do.

      • meg

        But I bet you contribute in a million wonderful non-monetary ways, and those count JUST as much.

        • It’s true I do. I think that mostly I sometimes feel bad because he’s no longer living at the level he was accustomed to before me. (Although arguably, his lifestyle is much healthier now that it involves more home cooked meals by a not-quite-vegetarian!) I’d say that 99.99% of the time we both feel like we’re both contributing just is much, if in different ways.

          • meg

            Wait, but now he has an amazing WIFE, right? Who’s to say that he’s not living at the level to which he was accustomed? Perhaps his life is much better now, even if he can’t go out to eat as much. Eh?

          • Class of 1980

            ANYBODY else doing the meal planning and cooking is heaven. ;)

    • Arachna

      Yes re society valuing the time of those who earn less less. :(

      I also think it’s an incredicly important topic to address… what happens when the higher earning spouse isn’t selfless and happy to support? The internal pressure and shame are nothing to sniff at sure but I also think when the pressure is entirely internal its much easier to deal with than when your husband … doesn’t “not care”. And what do you do when you love him and he is in many ways a great partner? My advice would be to agree to very very clear groundrules and guildelines and frankly I would probably not marry a man who did not agree that support of the spouse is part of the very foundation of marriage and is not contingent on more or less housework. But that’s easy for me to say because I am confrontational and I am not in love with a man for whom this is a problem.

      I would love to hear discussion of this very difficult topic.

    • Steph

      Everything you just said applies to me as well, for the most part, so I empathize big time. Except my fiance doesn’t make more money than I do – he got laid off from his job shortly after we got engaged over the summer. I’m about to graduate college and have spent the last 3 months applying to “grown up” jobs, with still nothing to show for it. At the rate it’s going, I’m going to end up going back to work at the camera store I’ve been at (on and off) for 6 years, just so one of us has an income. Barely. My fiance’s parents have been divorced for 20 years while mine are still together too, but luckily the two of us tend to have similar views on money — first and foremost being that we need some.

      Hang in there! :)

    • Bridette

      To give you another view Elizabeth – Just to complicate things a little. I earn more than my spouse by about 10%-35% depending on my bonuses so if we go by pay rate, my time would be valued more…However, we are grownups and have discussed this and we both “contribute” to the household.

      He earns a good wage but spends a lot less time doing it. But I feel guilty because even though I make more, Im spend more time away from the household so its harder for me to cook dinner or do chores. and I feel guilty that I don’t have the time to do so. So then I spend the little quality time at home, that my fiance treasures, cleaning as much as I possibly can. My spouse is happy to do it, has about 3 more hours a day to do it and I still cling to gender stereotypes that I need to be cleaning to make up for the fact that my fiance has dinner on the table when I get home. WHAT? I need to be valuing myself a little more for bringing in so much cash, even if it takes more time than it takes my sweetie. Fortunately, he doesn’t mind.

      Ive joked that I need to hire a wife for my future husband….maybe not such a joke. I think I may have passed a threshold of income where we are comfortable enough that I could pay another person to do something I can do, just because I need to “buy” time. My free time is starting to be so infrequent, it has become more valuable.

      And yes, I realize this is something to treasure and I could quit my job and take a less lucrative one to spend more time with my family. Which is truly my long term plan, (when there is a mini-me running around) but this is the first time in my life I have extra money to spend and Im not ready to let that go yet! oh yeah, and I like my job.

      Anyhow – bottom line – we are measuring our contributions and making sure things are equal. We do it with cash, we do it with time contributions, we are measuring constantly to make sure things don’t get uneven (even adjusting over time – I stay at home now, he can quit his job and Ill work later). We need to stop measuring and just appreciate the other person for what they do and measure your achievements as a couple. The stay at home moms of the 60s did get that right. If their husbands got a promotion, they did too. It was a joint effort – woman behind the man – so to speak. Lets get that back a little and have it go both ways!

  • Rachael

    This is such a great post- a good reminder that when we get married, we can’t just ignore the money stuff, as hard as I tried.

    When husband and I were living together before we got married, I was the breadwinner supporting him while he was in school. In all honesty, I really didn’t like my job but I liked being able to support both of us- it gave me a great sense of pride and accomplishment, but most importantly, autonomy. After we got married, I went back to school and now the situation is reversed. I struggle with the fact that I am completely dependent on someone else- something I swore to myself I would never be again after I moved out of my father’s house. Of course all my feminist bells go off- what do you mean I am dependent on a MAN??? But also now I feel like because I have been on the other side of this situation, I know that I never resented husband for not making any money before we got married. And that is really what I have been concerned about- will husband resent me? Does he think I am being lazy for studying hard instead of working part-time?

    But this is what partnership is. We support one another wholeheartedly, which includes finances.

    • Alyssa

      Partnership, YES!! I don’t know if you plan on having kids or not, but know that your kids will definitely benefit from such a great partnership.

      My mother has always stayed home to take care of me, with a few jobs here and there, but that was a choice my parents made. They were both military and Dad was higher ranking so Dad continued working and Mom quit to stay home.
      It wasn’t until I was older that I really appreciated the choice that they made. My mother sacrificed her career and my father sacrificed time with us, both so I could have a good life.

      Kinda makes me feel like an ass for all those teenage tantrums I threw….okay, fine, it DEFINITELY makes me feel like an ass.

      I hope your kids are more grateful than me! :-)

  • Ami

    Ok so perhaps not directly the issue here, but I think a facet of the same… research published by a friend of mine (Caroline Gatrell) from Lancaster University Management School suggests that working fathers are happier when they do more of the housework themselves, spend longer with their children and have working partners who are in the office just as long as they are:

    So perhaps while the responses above seem to suggest ‘yay bring on the kept man phase of our relationship’ perhaps it’s not quite so simple as all that… or is the context important here? As in working *fathers*… I’m guessing bringing kids into the equation opens up whole new vistas of uncertainty (but I’m on unchartered ground here as part of a child-free couple).

    At our wedding we had as a reading Leo Da Vinci’s ‘What is an arch?’ and it certainly held a lot of meaning for us – that it is the equilibrium of a relationship which gives it strength. But trawling back to my old chemistry days I guess an equilibrium can, by definition, flux and shift… as long as ultimately an equilibrium is reached?

  • Isn’t a marriage and any relationship, really, about keeping each other? It’s not about being a kept man or a kept woman, but a husband and wife, and working together to make your family unit work…however that happens financially or emotionally is for the husband and wife to figure out together, right?

    I’m not saying that I’m not incredibly proud of my financial independence, and that there isn’t a tiny part of me that is worried about totally combining my finances with that of my future husband (right now we have a measly house account for groceries and junk), but by taking vows, aren’t we promising to live our lives together and support each other (emotionally or financially) in the best way we see fit? Isn’t it about more than “mine and yours” once you exchange those vows, doesn’t it become “ours”?

    Sure, it’s a change to leave your job or have your spouse leave his/her job…it’s an adjustment to lose an income, or to gain one for that matter. And it might lead to moments of panic, but it’s a choice that is made as a couple, for the benefit of the family, and I have a hard time understanding why choices and decisions make people feel like they are sacrificing a bit of themselves. Seriously, I struggle with this concept in my relationship often…choice vs. compromise vs. sacrifice…(I’ll stop myself before I get too far down this tangent)…

    • Elizabeth

      I agree with you in theory (kinda like I agree with communism in theory) but in reality I think it is probably rare to find that level of comfort with something like this. A marriage is about support through the good, the bad, the uncomfortable, etc. However, our aim (in most things) is to make it as easy and smooth as possible while still retaining our individualism. So giving up an income is difficult because while the financial support of your spouse is there, it still feels like you’ve lost some part of your independence. Also, that spouse may resent the change even if they thought/said they wouldn’t. Since every person has a different personal relationship with work, money and household management- it can be extremely difficult to find a balance that satisfies each individual and the relationship as a whole.

      • Leahismyname

        This is very wise. I’ll need to remember this: even though we *know* we’re creating a team, part of us wants to keep things smooth and easy by maintaining our individual independence.

        This is a very helpful summary.

  • Sarah

    Yes. Money.
    I am in the incredibly blessed position of marrying a man who makes 5-10 times as much as I do (depending on the year) because I’m an actor and he works in finance. I decided long ago that I would only work part-time jobs to keep myself available to acting jobs, and that means earning less money. We both accepted that situation early on. But now, getting married, it’s really difficult for each of us to think of his income as our income. We both like to limit our spending anyway, but he’s used to spending more on clothes and video games and restaurants, while I feel greedy if I don’t make donations to various causes that are proportional to my income. Not that I’m a saint – I tend to spend in “all-or-nothing” phases (“If I can spend $200, what’s another $100?” etc.), but I’ve never felt responsible for any significant amount before. So for me, it’s less feminist alarms going off (because I’m still earning what I’ve always earned), but more feeling wasteful when we go out somewhere nice and a little guilty buying nicer things than I used to because I know he’ll cover the bills.

  • So glad to hear that other people struggle with this! We’ve had alot of conversations about money and for the most part I think we’ve got over alot of hurdles but now and again the same issues come up.

    Our position at the moment is kind of reversed. I’m also a lawyer and earn considerably more than my partner. It isn’t something I ever make a thing of or tell people who know us because it isn’t a big deal for me – I’m, not motivated by money so the salary isn’t an issue for me and neither is the gap. But….he has found it difficult to come to terms with not being able to support me and be a traditional bread winner becuase he see’s his role to be a provider.

    Our investment in the house we own was pretty equal although on a month to month basis I pay most of the bills. I need him to know have no problems with this, it’s an investment for our future. I don’t resent it at all. He does lots of other things for me and for us that matter – he fixes everything and has saved us a huge amount of money by doing things that I could never have done. I feel like for any additional cash investment I’ve made in our house he’s matched in in labour and love so we’re quits, no question. I’ve had to do alot of reassuring that I don’t feel like I’m being taken advantage of and while I understand how he feels the alternative would be that I keep my money to myself and spend it on me and I am not comfortable with that in any way – why would I want to keep it for me when I can use it for our future?
    At some point I hope to take time off to have children and then I will need him to support me and our positions will be reversed again. Hopefully by then we’ll be in a position where not having my salary isn’t a problem and we can live comfortably on his income. If we’re really lucky it will have allowed me the choice to not work so hard some day not too far away and concentrate on being their for him and (if we are lucky enough) our family.

    • GreenBalloon

      So, this is obviously a big issue for lots of folks in lots of situations, but I wanted to comment on a few things.
      1) The idea that living off of your male partner’s income makes you less of a feminist. I guess I sort of don’t see feminism as the end-game: isn’t it more of a step on a journey towards a broader notion of equality in freedom? Feminism isn’t an obligation, it’s an enabler, right? It’s the “you can”, not the “you must”, because “you must” sounds familiar (“you must get married”, “you must have children”, “you must do x to be a ‘good wife'”) and it is just as limiting to your freedom (the freedom to be happy, for example). Even if you’ve never actually fully supported yourself (say, gone from home, to school, to married before), knowing that you could do it is empowering, and that is part of seeing eye-to-eye with your partner
      2) The idea that equal income is equal value. Louba touched on this in her reversed situation and the same applies to the ladies who are supported (fully or partially). There is plenty of value that you can provide to a household that doesn’t come in the form of direct deposit. Remember that saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned”? Well, if you become the champion of saving on household expenses (whether because you’re a crazy bargain hunter or a crazy DIY-er) then you are “earning” all those savings for the household. Add to that a little savvy on the investing side (which isn’t for everyone, but more women should do their homework here) and you can bring that much more value to the household.

      • Alyssa

        Ack! Yes, you said what I was trying to say, but better. And without fake cuss words like eff…

        • Hilarious. I was just reading yours thinking, “we’re totally on the same wavelength! But her post is way funnier”. Seriously, I giggle-snorted audibly.

    • Tricia

      Louba- we’re in pretty much the same exact place, and I feel the same way.

      Two month after we bought our house, my now-husband (we were not married at the time) lost his job, out of the blue. He went six months without a job. In his new job, he makes significantly less than he used to, and significantly less than I do. He also just lost his medical coverage which means I’m now covering insurance for us both. For the forseeable future, I’m the “breadwinner”, I pay more of the bills, etc.

      I don’t resent this at all. I am very lucky to be in a position to do this, and I know that someday the roles could be reversed, and he would be happy to take care of me. Plus, like others have said, we’re in this together.

  • Leahismyname

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on this topic. I was so happy to see that so many other women have similar fears to mine.

    My fiance makes more than twice what I earn. Our financial system is that we each contribute a percentage to the household expenses that reflects the percentages we each make of the total household income. I’m comfortable with this system because it makes me feel like I’m contributing equally.

    But I’m considering going back to school, if only part time. This would mean I would take a pay cut because I’d have to quit this job, which is a pretty rigid 8-5 schedule. That means I’d basically only make enough to cover student loan payments and/or tuition costs. He’d be footing the bill for the entire household.

    This freaks me out so much. I’ve supported myself (however poorly) for years now, and I’m so uncomfortable with consuming more than I contribute.

    Boys are easy, though. I voiced my fears and concerns and he looked up vaguely from his book and said, “Huh? Well, I don’t care if I’m supporting you, as long as you’re happy.” And then kept reading. If only it were that easy in my head!

    • meg

      BUT YOU DO CONTRIBUTE (I affirm you!) Girlfriend, clearly you contribute many awesome things to your partnership that don’t have a dollar amount attached to them. That you both are contributing is the key, and sharing what you have. You’re a unit now!

  • Thanks for this. Because of my job (I’m a foreign service officer), my partner may be going without employment for stretches throughout our lives while we’re abroad (unless he can telework/do freelance jobs/find employment in those markets) and this has really helped me to further understand where he’s coming from on this. He’s generally pretty positive about it, and we think he’s got good chances of being able to do at least some work depending on where we are, but I know he does stress about the impact it may have on his career. Sometimes it’s frustrating for me because when I applied (while we were still grad students) and brought this up, he was totally nonchalant about it, saying that he would just stay home and write a novel, but of course now that he’s started a career he likes he’s much more attached to it. I’m finding that since we combined finances this summer though, it’s been a lot easier to view our current and future income discrepancies as irrelevant, because the money coming in is all “ours,” so I think that a transition to just me working will go much more smoothly than it might if we kept everything separated.

    • M

      Wowwww so cool, jealous of your job! I have wanted to be a foreign service officer for a while and at the very least work for an international organization. I’ve worried about what that means for my fiance and how he wants to support my goals but will want to work as well.

      • Ah, shucks. I don’t know what country you’re in but in addition to government FS jobs there are definitely a lot of international organizations, NGOs, etc. Those might be good to try because you’d be more likely to do a single-assignment post instead of signing up for a career of rotationality right away, so you guys can see how it works out.

        It’s definitely a challenge to consider how we can avoid turning career advancement into a zero-sum game, and it’s especially frustrating because a lot of spousal support resources just ASSUME you’re a dude with a wife who wants to do nothing more than stay home or occasionally help out with clerical work (rant alert), but so far I think we’re managing to set ourselves up for a good balance. Ask me again after our first posting though, heh.

        • m

          Yessss, actually that assumption about dudes with a wife is one of the things that has been turning me off to Foreign Service and making me look more at NGOs etc. I’m hoping to start graduate school next year, so I have a little while before it becomes a physical issue, but obviously its already an emotional issue.

          I wish you the best of luck when you do get your first posting!

        • Kee

          I recognize this very much. I’m a diplomat and change location every 3rd year and therefore my husband need to leave whatever he is doing and come with me. My husband finds it more and more difficult give up his job to move to Moscow/Nairobi/Vienna/Montevideo, where his options for finding new work are very few. And it takes some time to settle in a new place, to find work, to find new friends and to create a life. And then it’s three years and we’re off to the next place, new language, new culture, new life. He is struggling with this, which means that I’m struggling with asking him to do it again. And again.

          And honestly, if he asked me to move to to a random place for his work, I would have to stand down in my career, something I would hate and somewhere deep deep inside probably resent him for making me do. At the same time, I know I put him through this… I’m trying to compromise as much as possible and in a few years I will most likely be back in capital for a while, which will hopefully bring some more balance to our relationship.

          As a unit, it’s better for us to put our efforts into my career, as it’s going very very well at the moment. But we are two individuals and we both need to be secure in what we do on our own. None of us are completely comfortable with giving up our jobs and completely relying on the other. Not just for the finances, but for the identity and the sense of controlling your own life.

          I guess it is just one of those many tricky things we need to figure out how to address in order to maximize both of our careers and remain together as a family.

  • Alyssa

    I joke with my husband about wanting to be a kept woman and how I’d be the BEST housewife ever. To which he replies, “Dream on, hooker…”

    But I think I do think that I would be fine if he made the bulk of our income rather than the 60/40 it is now. I would prefer if I was contributing somewhat, but that’s less about me as a woman and more about my own work ethic and wanting to work PERIOD. (Child of an immigrant father and grandmother. Work is paramount.)

    I have no idea where I got this mindset, but I think of feminism less in terms of actuality and more in terms of ability. If I didn’t contribute to our income, I know that I’d still be okay with that because I know that I COULD. I’m completely capable of being independent and if for some reason I was not for a period of time, that’s okay because I could be. Women did not fight for us to HAVE to be independent; they fought so that we could if we chose. I honor them because they gave me a choice and right now I choose to work. Not doing so later is still okay, because I know I have the option.

    You MUST be independent is like telling me I MUST stay home and take care of the children. And I say eff both of those. I MUST do whatever the hell I feel like doing.

  • Class of 1980

    Here comes the generation gap.

    Until APW, I didn’t have the remotest idea that so many young women felt so differently about money and marriage than my generation. Most of the readers here are in their twenties and thirties and I am fifty-two now.

    (Yeah, it’s hard even for me to believe because I don’t feel very different.)

    Most of the time, the issues discussed on APW echo the same concerns women my age had when we were at the same stage in life. That makes it feel like things don’t change very much. But whenever money comes up, I realize that there have been bigger changes than I thought. Simply put, my generation never agonized on this issue to this extent.

    To clarify, we didn’t have a lot of guilt about the times our husbands supported us, due to a gap in employment or child raising Of course, we would have guilt if money was tight and bills weren’t getting paid. But if that isn’t an issue, not so much.

    If someone of my generation quit their job to stay home with the kids, we didn’t wonder if our husband would resent us. We didn’t consider ourselves a liability or feel that we were kept women. It never would have occurred to us to think in those terms. We felt we were contributing, thank you very much.

    Most of us don’t think in terms of our money being separate to the extent the current generation does, although a few do. But it’s not the norm, unless maybe there’s been a second marriage and we’re trying to preserve something for our children.

    I am struck by how much shame I always sense in the comments whenever the conversation turns to money and being supported in any way. And I’m amazed by how carefully everyone seems to measure their share of contributions versus consumption.

    And I’m NOT judging, because these are your feelings and you are living in a different time. I’m just saying that I’m REALLY feeling the sense of generational change reading a lot of the comments. I’m just reading with a sense of wonder and my eyes are really big right now.

    • Katelyn

      “I am struck by how much shame I always sense in the comments whenever the conversation turns to money and being supported in any way.”

      I agree, money really hits a nerve here, while other controversial topics seem to (mostly) be handled pretty well.

      For me personally, I *hated* in college when I couldn’t support myself. If it had been just me, I probably could have made it with a little help from my parents – I was raised to live frugally. But my boyfriend had a completely different lifestyle and financed much of our misadventures. And it really made me feel awful. I wish I could say that I’ve learned some important lesson, but I haven’t.

      I’ve always been (too) proud of being able to take care of myself. I’ve been stubbornly independent since the day I popped out of the womb. So to not have the money in a bank account in my name to feed and clothe myself gives me gut-wrenching horror.

      Thanfully, my beau and I are on fairly equal footing financially now, and it eases a lot of the stress in our relationship that we had in college. And maybe my feelings will change when we get married.

      For now, I’m happy to just recognize this is a problem I have, and try to mitigate the panic I feel when my checking balance is low.

      • Class of 1980

        I understand feeling that way about a boyfriend financing everything. But once you are engaged or married, to me it’s a total partnership. There are ways to contribute other than money.

        And for the record, if I married someone with money, all I’d be saying is … “Cool” and “I’ll have my attorney look at the prenup.”

        I’d never look a gift horse in the mouth, because money is freedom and opportunity. Qualms and idealism decline with age, people.

        • Morgan

          “I’d never look a gift horse in the mouth, because money is freedom and opportunity. ” Yes! For all reasons.

          (Which is why I spend a good percentage of my inheritance after my father died taking my husband and myself to Europe for 3.5 weeks. And then raised a toast to him over beverages where ever we were.)

          I find your perspective really interesting, in that I find myself agreeing with your view much more than that of my generation (I was born in ’81). I was smart and lucky with money and was able to put 6 figures more down on the house than him, but he will always make more money then I do. Neither of us have ever stressed about this. My biggest concern about money and taking time off for kids is how best to maximize my year long maternity leave.

          I wonder how much is the fear of scarcity? I mean, I am part of a generation where there are real fears about recession and lower standard of living that the previous generation and so on. If there’s a subtle fear that nothing will ever get better, does that encourage you to worry more about being “fair”? And always having to cover your financial ass just in case? I have no idea – I’m just thinking out loud.

    • You know, I think it’s something our generation has learned from our parents, or maybe more specifically our mothers who might have felt trapped in a relationship because they had no way to support themselves if they took an out. Or mothers who were coming of age right in the middle of the women’s lib movement. So they raised us to be independent and be able to take care of ourselves. The unintended consequence has been that instead of feeling slaves to failing relationships we’ve become slaves to our paychecks.

      • Class of 1980

        Yes, I think there are probably a lot of women my age who raised their daughters to be hyper independent.

        But here’s the thing. We didn’t know where it would lead because we were too busy being in the middle of the struggle to foresee all the results of winning.

        I was a child in the sixties and a teen in the seventies. In the sixties, they talked about liberation. By the seventies, real changes were just beginning. In my high school, you could take a ton of classes that would qualify you for secretarial work – typing, shorthand, bookkeeping.

        But there was also this sense that you could ignore all that, purposely NOT learn to type, and go to college for a career. There were a lot of career women in the eighties who didn’t learn to type on purpose and never anticipated the advent of personal computers.

        It was a transition period. As the eighties began, it was possible to work in a company where all the women were in support staff, but a few were beginning to work up the ladder. By the end of the eighties, it seemed like half the women were in support staff and half were in management.

        I remember when there were zero women newscasters on TV. Then there was one or two. Now there are tons.

        I remember having the idea in the early eighties to NOT stay at home and be dependent on a man, because my mother wasn’t able to get a divorce until she started her second career. Plus that was a common sentiment at the time. But a lot of that was rhetoric that wasn’t always carried out.

        There was a lot of radical feminist thought back then, but it couldn’t all happen overnight.

        It’s kind of funny to remember when everything was more traditional, but rhetoric and feminist ideals were flying around more . . . and compare it with now when so much is taken for granted. In some ways, it feels like feminism succeeded beyond it’s wildest dreams as far as how different the expectations are.

        Education has changed too. In the eighties, most people felt good about themselves if they got a bachelor degree. Now, that seems to be just a starting point. Although, I am reading that the whole higher education thing has been tapped out as far as benefiting anyone in this economy. We actually have too many people with too much education to absorb.

        Yeah, interesting how expectations evolve.

    • Sarah

      Thanks Class of 1980.

      This resonates with me a lot. I am getting married this July to a lovely man who makes 4 times as much as I do (I am a freelance editor.) To date, we’ve split our household expenses 50-50, in part because I wanted our home to feel equally ours and never wanted that to come into legal question if we never married. Still, with plans afoot for me to have children, this is going to have to change. And I think I have more of an issue with it than my husband-to-be.

      In part it comes down to how we were raised. My fiance’s father supported his mother who in turn looked after their four children. As you say, in their generation, this wasn’t such a guilt-inducing issue. There was enough money, it was a division of labor, and so on. But for my mother, who is 61, the story was completely different. She would very much have liked to let my father work and stay at home. But when their marriage ended, when she was 33, that meant she had never worked and had to enter the work force on a starting salary with a young child. I guess seeing here struggle made me hyper aware of what can go wrong in this scenario and so I’m more wary as I enter a financial union with my partner.

      • Class of 1980

        My generation had the same worry. There has always been some risk in staying home.

        This is something you have to think about in advance. There are some careers that you can enter and leave at will. Or you can own your own business and have more flexibility.

        Those are the only options unless you marry money and have a prenup that tells you exactly where you will stand in the event of divorce.

    • meg

      I think this is really interesting. As those of you paying attention already know, I clearly have the mindset of a previous generation. What’s ours is ours, and that’s the end of it. Now, as I talked about on Monday, it’s not easy to be stuck in a situation supporting both of us. But the problem for me is not, “I’m bringing in more money than he is,” its, “I’m stuck in a position I don’t want to be in, and I don’t have options because the economy is so terrible and that sucks.”

      I think that we may have moved backwards… though hopefully we’re moving backwards to move forwards. I think we disempowered ourselves as women when we judge ourselves based on the money we bring in alone. Obviously our contributions are so much greater than that. How can we de-value ourselves to the point were we say, “Oh, I grew a human and now I’m home feeding this person from my body, and I’m not contributing anything to this partnership because I’m not bringing in cash”?? If bringing a new human being into the world isn’t enough to wake us up to the fact that we can contribute massive things without contributing any money, I don’t know what is.

      I hope though, that we’re moving to a point that both partners, male and female, stop judging their contributions with a dollar amount. I want men to feel free to stay home, or take less-lucrative options as part of a partnership, and women to feel the same way. I think that is when we really make progress.

      I think, for better or for worse, our generation was raised with a sense of hyper-individualism, and I think that is what’s taking us down. Maybe it’s harder for us to give in to the idea of total partnership. When we become a family unit and an economic unit, we give up some of our individualism, but we gain something more. Support, trust, belonging. And that’s worth something too.

      • Class of 1980

        Great and fabulous post. That is what I see too from my perspective.

        It actually feels like women today devalue themselves quicker at the drop of a hat. And it pains me to see how many tie their value to money. It seems like such a rigid way to define success in life.

        I really hope this is just because we haven’t gotten the fine-tuning of feminism down pat, and not that we have lost track of how to feel individual worth! And I suspect that the more consumerist culture of American society isn’t helping in the self-worth department.

        Yes, money is important. It gives you independence and opportunities, but NOT personal worth or value. And when I say independence, I mean independence from oppressive outside forces, not independence from a marriage partnership.

        • Vmed

          “I really hope this is just because we haven’t gotten the fine-tuning of feminism down pat”

          So I went to a women’s college and took some feminist philosophy (not that much, so any women’s studies majors feel free to expand or correct this) and there was a bit of a rift between earlier feminists (2nd wave?) on this crucial issue of femaleness:

          premise 1) we want equality of the sexes
          and 2) the difference between males and females is that females have the capacity to bear offspring,

          so conclusion

          a) this is an awesome difference and to bring about utopia bearing offspring should be valued more


          b) this is a terrible difference and to bring about utopia females should stop bearing offspring and do things that society does value

          The latter conclusion is pretty radical stuff, obviously, but I think maybe we’re seeing the repercussions of incorporating parts of it into our generation’s thought.

          • Class of 1980


            Thank you for bringing up something I’ve thought about a million times, but don’t say often enough. I am definitely an “A” type.

            The very thought of the “B” type that anything that is inherently female (bearing children) is terrible, strikes me as self-loathing of great magnitude. It is glorifying the male at the expense of the female. They are telling the female that the closer she can live as a male lives, the more valuable she is.

            Feminism actually started long before the sixties. There have been rumblings of it even going back to Victorian times. I read one book that claims that earlier feminists in the 1880’s were striving for something totally different than we are.

            They were dismayed at widowed mothers being forced into factory jobs and they were working to provide public salaries to any woman with children who was widowed or left by her husband so that she could stay at home

            Their thought was that a mother’s contribution to society was so valuable, that we needed to subsidize it. They wanted the role to be valued rather than done away with.

            I gotta say, my grandmother was so crucial to my life and I get freaked out thinking about what would have happened to me without her. She stayed at home. Whenever I hear even a whiff of condensation towards housewives, those are fighting words to me.

            I owe too much to one of them.

          • Class of 1980

            Typo: condescension

      • Elizabeth

        This is going to sound totally unromantic, but I think some of the individualism women and men want to retain is caused by watching so many relationships fall apart. A few of the comments suggest that a woman’s financial independence is not just a personal success, but also a flotation device. Without a job, without income, what happens to us if something goes wrong? We don’t really want to think about that, but we don’t want to be unprepared either. Whether it’s a spouse dying or a divorce or both earners losing their jobs- there has to be a safety net. And when it feels like there isn’t one, whether you’re one accident, one downsizing, or several fights away from disaster, it is horrifying because you don’t know how you’re going to make it through financially, let alone emotionally.

        • Class of 1980

          Elizabeth, I think that is part of it, but not all of it. Too many people have talked about how not earning money or earning less money makes them feel bad about themselves.

          As far as a spouse dying, you can be insured against it. Divorce is the real risk.

          But there are other things life could throw at you. What if you build a life with expenses that require two incomes, and one of you gets too sick to work? What if you plan to work and you have one of those pregnancies that require total bed rest?

          What concerns me is the rigidity with which people seem to approach it all now.

          I am divorced and self-employed now and have been for years. But before that, I was married and working in a job I hated and I’d been doing it for a long time. A coworker who had just had a baby was acting a little grumpy that day, so I asked her what was wrong. She said “I just want to be at home cooing with my baby.”

          She had recently up-sized her life by moving to a larger house and buying new cars. She was boxed in. She couldn’t stop working and resented it. I casually said I’d like to stay home also and her eyes bugged out. She said “Well, THAT’S asking a lot!”

          She said that because I didn’t have children. See, the world had gotten more rigid. She didn’t stop to think that my husband was making more than enough money at the time and that our expenses were super low. Our financial abilities and personal feelings didn’t matter because the new rules stated that women without children had no reason to stay home.

          I was floored that anyone felt free to comment on something so personal. I knew that 10 years prior, that reaction would never have happened.

          FYI, a few years later, he quit his job and I supported him for a while.

        • meg

          Right, but you can carefully set up safety nets from within a partnership. Because of course things can happen, but when you marry, you give up some individuality by default, which is something we too often ignore. David and I live in a community property state. We could keep separate savings accounts to give us a feeling of independence, but they would be a lie. If we got divorced, a judge would throw all of our assets into a pot, and divide them 50/50. In the eyes of the state we are a single economic unit, and that’s something we chose, and something we live by.

          We have safety nets – they are savings accounts and marketable skills. Those are there, and we work hard to keep them in good working order. So we’ve set them up, and that gives us comfort, and we function as a fully integrated financial unit.

          My worry is that if we join a partnership, but can’t allow ourselves to really become a full partnership, we cut ourselves off at the lknees. That said, as far as I’m concerned, part of being a partnership is making sure that we are both equally protected. If we’re paying into a 401K for him, we need to be investing in a Roth IRA for me at an equal rate, etc. But even though individuals need to be protected for the team to work properly, the team still has to come first.

          And valuing ourselves by what we make is never, ever, ever part of protecting ourselves. That’s just mis-valuing ourselves.

          • Class of 1980

            Agree. You can set up safety nets even in the event of divorce.

      • Tina

        Great response, Meg. I want to email this or hang it up on my wall because it says all the things that are floating in my head when my partner and I talk about money. But I also wanted to bring up this point that Elizabeth mentioned, that I thought about as I read this part of your post, “I think, for better or for worse, our generation was raised with a sense of hyper-individualism, and I think that is what’s taking us down. Maybe it’s harder for us to give in to the idea of total partnership.”

        For those of us who have come from homes of divorce or just hit by the bombardment of “so many marriages end in divorce,” are we somehow planning for a bad situation when we tie our independence and self worth to money? I wonder if with all that we see around us with failing marriages, that maybe there is this tiny part in our subconscious that’s saying “prepare for the worst”. I’m just thinking out loud here, and don’t have an answer. I know that my partner was married for a very brief period of time and he got burned. Now he’s a bit jaded about getting remarried and sees a lot of his friends getting divorced. So our talks about money (with him earning 3 to 4 times my salary) don’t always go as smoothly. With him being very logical (not to say I am not) and dealing with numbers for a living, sometimes it’s hard to get across that it doesn’t all boil down to the amount of direct deposit or cash. Logically he knows this, but somewhere inside him he’s planning for the worst. Sometimes I take personal offense to it, but know that I shouldn’t since he’s coming to terms with his own perceptions about money. But really, maybe I should just be saying, “Cool, I’ll have my attorney look at the prenup,” as 1980 mentioned!

        • meg

          I answered some of this above, and tune in tomorrow…

          • Tina

            yeah it wasn’t supposed to be a reply to that, but I replied, walked away and then posted. doh. can’t wait.

      • Katherine

        Love love love this post!
        The economy has hit my fiance and I, as it has hit everyone else. This past May I earned my teaching credential, and find myself currently working at a day care center. I went back to school with the hopes of earning more money doing something that I love, and now I find myself earning less money doing something that isn’t quite what I had in mind. My fiance is a full time teacher, earning way more than I do, and it is HARD.
        I totally agree with the, “growing a child and then caring for said child is TOTALLY contributing” idea. I think the problem for myself (and possibly for a lot of others in similar situations) is that there are no children yet — and their can’t be anytime soon because of our current financial situation (and also, you know, not being ready for that major life change). When I was out of work for 4 months post-graduation, in my darkest and most self-loathing moments I thought, “If I got pregnant than I would at least be contributing and doing SOMETHING, as opposed to watching day time TV waiting for a job interview.”
        Of course that is a TERRIBLE reason to bring a person into the world, and thank God I didn’t seriously do that. But I think it is something to think about. I feel a lot of woman think, I need to contribute by working and earning a sufficient amount of money, and the only acceptable reason to not being doing this is if I am a mother. What if your earning aren’t “up to par”, AND there are no signs of children at any point in the near future?

        • meg

          I think that’s just life and this economy. That’s what we sign on for, right? For better or for worse? And that TOTALLY includes unemployment. (I’m not saying that makes it easy, but I am saying it’s how it goes.)

    • I may be wrong, so bear with me, but one thing we talk about in my soc classes is that, due to inflation and the economy, most families can’t be sustained on one income. Whether that means that one person works two jobs or two people work a job each, or there are a lot of side projects, whatever. I think that’s one issue of why money is different in this generation, in addition to all of the awesome stuff people have already said.
      I personally have the “what’s ours is ours” mindset–it helps that it all gets mixed together w/ direct deposit–I’ve also been a staunch independent for the last 10 years, and I know when it comes time for maternity leave I’m going to be feeling little pinches.
      But I also know that I’ll be contributing in my own way and we’ll have prepared for it beforehand.

      One interesting thing about Sara’s post (great post!) is that bringing in income/working is part of her identity. Maybe one way to resolve this is have something that’s your “job” to do on the boat? Even socially…maybe writing this column! Or a book! :) Obviously I oversimplify, but I do know that working is a very important part of my self-schema, and I would not be happy with that being “just” in my home. I would be okay if I added four hours a week volunteering. (I know, it seems kind of silly, but it’s true).

      • TNM

        I think this is key: “families can’t be sustained on one income.” The reason for our attitudes may be as simple as: both partners think about their financial contribution because both partners *have* to think about their financial contribution. Always good to look for basic structural reasons as well as the sexier socio-psycological ones, i.e. we’re all too indivualistic, feminist, etc. ;)

        Also, to now play devil’s advocate, maybe there are deeper psycological reasons to valuing one’s paycheck – or valuing one’s capacity to pull one in – than just individualism or “you go girl” feminism run amuck. A paycheck can represent a lot of things that aren’t just about your “indepedence” in your marriage – e.g. competence in your field, the fact that you’ve made adult decisions that balance your abilities/interests and desire for leisure/need for financial comfort, satisfaction that the outside world and your colleagues value your skills, a professional “win” if you love to compete, a step towards long-term financial security, an embodiment of the sacrifices you have made for the larger good of your family. In other words, I wonder if the reasons that people feel “bad” about being financially dependent include not only feminism/ independence but some of the other intangible goods connected to market work.

        Which is not to say that *anyone* should “feel bad” just because choice or circumstance have led to a smaller/larger salary or no salary! Just that there’s a lot that’s wrapped up in the idea of “financial independence” and I don’t think it’s all bad.

        • TNM

          Cr@p – psychological, not psycological, and individualistic, not indivualistic. Yes, as this correction indicates, I am both an anal type A and a terrible speller/typist simultaneously…

  • Kira

    Oh man, do I ever have thoughts about this. My partner and I live together and talk about marrying someday, but not for a good long while. Right now, our finances are adequate–he’s a grad student on a relatively generous fellowship, and I’m a freelance book editor. We don’t have much money for extras, but we get by fine and are on similar budgets. However, he comes from a very rich family, and when he has a milestone birthday (coming up in just a few months now), he’s going to come into an inheritance that would, theoretically, be sufficient to live on in luxurious style for the rest of his life. I’m from a solid lower-middle-class background; my family has never gone hungry, but I’ve never been raised to expect anything other than a life of steady work and strict budgeting to afford nice treats.

    I’m really struggling to come to terms with the effect his money will have on our lives together, as is he. Suddenly, a whole host of new possibilities has come up (extensive travel abroad, devoting our lives to artistic, intellectual, and philanthropic work rather than holding jobs per se, BOTH staying home with the kids…). At the same time, there are huge pitfalls: I worry about a loss of independence and struggle to figure out how I will define myself if we do decide to marry. I never thought it was even a possibility that I would “marry into money” and have to negotiate with all the logistical and cultural baggage that entails (would we sign a pre-nup? How would I address the implications from acquaintances and distant family members that I’m interested in him for his money? What would happen to me and the hypothetical kids in case of death or divorce, particularly if we marry young enough that I don’t bring many assets into the marriage and if I spend time at home raising our kids? How do I maintain my own lifestyle and bring my family traditions into our relationship rather than being eclipsed by his? How will we avoid sinking into decadent disengagement from the world?)

    There are so many repercussions. Although he’s very smart, culturally aware, and critically engaged, he has grown up being accustomed to things that are very strange to me, and I have trouble not feeling defensive and hostile when our different assumptions come to light. I’ve discovered a lot of entrenched, class-based disdain for the very wealthy that I really struggle not to pile on him.

    On the other side, he has grown up feeling guilty for his wealth and privilege while I have grown up in the knowledge that the very modest difference in family wealth between me and my high-school friends was what allowed me to have leisure time to pursue my arcane academic interests and escape the cycle of minimum-wage, seasonal employment that most of them still work in. He associates money with deplorable decadence, while I associate it with security. That means that I think he fetishizes poverty (think Leo Tolstoy), while he thinks I am too concerned about earning and saving money (think Sofia Tolstoy).

    It’s really tough stuff, all the more so because I feel like I can’t complain about these issues from within a context where offhand jokes about how great it is to marry into money prevail. Sure, this would make possible a lot of things I never even dared to dream about, but at what social, intellectual, and ethical cost?

    It makes all the difference that he is just as engaged with these issues as I am (and has been so for longer, since this has always been on the horizon for him). He has occasionally thought about ignoring the inheritance entirely and donating it all to charities. I don’t think that is in the cards now, but he spends a lot of time thinking about what he values and how to create it for himself without being carried away by materialism and ostentatiousness. We’ve talked a lot about our shared values and expectations, and though we have had some hard and even ugly conversations about money, I think we’ve emerged from them in a good place. With any luck, we’ll be able to live modestly, do work that we love (teaching, writing, translating, editing) without too much regard for remuneration, have time to spend with each other and our kids, and give time and money to causes we value.

    • Katelyn

      Kira, you and I have such eerily similar situations. My beau received an inheritance from him great uncle when he passed away. I cannot reassure you enough that nothing has to change if you don’t want it to. He has his money all invested and pretty much inaccessible except in case of emergency. We both work full-time jobs to support our day to day lifestyle.

      But the money frees us when we think about things like buying a house, giving our children the education we didn’t have, and retirement.

      Don’t let this be something that keeps you up at night. Talk about this with your boyfriend, about what his investment plan is. I think starting an endowment to support the arts or other charitable cause sounds fantastic. There are lots of ways that it can be tucked away so you never think about it except when you really need it. It can also be set up so a monthly stipend is received.

      Most importantly, remind yourselves that your values don’t change when your bank account value changes.

  • Thank you for sharing exactly how the financial aspect of your trip is gonna go down! And (even as part of a same-sex couple) I definitely feel you on the difficulty of untangling earning your own money from personal independence! As the primary “breadwinner” in my household I know that I would really struggle with that.

    Of course, I don’t think issues of feminism would come into play (and like greenballoon above) I’m not even sure that’s the right word here either. It would definitely be more an issue of personal independence, for me at least.

    We do struggle with money in our relationship though, and are working towards finding a way to balance our very unequitable individual earnings, especially before we have kids, and those earnings become solely mine.

    And that’s where I experience a very different sort of sacrifice (maybe unique to same-sex couples, and lesbians at that?) and that’s the sacrifice of being the stay at home parent, or having a few months off to hang out with my new baby, or being the parent who volunteers at co-op preschool. I won’t be that parent, because I’ll be at work. And I never wanted to be that parent either for the record. Yet it still makes me a little sad sometimes. Already. And kids are still a few years off.

    I think that’s the funny thing about choices- you can make the right one, but still mourn a little for all the other choices you could have made (continuing to work, investing, growing your wealth, being more independent, blah blah).

    Sometimes the interesting choices are the hardest, and you’ve definitely made an interesting (and awesome) choice in choosing to sail on your hubby’s dime. :) Can’t wait to follow along with your journey and see what more you learn/discover along the way!

    • Yes to making the right decision, knowing it is hte right decision, yet mourning the consequences of that decision. Very insightful…

  • Ohmygoodness! This sounds like me exactly. And your husband sounds like mine exactly. I have major issues about packing up and following my fairly new husband to a new town because he got a job here, meanwhile I am taking classes and temporary jobs, and often not working. It’s interesting how work and money have become such ultimate symbols of the “independent woman,” while my husband would be absolutely fine if he stayed home and I made the money.

  • This one hit me HARD. I’m struggling right now with my own job and career. I’ve been supporting myself and making pretty good money for the better part of the decade and make more money than the husband-to-be. Yet my job is making me crazy, it’s turning me into someone I don’t want to be. And yet, I struggle to give it up. I’m having the same internal monologue that you’ve had with yourself.

    Congratulations for having the courage to do something amazing while doing something that scares you. I hope that I can get there soon.

  • Aine

    I wish we had some older men on this forum- I’d like to see how their feelings about supporting/being supported by a wife differ from ours, and from all the guys we keep hearing about who just go “Oh, ok, fine by me.” about being the non-earner in the relationship. I think a generation ago, most men would feel very differently.

    • Class of 1980

      The older men pretty much feel like I said in my earlier comment.

      I remember in the late nineties hearing a coworker say her fiance expected her to keep working when they had children. She told him she didn’t agree, so he reluctantly agreed to her staying at home. And he made boat loads of money too – he just wanted more.

      I remember being surprised by his attitude because it represented a real change for a man making so much money to expect his wife to keep working after children were born.

      We were in transition in my generation (aren’t we always in some transition?). On one hand, lots of women with children worked outside the home. On the other hand, some women stayed home, but you wouldn’t have found men my age resenting it at all.

      Actually, I had a boyfriend in high school and we stayed together until I was 24. He ended up having his own business at a very young age and making lots of money. He used to say it was fine if his wife worked, but he didn’t want her to HAVE to work. That was not an uncommon sentiment. Most of us had mothers who stayed at home.

      My own mother worked in her early marriage, then stayed home after I was 2. She gradually went back to work when I hit high school – starting part-time and then going full-time. By her forties, she had started a new career and stayed at it until she retired at 67. But there were plenty of moms her age who never did go back to work.

      As time has gone on, it’s become more and more taken for granted that a wife will work.

      • Sarah

        I think the wanting “more” comment is pretty apt. If I were to stop working, it wouldn’t cause us severe financial hardship. But as people who’ve been fairly successful and are marrying later in life (31 and 32), we’ve gotten used to a certain lifestyle. For a decade we’ve gradually built a life where we’ve had certain luxuries – travel, for instance, or the ability to go to the fancier farmers market rather than looking at every price in the supermarket. So introducing a child really would impact our disposable income. I think when people had children earlier in life, they hadn’t gotten so used to their own little comforts and the ramifications of giving those up for their kids.

      • Rizubunny

        Class of 1980, I am *really* appreciating all of your comments. They’re reminding me that there are many other paradigms of “contribution” and “value” that I could choose to accept other than the one within which I currently exist – so thank you :) :) :)

        • Class of 1980

          You’re welcome, Rizubunny.

          I just feel like I’m looking at a whole generation of younger women who are needlessly beating themselves up even though they are great! I didn’t know that things had come to this. Your generation has been pressured to achieve advanced education, take on more debt to finance it, live an over-scheduled fast-paced life, and still manage to run a household, birth children, exercise, sleep, and keep your hoohahs waxed at all times. ;) (I needed a joke in there somewhere)

          But my generation feels better about themselves. What is wrong with this picture?

          I’ve never linked my self-worth with my job. I link it to how I’m handling life itself. Cut yourselves some slack.

          • Amy

            I think something interesting in the younger generations of women is the average age of marriage. I was 27 when I got married, and my husband was 32. Which meant we both came to the marriage with a lot more of our own assets and a lot more time having gotten used to supporting ourselves. As my mom told me, it was easy for her to pool her assets with my dad when their assets were nothing and nothing. I was proud as hell of myself for buying my first two apartments on my own. And my husband is just as proud of himself for having ridiculously good retirement accounts for someone of his age. And honestly, the idea of now owning a home with my husband that can’t be bought on just my income is more than a little scary to me. And I think the idea of him having to help me fund my retirement so that we can both afford to retire at the same time is odd to him. We’re working through it, but honestly, unless a woman “came” from money and the man didn’t, I just don’t think these were issues 30 years ago.

          • JEM

            I love your perspective and greatly value your input. You’re someone on APW who consistently makes me go “hm….” whether I agree with you or not, you at least get me thinking.

            So, Happy Friday and Thank You (from one of the 20-somethings on here)

    • MegsDad

      You asked about men from earlier generations felt and acted.

      When Meg’s mom and I got married, I had just finished a doctorate in mathematics and she had a AA degree in Child Development. Our *first* order of business was to get her a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential; we wanted her to be independent if something happened to me. We did that, and she worked on getting a masters in education specializing in teaching reading. That was about as portable as anything we could think of. She worked for five or six years, until Meg was two or three. She then stayed home for about 12 years or so, taking care of Meg and her sister. As they got older, she took on some substitute teaching jobs.

      When I got laid off in the middle 90s, she went into high gear and got a job as a full time teacher (she had impressed some people while a substitute, and she had experience) (plus she really is as awesome as Meg claims). I got jobs as a part-time teacher in the community colleges, and applied for full time jobs. It took me three years to get one. By then, she was entrenched as a top upper-elementary teacher, and those are hard to find.

      As far as I was concerned, from the day we got engaged we were a team in the working game. We each had our skills and needs, and luckily (?) these meshed. When she needed to take care of our daughters, I had a full-time job. When I got laid off, she was able to step in and take over the bread-winning. (And I got to know my daughters in a way that most fathers never get.)

      None of this was by accident. We knew we could not know the future, so we tried to maximize our flexibility. When hard times hit, we worked to take care of each other and of our daughters.

      I have never understood guys who felt threatened by their wife’s success; I have always felt proud of her and of the support I could provide her. Most of the men that I know well felt, and felt, the same way. It actually never occurred to me to feel differently or to act differently. And I don’t believe this was, or is, unusual, although I am not claiming it is the norm. When Meg’s mom got that job after I was laid off, I felt nothing but relief — and certainly not threatened.

      And if I were widowed and were remarrying, I would want a pre-nup. The only real asset we have is our house, and I would want to preserve it for Meg and her sister.

  • Several months before my husband and I got married, I graduated with a masters degree that I worked really hard for and thought I’d find a job right off the bat. WRONG. But, there was wedding planning to do and that was fun (well, sometimes) and it wasn’t that big of a deal. So then we get married and there wasn’t wedding planning to do anymore and so I kind of applied to jobs and hung out with my stay-at-home-mom friends, and cooked dinner and cleaned the house and WTF? Am I a housewife?

    This was a very difficult beginning to married life for me. Even though I totally honor and respect the couples that choose that type of traditional gendered separation of tasks, that is not at all how my husband and I had chosen to operate. We try to divide everything 50/50 based on who likes or dislikes to do it more. (Which is a little hard when we both like to cook and both hate to clean…) And while my husband luckily has a nice stable job, and feels very fine putting money into our join account, it is still really hard for this lady to wants to contribute to our home and our baby family, but who also really struggles with the lack of financial equality in our marriage at the moment. My husband, of course, has said things very similar to Stof (ie, someday maybe I won’t have a job and you’ll get to support me! Ahhhhhhh.) but it is still hard. Money is hard, and negotiating shared money is really hard even when (especially when?) it is with someone you are building a lifetime of partnership with.

    • “Even though I totally honor and respect the couples that choose that type of traditional gendered separation of tasks, that is not at all how my husband and I had chosen to operate.”

      I think this is a huge part of it: we don’t always get a choice in the matter. The unemployment and job market throws a wrench in the whole thing and can have a huge effect on our identity individually, not to mention within a partnernship, especially when there are “roles” to consider. I like to think that I’ll embrace my stay at home time when I’m unemployed, but i’m also trying to brace myself for the days of: This is not what my education prepared me for! Dude, I’m not even very *good* at cleaning the house.

      • Absolutely! Choice is key. I tried really hard for about two months to embrace my temporary role as cleaner/cooker/grocery shopper for our family but I was so frustrated and bored and actually unsuccessful in this role that we had to have some good discussions about how I can contribute to our family in different ways. (Ways that don’t include me feeling like a failure at cleaning, mainly.) I struggled with this a lot/too much because I was feeling guilty about not liking it or being good at it while my husband went to work. But eventually we just said f*ck it. Maybe the house won’t be as clean as it could be, and maybe we’ll still get take-out some nights, but who cares? This is our life and we get to choose how we’re going to make it.

      • meg

        Yup. I don’t think we always get a choice. David does all the laundry and the shopping these days, because he has a more flexible schedule (first in law school, second on fellowship). I don’t think that was his dream plan, “We’ll get married, I’ll do the laundry” but that’s how it’s working out right now. I think there are times we have to let go of our expectations, egalitarian or otherwise, and remember, “Life is hard, we don’t always have choices. I’ll do what it takes to keep my family afloat.” We haven’t seen a lot of that kind of sacrifice on the public stage in our lifetimes, but for time immemorial it is how family’s operated.

        • Class of 1980

          Meg, please stop reading my mind. It’s disturbing. lol

          It does seem like younger people are surprised to find themselves making sacrifices. And they are not prepared for the fact that sometimes dreams and plans get thwarted by circumstances beyond ones’ control or in order to care for loved ones.

          • ka

            Oh my god, yes, this. This is a hot-button issue for me, as I spent much of years 8-22 (I’m 27 now) watching illness, hardship, and sacrifice unfold in front of me, and I don’t yet know the depths of how it has impacted me. But it worries me when my friends, most of whom have known me since I was 13 and have been there through it all, say things about my “hard life.” I don’t know how to impart on them that things like the illnesses, etc. that happened in my family can occur to anyone at any time… I guess what I’m trying to say, is that they are not prepared for the lows life can throw at them because it hasn’t happened to them yet (and I do hope it never will), and I don’t know that there really is a way to prepare, other than to live.

        • I want to “exactly” this at least ten times.

  • Steph

    THANK YOU for this post!!! I temporarily switched from a full time employee to a partially unemployed contractor for the sake of my sanity. Even though I was still bringing in something, it was hubby’s income that kept us afloat (pardon the pun). I had such mixed feelings of sheer gratitude (that he supported me emotionally enough to carry both of us finacially for a while; that I even had thhave this as a option when there are many single women who don’t) but also guilt/anixety about not having my own money, and not pulling my own weight. And also fear that I was then trapping him in his current job. My decision turned out to be the “right” one. I was able to turn the contract position into a better paying, full time position that gives us health insurance but doesn’t crush my soul and stress me to the point of physical illness. But I absolutely understand the feelings that come when a woman (even voluntarily) loses her income.

  • Great post, I can’t wait to hear all about the travels! I can relate to the feminist issues discussed here and the idea of “being dependent on a man.” I currently earn more than my husband, and I will only continue to out-earn him when I graduate and we have kids. He will stay at home, and I will (hopefully) continue to move upward in my career. However, that said, we have also experienced the reverse. In the past he earned more than me.

    When we were first navigating the merging of money I struggled both with the concern of being occasionally dependent on a man and the concern that he would feel emasculated when I started to earn more. But, we are a team, and that means we both do what it takes to keep the family running…and that we do it with mutual respect.

    Over time my idea of feminism has changed. To me being a feminist does not mean that I have to be financial independent. In means that I have a *choice* in how I wish to set up a household with my husband. 50 years ago, women largely did not have a voice in how the finances of a relationship were divided. A woman today who, together with her partner, chooses to live off of one income isn’t any less of a feminist in my eyes. It all comes down to what works best for your situation and relationship. To me it’s the ability we have today to make choices like this that makes you feminist, not the resulting decision.

  • I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I had to say this: I think the idea of being an independent woman and having financial independence means different things to different people.

    To me, the fact that Mark might make more than me or might even earn all of our income one day (or vice versa) doesn’t really bother me. We already consider it all our money regardless.

    To me, being an independent woman has more to do with my ability to take of myself if I had to. I guess I think about it this way mostly because of this: I have a great uncle who is an abusive alcoholic. My mother once straight-up asked my great aunt why she has stayed with him all these years. Her response? “I need him. I wouldn’t know how to take care of myself otherwise. I don’t know how to find a job, or find an apartment, or any of that stuff. How would I even survive?”

    To me, being an independent woman has more to do with NEVER finding yourself in that situation.

    • YES. I want to never find myself horribly dependent, but I also really am happy that we’re a team.

  • Elizabeth

    Meg, thank you for all your support to these fabulous women (myself included) about how we do contribute even it it’s not financially.

    I think, for the most part we already know this. And yet, it doesn’t feel like enough. Sure all of it is a contribution, the money, the chores, the coupon clipping- but 1) it too often goes unnoticed (I blame society?), and 2) it never ends- there are no 9-5 days, there are no weekends, there is no retirement to look forward to.

    It’s like getting a promotion and not getting the raise that goes with it (which I’m all too familiar with). Each stage of our lives gets progressively more complicated, cooking/dishes/laundry/shopping for two, then add pets, houses, kids, and aging parents. With each stage, the workload gets harder to manage. But the pay remains the same: zero. Sure, people are grateful and helping others especially family is important, but success at a job is a reflection of your efforts. A promotion, a raise, a bonus- they all serve as recognition for a job well done. Giving up that recognition, that chance to climb the ladder, even for things you want, is difficult.

    • meg

      I’m not saying it’s not hard, I’m saying that when we value our contribution to our marriage based on the percentage of money that we bring in, we horribly de-value ourselves… and by extension our partners.

      Our husbands (or partners, but it’s interesting to look at it from a gendered perspective) are not worth their paychecks. Their paychecks are what they are – luck, life choices, education, etc, all of these factors play into it. Our partners are worth a whole lot more (or less!). For example, I wouldn’t feel like I had a very worthy partner if I was married to someone who made a million dollars a year, had no interest in our kids, didn’t share stress and chores and responsibility, and didn’t make me laugh. Instead I’m married to someone who isn’t bringing in much cash right now, does a lot of chores, makes me laugh, supports me emotionally and tactically as I pursue my dreams, and shares my stress. Now THAT is a husband contributing to a partnership.

      • Tina

        nail. hit. on. head.

      • Class of 1980

        My sister-in-law was married to a guy worth multi-millions. He was an Ass Hat in so many ways. I never considered him a catch at all.

      • Elizabeth

        I’m sorry if it sounds like I don’t understand what you’re saying, because I do. I would love it if my fiance was okay with me just going to school (I’d probably be a better student for it) especially since I know we could survive on his income alone. But it is not up to me alone, and his view of contribution/partnership is different than mine (my view is more like yours but does not fit without him on board). Personally, I loathe my job. It stresses me out that my company does not value ANY of it’s employees, let alone the ones that keep the show running. But I stay because he cannot fathom me not having a job, even though I’m responsible for the cooking, most of the cleaning, laundry, and shopping for the household. He has in the past offered to do things, to split the workload at home- but while his intentions are good, his actions come up short. And personally I feel like if I have to wait 3+ days for something to be done by someone else, I might as well do it myself. This may or may not be a personal failing. Maybe none of what I said is the way it should be, and it definitely isn’t fair, but it is the way it is, at least for me. If my contribution doesn’t add up in his eyes, then it seems natural to be distressed, to want a larger income of my own, to feel like I’m not contributing enough- because, his opinion matters to me. And because on a larger scale, other people’s opinions of me matter.

        • meg

          You know, talking to someone about this in a mediated setting might be wise :) By which I mean, I’d be dragging my husband into talk to someone if this was me.

          We’re clearly due for a chore post, because we keep circling around it. “But he doesn’t do it as well as I do, so I do it,” sets us up for a lifetime of martyrdom I think. We someohow have to reach a balance. In our house it’s gender reversed, mostly. David insists I do some chores that I’m not good at, even if he has to stand over me while I do them. And if I do them less well than he does, he lives with it. And the same goes the other way around. I’m terrible at cleaning, but good at tidying. So David tidies sometimes, because he values a wife who is still sane, even though he hates it. So we’ll come back to this in some form…

          • Kate

            PLEASE a chore post! My partner’s moving in next weekend, and I’m so apprehensive.

          • Yes please chore post, so fascinated to hear your and the rest of APW’s thoughts on that.

          • meg

            Though you have brillant thoughts on this too, and I might enlist you to write a paragraph (ha! gotcha!)

        • Arachna

          Yeah this is the tough one.

          And I even understand the people who feel like money trumps a little bit, to me one of the relevant questions is if person A can get along fine without person B but person B can not make it without person A… is it really equal?

          But relationships aren’t ledgers, they aren’t supposed to add up, in part because there are just so many columns.

          So. I’m not saying I would walk away from a man who thought like your fiance (I don’t know if I could if I loved him) but I know with 99% certainty that I would not marry him. Because I could not live side by side with a person who was my lover and who I told people was my life partner when I felt like we owed money to each other and couldn’t make decisions as a unit. Because if my financial wellbeing is only my responsibility then I’m going to look out for it! That means essentially no trust and no sacrifice. To me that’s the direct opposite of marriage and everything it means. It means my incentives for decisions are going to be different than his incentives – I couldn’t live like that and I woudn’t be willing to sacrifice my financial future and wellbeing. He might not see it but that would put you in a double bind. I would tell a man I loved who thought like this and wanted to marry me that he didn’t want to marry me and until/unless he did I didn’t think it was a good for him to do so.

          If you weren’t with him could you support yourself? Could you feed yourself and pay for shelter? If yes, make sure to remember that. And maybe point that out? That without him you would be fine if less financially comfortable but with him you are have more chores, feelings of guilt and a second class treatment. Sometimes taking a stand can have very positive effects.

          I’m actually also all about pre nups, I think they are great, if they are fair and leave both of you financially fine in event of divorce.

          This is hard because it’s a much less selfless narrative than “I feel guilty for not contributing” to say “I feel fine for earning less money and if you don’t share your money I can’t stay with you”. But I think I personally would have to end up there. (Which doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone of course!)

        • Rebecca

          Hey Elizabeth – I just want to give you a big internet-hug first up!

          And to say I’ve been through (am still in many ways working through) some of these issues with my husband. He earns probably 65% of our joint income to my 35-40% (I’m a PhD student blessed with a comfortable fellowship), we work broadly similar hours (me a little less, but I do more around home). We basically go jointly 50/50 on our living expenses, which leaves him with about 5x more play money than me – a chunk of which, admittedly, goes on things we do together, which I couldn’t afford to pay for. This is a temporary situation in my view – in 18 months I’ll graduate, and post-doc fellowships start on more than he earns now, so I anticipate being the higher income partner long term.

          For a fair while after we moved in together, he maintained the view that the extra he earned was “his” – he worked hard for his extra, while I “chose” to earn less short-term while I studied. This is a mindset that has popped up again periodically throughout our 8 months of marriage, usually when finances get a bit tight for one reason or another. But (the reason for this kinda long, self-focussed post) we are working this out and now run our finances more equally (he takes on more of our mortgage repayments so I can have a bit more sanity-money). And I think it’s important for your relationship long term that you guys try to tackle this one!

          Basically, I took the approach Arachna suggests –

          “If you weren’t with him could you support yourself? Could you feed yourself and pay for shelter? If yes, make sure to remember that. And maybe point that out? That without him you would be fine if less financially comfortable but with him you are have more chores, feelings of guilt and a second class treatment. Sometimes taking a stand can have very positive effects.”

          Because, yes, I’m a student and I expect to be poor. But without him in my life I’d be happy enough to be flatting for now rather than paying off my own home, and would have more people to share bills and chores with. PArt of why I’m broke is because it was important to him to have our own house sooner than I felt I needed one (note – I did want a house eventually, and it was a fully joint decision to buy). Once I pointed this out to him, it did really change his perspective. Also, he’s come to understand that my current low pay is a sacrifice that benefits not just me but US in the long term.

          It sucks to be where you’re at – it seems like you understand your own value (I totally get it about the self-imposed guilt too!), but you aren’t feeling like your contribution is valued in return. Arachna’s approach worked for me (not overnight, and we still struggle with issues like this sometimes), and I wouldn’t hesitate to try some kind of mediation if you can’t get your point across to your man.

          I’m writing late afternoon at work on an empty stomach and have tried to proofread – I hope this comes across as the non-judgemental message of support and empathy that I set out to write. Good luck =)

          And great post, with great comments!! Class of 1980, your posts have me probably as big-eyed as ours make you – you mean it wasn’t always this way!?!?!

          • Elizabeth

            Perhaps the hardest part is that I could not support myself on my income alone- so it gets tied into self worth much more than I know it should as part of the relationship. Not to be gauche and talk about the specifics of money but I work thirty hours a week and make $530 (give or take $20) a month. I am taking 14-16 credit hours a semester and have a total of one day off between work and school each week. I am exhausted before I walk in the door (for everyone who does more than I do, please what is your secret) but then I have homework and housework to do. So not only do I feel undervalued at work, but I am not reaching my goals of personal financial stability. Tied into this relationship, which does have it’s happy amazing times more often than not (I promise!), I alternate between feeling overwhelmed, guilty, and unappreciated. Anyway, thanks to everyone for your support and different perspectives- you all rock! And now, I’m gonna go sleep on it. :-)

          • Class of 1980


            I hadn’t read quite all the comments in depth and am just now getting to this discussion.

            Yeah, I am appalled. You just made my eyes even bigger and now I’m sad too. Also shaking my head and muttering.

          • Class of 1980


            People don’t do more than you are doing and there is no secret. You are drowning because your head is being held under water.

          • Class of 1980

            If I ever thought about getting cryo-genetically frozen so I could be revived to live in the future, you ladies have just convinced me not to bother. ;) Has my generation utterly failed to teach their children something so basic as taking care of each other? What are we coming to in human relationships?

            This reminds me of an old book …


            In the book, Gumpas has brought back the slave trade and Caspian tells him to put an end to it.

            Gumpas: “But that would be putting the clock back! Have you no idea of progress, of development?”

            Caspian: “I have seen them both in an egg. We call it “Going Bad”.

          • Arachna

            But Elizabeth, on the basis of just a couple of comments I can tell that you are an intelligent determined human being and I have no doubt that if (knock on wood) your fiance wasn’t around tomorrow you would figure things out and be okay.

            Maybe you’d move in with your parents? Maybe you’d take out loans? Maybe you’d dump both school and the job and find another job that was better and save for school down the line? I don’t know your situation or your options but I am certain that you would not starve and you would figure out how to improve your life down the road.

            Maybe it would help to do a “what if” not because you are going to use it and not even because you’re going to tell your fiance about it… but just for your own inner peace so that you do not feel that you are dependent. Because really, that’s were a lot of the angst comes from for women in the above comments – the panic about ever feeling that you are dependent and can’t make it on your own – I feel strongly that we should all be able to make it on our own even if we frequently choose not to because hey that’s what family is all about – pooled resources.

          • (This is actually a reply to Class of 1980’s last post, which I can’t actually reply to for some reason)

            Your generation has not failed us. With every advance in society, a new set of problems and challenges crop up. It’s why we’re always in transition. Technology has improved our lives in so many ways, but it’s also made us a little crazy in some ways. The same can be said for relationships as our roles change. I think we have amazing relationships, despite all the things that have changed from your generation to ours, but maybe we approach them differently or they look different on the outside. I think this blog alone is proof that we are still very capable of awesome relationships.

          • meg

            WAIT! What? I’m flabbergasted here. You’re part of a couple, you’re both working in various ways to support your marriage over the long term, and he’s keeping the benefits? No, it wasn’t always this way. Of course not! For most of history people have viewed the family as a unit. If the woman was raising kids, or tending the farm, or whatever, all of her work benefited the family. If the husband was earning money, all of his money benefited the family. No one was told that they were worth what they earned, and the other person would keep what they earned.

            If you are a student (working hard so that you can make money for your family in the future), then you and your husband can expect to be a little poorer now. NOT, you’re working so you can expect to be poor, while your husband can expect to be better off. This is a marriage, it’s supposed to be about equality, and shared work benefiting the shared unit.

            You’re not worth what you earn girlfriend. You’re worth a whole lot more and deserve the love and care that goes with that. And that includes financial care.

          • Class of 1980


            I am sure that there are many wonderful relationships among people in their twenties and thirties. Many APW posters seem to be in this group.

            But IF the selfishness that I’m reading about is happening in significant numbers, then this is not merely a new set of challenges. It is an unraveling of the very fabric of love and care meant to thrive within marriage and family.

            To hoard assets for the sole benefit of one’s own self while shielding those assets from the very person one has vowed to love and care for . . . I have no words.

            The definition of “family” was always a group of people bonded together to care for and nurture one another. It’s a wall of safety. A family unit defends it’s members from the dangers of the outside world. Now, it seems that some people have mistaken their own spouse for an outsider or a competitor for assets.

            I don’t see how we have any future worth living if this way of thinking becomes common.

          • Class of 1980

            One more thought …

            A family is supposed to care for it’s weakest members, whether the weakness or permanent or temporary. We are supposed to give them the care they can’t give themselves.

            We don’t aim to exploit the weakness to our own advantage.

  • Rachel

    ahh how amazingly apt this post is today. My fiance and I have been talking about this a lot lately, as we are both in school heading towards lucrative careers but not..quite…there…yet…and it frustrates us. He’s got a good full-time job but it doesn’t really pay enough to support us both and is a part-time student. I’m a full-time student and work a measly part-time job on campus to make a little money. Scheduling is getting complicated and I really want to devote myself to studying and furthering myself academically. When I bring up the stress of trying to find room to fit in hours at work he says “Don’t bother if you can’t fit it in – study and we’ll be ok” but in reality, that’s not really possible.
    There are other things involved (I’ve got a little chunk in savings now that theoretically I could live off of for the semester at least, we recently have decided not to move into our own place when we get married in May *sadtown-wholedifferentstory* so that takes financial pressure off as well) but generally I panic at the idea of not making any money.

    This post and the comments following have been very helpful in seeing how other couples are dealing with this sticky situation. And you’re right (many of you) – women are very touchy about money and the role it plays in independence. I feel a little more relaxed at the idea of taking it easy for a while earnings-wise to focus on studying a bit more…oh and on the wedding :)

    Thank you!

  • Emily

    I have always read that money is one of the number one causes of divorce, but after dating my fiance for a while my over-analytic self decided that we would be fine. We have similar attitudes about money (saving vs. spending), and we’re pretty open with each other and good about talking things out. But of course life has other ideas! When we met, I was in college and working to support myself. We lived in different cities, but when we hung out I would try to pay at least half the time. After school, I moved to the same city as him and tried to find a “career” kind of job, which just wasn’t happening. I had a roommate and between my savings and a part time job I was just barely squeaking by. He made quite a bit of money, so he paid for most stuff we did that was outside home and I felt ok about it since I was still supporting myself and I contributed by buying groceries and cooking dinner for us all every night.

    Then, I was offered a job in another state that paid the same as what he was making currently, and we decided that I would take the job and he would start trying to find a job so he could join me. About three months after I moved out here, he couldn’t take it anymore and left his job that he hated to move out here. He moved in with me (something I didn’t want to do until we were married, but it just kinda worked out that way) until he could find work. A few months after that, we got engaged. It’s been about 9 months since he moved here and he does some freelance work, but it’s just enough to pay his car payment, cell phone bill and insurance. Other than that, my salary supports us and goes towards wedding savings.

    At first it felt great to be the one earning more, to know that not only was I supporting myself fully, but I was doing well enough to take care of him too. It was a little bit of “girl power” feminist pride stuff mixed in with being 10 years younger than him and finally not feeling like the little kid financially. But it’s getting harder and harder. I stress about money all the time! We’d be fine under normal circumstances, but since we’re paying for our wedding in March, I’m freaking out. I’m doing everything I can to keep it “budget” and in comparison to the “average” wedding it definitely is, but it still seems like sooo much money and I’m not sure how we’re going to be able to save enough in time. We haven’t combined finances yet because he’s still a little uneasy about it (he was married before), but we’ve worked out that I save for the wedding and the little extra he gets every month goes into his already large savings account for emergencies/the future.

    On top of that, almost a year in, I really don’t like my new job and it’s not at all what I want to do with my life but it pays way more than what I could make doing what I care about (assuming I could even find another job right now). It all adds up to a lot of stress and guilt. I can’t leave my job without another one because then we’d have no money. And theoretically a pay cut is worth loving my job, but I can’t imagine how we’d both make it on less money. So I feel stuck until he finds a job. Between the cruddy economy, the fact that what he wants to do is highly competitive and that he wasted the last 5 years in a job that didn’t advance his career at all, who knows when that could be?

    He works from home doing his freelance stuff, he works on his reel that he needs to get a job (he’s a character artist/animator) sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning and he helps out around the house a fair amount. Even though I know he works hard all day and he does contribute, I still catch myself getting irritated when he’s still asleep as I leave for work or he’s taking a break to play video games when I come home from work or he buys expensive toys with his money. Intellectually I know there’s nothing wrong with him buying something for himself every once in a while and that he needs breaks from work, but it’s hard to remember that sometimes.

    I guess my point is that even when you’re the one making all the money, it doesn’t come without baggage! Money is hard, period. I’ve always been proud of my independence and being able to support myself, but I’ve also always wanted to be a stay at home mom when I have children. This whole experience has given me a new perspective on it. I like to joke that for every month that I support him now, he owes me a year when we have kids. But in all seriousness, now when we have kids I’ll be worried about how much stress being the sole support is going to be for him. He wants to be the manly provider type and he gets upset that he isn’t now, but he also worries about whether he’ll be able to support a whole family by himself. These last 9 months have given me a whole new level of respect and understanding for how stressful that can really be.

    • meg

      Girlfriend… you did read what I wrote on Monday right? Because I feel you.

  • Class of 1980

    Can we establish that the dictionary definition for a “kept woman” is a mistress?

    Kept Woman: an adulterous woman; a woman who has an ongoing extramarital sexual relationship with a man

    The term never applied to a wife. So Sara who wrote today’s post, you are not about to become a kept woman by sailing away with your husband. ;)

    BTW, have fun!!!

    • Alyssa

      Fine, but if I ever do decide to contribute less to our financial income, I’m totally calling myself a kept woman.
      It sounds fancy, like I’ll be lying in a chaise, easting bon-bon’s and reading gothic romances all day.

      I totally won’t, but it’ll sound like it and I think that’s fun. :-)

      • Class of 1980

        Funny you should say that because one of the alternate terms for a kept woman was “fancy woman”.

        If you want to be fancy, Alyssa, who am I to stop you? ;)

  • Amanda

    I don’t know how you do it, Meg, but your timing is always right. I will just have to struggle with this tomorrow since I will resign my completely-unrelated-to-my-field job but well paid, for an internship at the university , on a volunteer basis.
    So we will having less income, and I will be relying on my husband, but we believe it is for the greater good, as it will give me experience in the field I really want to work in (veterinary medicine reserarch) and hopefully help find a real job in that area. So we will have to live on less, but it will take me closer to where I want to be, and it is so great that my husband is able to support me in this.
    Sarah and Stof, thanks for sharing.
    And Meg, really, we have been married for 2 months now (today actually) and I am still coming back everyday, and I think I will keep on doing so :) Thanks to you too !

  • Rasheeda

    First time commenter here~ This week of posts has really smoked me out of my hole. This is the good stuff, the hard stuff, the stuff that makes you want to run and hide but this site lets us face it head on- even if you are a lurker.

    The fact that I met my soon to be husband when I was a recent grad, current retail worker meant less money for me but loads of time to spend together. Over the last 4 years I have tripled my income and assets, but future husband has stalled out. Money & Independence have always been HUGE for me. But in a different sense. In a sense that I look at what my money has been able to accomplish for us. Our money has allowed him to chase his dreams, to go back to school and not worry whether he will eat the next day. That is absolutely freeing- thats the true power of money, as class of 1980 said best; It gives you options and choices. So that we can make the best choices for our family, regardless of the said “breadwinner”.

    And as far as linking Money & Independence goes, I am a HUSTLER by nature. That is as intertwined in my definition of myself as my heritage and upbringing are, so being independent means I will always hustle. The money that is gained is less as important as the act. That is what affirms me, knowing that I am out here trying to carve out a spot for me and my baby family using the talents I have been blessed with even if the income derived is less than my partners. But that does not make any less hard to talk about and thank you for giving us a space to talk about it.

    • meg

      Yes. You and me both. That said, as a hustler who plans on babies one day, there will come a time where I’m doing less hustling and more nursing. So I have to find a way to keep being affirmed, even if I have to take a break from money making. It’s tricky business.

  • ka

    Sartjie – I just want to acknowledge you guys for having the guts to sell your house to finance your trip. Everyone’s different, so this might have been a no-brainer for you guys, but to me it’s super-inspiring. The temptation to sell our house and do something cra-azy is huge for my fiance and I, but I’m a leeetle too emotionally attached to the house itself and the financial security I’ve associated with it… so yea, I think the fact that you two just went for it is *amazing*. :)

  • AH

    Thank you for this post and Meg for your comments. After we got married this summer I cut my hours back to part time and my husband started working as an attorney. I love my work, doing behavioral therapy with children with autism, and I love it even more now that I am part time. I didn’t feel like I could provide my best work when I was overtired and out of the house over 12 hrs a day.
    My husband makes about 7 times what I do, and the first few months it was VERY hard for me. I felt absolutely guilt stricken if I didn’t have the house totally clean, dinner made, and all the laundry done. I felt like this was my duty because I wasn’t making as much and had more free time. This lead to a lot of resentment.
    My (wonderful!) husband realized that I was super stressed and we had a lot of talks about what we would each do around the house. Now he helps out more, and I don’t feel bad if a gourmet dinner isn’t hot on the table when he walks in the door.
    It has also helped that I have taken over the financial planning, budgeting, and bill paying on a day to day basis. We keep all our money together and I keep my husband updated on everything. Now I finally feel like we are on good ground with the money/contributing issues, but sometimes I don’t feel like everyone else views my husband and I as equals.
    At family functions he is always asked about his job, I am not. I got some pretty nasty looks when I told people we now had a monthly cleaning woman, why would we need that when I am only working half days? I haven’t quite figured out how to respond to these situations.

    • Maybe this would be best left for the chore post but “now he helps out more” really bothers me. Not that he is doing something, the phrasing and implication that it is your job and he now helps you with it.

      In all houses I have ever lived in (aside from home when we were small children when clearly we couldn’t pull equal weight) I have expected that all the occupants share the management of said house equally. Some, say, student houses, a rota system so people take it in turns, or some, say married life, each person contributes their strengths (i.e. husband cooks, I do laundry). But all parties equal responsible for the management and running of the household.

      Yes, looking forward to the chores discussion!

  • Kaitlin

    Wow. I do not have the time to read through most of the comments here but I thank you, Meg, for raising this topic. I believe that I share a similar mindset as you: there is no longer “mine” and “his” but “ours.” I don’t think I am old-fashioned by any means, but we simply want to function as a cohesive unit. Our money plan is OUR plan. There is savings, there is retirement, there is a budget. We make the major decisions together. People talk of risk (“What about divorce?”) and needing a sense of safety/independence, but I feel far far safer knowing that my husband and I are on the same page regarding where our money is and where it is going. I had pride in supporting myself before getting married, and now I have pride that WE are supporting each other after marriage (as in, not borrowing money from the bank or our parents).

    I have heard way too many tales of financial ruin because couples were operating with completely separate budgets and financial philosophies. Sure, you can have a his/mine/ours system, but what if he goes off and racks up $50K in credit card debt while you weren’t paying attention? It might be “his” debt, but no matter how fiscally responsible you are, it sure is going to be hard to stay home with the kids/take a year to cross the globe/retire, etc. when one partner needs to make massive payments every month. This kind of thing (and much worse) happens all. the. time when couples are not communicating about these things and not working together.

    Okay, I’ve gone off topic, but I just have very passionate feelings about this sort of thing because of all the horror stories I have heard.

  • Sarah

    This is an excellent discussion of something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
    My fiance and I are tying the knot this March. In May, I’ll graduate from law school and we’ll move some 1000 miles away for my job, a 2-year judicial clerkship. My fiance is over the moon about the opportunity I’ve been offered, even if it means he has to quit current job. Because the clerkship is a terminal position, we may be moving again in 2 years when my job ends. I’ve really been struggling to deal with the feeling that he’s compromising his career (and happiness?) to facilitate my success. Mind you, he’s not deeply invested in his current job and hasn’t spent tens-of-thousands-of-dollars developing a professional skill, but I’m concerned that he’s going to feel like luggage I drag from place to place.
    This is a gender role-reversion my parents’ generation can’t relate to–my mother moved where my father’s job demanded and settled for what work she could find. I don’t want the same fate for my fiance–it’s often clear my mother is deeply upset by her lack of career–but, at least in the short term, I don’t see an alternative.

  • Frances

    I struggle with this. My partner and I have been together since our first year of uni, and both gone through BAs, MPhils and Phds together, earning roughly the same. However, he’s now a lawyer earning a good salary, and I’m still finishing my Philosophy Phd and lecturing part-time for about 10% of what he earns. For the first time in my life I wouldn’t actually be able to support myself if we weren’t a partnership and I find that incredibly uncomfortable. All my feminist alarms go off, and those are just magnified by the fact that, his hours being much longer than mine, this also coincides with me doing almost all of the housework for the first time. My problem is that there will be no way in the future that our earnings will have parity, and I’ve always imagined myself earning the same as my partner, and sharing equally with them roles in the house.

    I’m aware that I’m hugely coloured in my thinking about this by my parents, where my father was the bread-winner and my mother stayed at home to look after three children. Each of them contributed to the relationship, but it would be naive to think that their choices didn’t hugely effect the rest of their lives, as well as that time. They divorced when I was in my mid-teens, and I’m very aware that my mother’s choice during that period not to pursue career has contributed greatly to her not being able to find a job easily now, ten years down the line. To some extent this was adjusted for in the financial settlement between them, but no financial settlement is ever going to compensate for the fact that you will forever lack the experience and career progression of your peers.

    I’m very happy that my partner doesn’t have the same hangups I do about me earning less than him. But I’m also very conscious that I don’t want to be in my mother’s position. I’m also aware that having a less time demanding and lower earning job than my partner now, and hence doing more home stuff, is a vicious circle in that two years from now I will have spent less time focusing on my career than he has, and so will likely have made less progress in it. We’re a partnership, and we view our money jointly, but I do think its important to at least recognise that choices made within the partnership would still have a profound effect if we ever did split up. Of course we should plan and discuss as a unit, but I’m not sure people talk enough here about the possibility of relationships not lasting. Statistically many of them don’t, and though this is a blog about what it means to be in a long term committed relationship with another person, and navigating that, I think that part of that it is being adult about understanding that not all relationships do work, and being clear that we would be ok with the choices we are making in the relationship if it didn’t.

    (Reading it back this sounds distinctly down-beat, but its not meant to be)

  • My friend just forwarded me this post, with the comment that it made her think of me. This is my first time reading your blog.

    I love the honesty in this post. I can so relate to the fears put forward here. I’m quitting my job soon to start my own business, and while the story is not even close to the same, I often struggle in thinking about the way my husband and I share the load.

    Intellectually, I believe we each contribute according to our own abilities and means at the moment. But emotionally, it’s often a different story.

  • Marchelle

    I’ve started replacing all my guilty thoughts about needing to be independent with the reminder that we’re now interdependent as a family unit. Of course, I need to remind myself of that A LOT.

    Such an amazing and ballsy thing to do, though. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip.

  • Cary

    I posted this comment on an older post (about combining finances) but hope to join this discussion instead. I just discovered APW and it has been an amazing relief to read everyone’s stories, as I am really struggling to assert myself in my relationship.

    The short story is that my boyfriend and I both left our jobs and moved back to NYC (from CA) to be closer to his family, as his dad was very ill. His dad died about a month after we returned. While my boyfriend found a great job relatively quickly, I have been unemployed (with a few freelance projects here and there) since January.

    We got engaged in July. Since then I’ve been 99% dependent on him financially. Our “system” is basically that I ask him for money to pay my bills, deal with household stuff, or whatever, and he writes me a check for a few hundred dollars. At first I figured it was an okay temporary fix, and that I’d get a job. But now, it feels downright demoralizing. I have never made tons of money but have lived independently since college (never lived with a man before him, either). I’ve suggested getting a part time job, but we have two dogs, and the cost of a dog walker in New York City basically negates any small income I would make. I don’t always have dinner on the table, but I do take care of the house, laundry, dogs, etc.

    He told me that he opened a joint account for us, but that we have to go to the bank together to authorize it—and after many lazy Saturdays with no bank action, I’m starting to think either he is lying, or there’s some reason he can’t go through with it.

    Before this sounds like my fiance is a huge jerk, I’ll say that his previous marriage ended unpleasantly, and he suffered significant financial losses because of that. So I can understand why it makes him nervous. But if he’s ready to remarry, I think he should be ready to trust me enough to share what I think should be OUR money. I search and network daily for a job and believe me, I’m not enjoying my life as a “lady of leisure.” In fact our apartment feels like a prison, as there’s no way to do anything in NYC without spending the money I don’t have.

    I know this is a complicated personal situation, but I’m desperate for some advice. The last thing I want to do is throw down an ultimatum, but I’m so frustrated, I’m ready to give him the ring back and go stay with my parents until we can figure this out. I feel angry that I left a perfectly good job to support him emotionally, and now I feel like I’m being punished for it. And I worry that it’s a bad omen for the future (i.e. what happens if I end up being a stay at home mom?)

    Has anyone else dealt with anything like this?

  • Amy

    I don’t comment often, I’m more of the observing type, but this is a topic that hits close to home for me. My BF and I have been together for about 5 years. We started dating in college and both moved to NYC with jobs in the photo industry right after school. After living there a couple years his job transferred to Portland, Oregon, and he asked me to move with him. Knowing that he was “the guy” I accepted happily, and into the west we went.
    The move went great and everything was so new and exciting the thought never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to get work in my chosen field.(photography) To make a long story short I’ve been here two years and am just now starting to get a foot hold in the photo world out here, it’s no NYC that’s for sure.
    It’s been a struggle for me to not be able to contribute to our tiny household as much as I would like to, and have had several mini-(and not so mini) breakdowns over the subject. This has been the first time in my life that I couldn’t support myself alone, and the first time I’ve had to depend on someone else to help out financially. And it still doesn’t feel great, but things are getting better.
    I luckily hit the jackpot with the BF. He has been the most supportive wonderful guy I could ever ask for. He insists that a relationship is built on love not money, and realizes that I’m working my butt off to make things happen, and slowly but surely they are.
    I’ve had to adjust my thinking quite a bit from my NYC days, but I try to find other ways to contribute. He works 90hr weeks a lot, so often it’s something simple like going to the studio and making grilled cheese sandwiches and just hanging out til 2am while he’s working. And this sounds totally house wife, but keeping our place clean, and that type of thing. He really does appreciate it and I feel like it’s something I can do for both of us.
    In the end I would say that this experience has shown me how much money is tied to self worth/worthiness. I never felt as worthless as I did the first time I had to ask him for help financially. It’s also through this that I feel like I’ve found other ways of being independent and contributing to my relationship, and iI think I’m becoming a stronger woman for it.
    It’s not an easy thing, but you just have to stay positive.

  • This post and reading through all these comments is making me teary.

    I used to think of myself as an independent woman. Well, I still am, but don’t always feel like it. With my then-fiance’s, now husband’s support (back in summer ’08), I quit my much-hated-but-well-paying job in the Big Corporate World to figure out what I wanted to do. I expected it to take about 2 months. HA! A year later (and busted economy, aborted consulting attempt), I figured it out and then spent 8 months getting a certification (which my husband generously paid for). And now, I’ve launched my own business (and I *love* it, so that definitely helps), but it’s hard to get it going from scratch.

    It’s agonizing to watch my husband make money and stress over a job he really doesn’t like at all. I plan on making a decent income (soon, I swear!) so I can support him while he takes time to figure out and start something he absolutely loves.

    But it’s hard to be working so hard and not see much income come in right now. It’s tough to feel like I’m not contributing while he does so much. It’s hard and I’m *so* looking forward to the day this all shifts. I wish it didn’t depend so much on income, but that’s how it feels sometimes. (He’s ridiculously supportive and kind and understanding about the whole thing.)

    Anyway… thank you for this post and all the amazing comments. It helps to read the reassurances and affirmations and to remember that it’s not about money, but about so much else… and that we each contribute in our own ways and that we are, in fact, a Team.