This is a part of our continuing series on reader submissions on relationships and finances. If you would like to share your story on relationships and finances, please see this post Without further ado, here’s JP’s story.
Okay, I will admit it. Finances is one of our worst areas of communication. There are so many problems, and we don’t really deal with any of them. But here goes:
A quick portrait – as a single woman in my 20s I made enough to save, invest, give to charities, travel, and spend on small splurges (mostly books and a pedicure every six months or so). My parents paid for my college degree, so I didn’t have student loans. I had gotten into a bit of a credit card hole as a teen, but my parents closed the account with a stern warning not to spend money I didn’t have. They paid off the card I got at my university’s bookstore to the tune of about $700. For almost ten more years I never got another credit card, using just my check card or cash. I financed a car and paid it off in 2 years, and generally rented with roommates.
My now-husband was divorced with a child, and was also a small business owner trying to re-invest as much money as possible into his company; thus his salary was pretty meager. After the divorce he didn’t want to battle his ex-wife and conceded a lot. His child support payments were so high that he could not live on his own, so he lived with his parents — culturally acceptable because he is Hispanic and very close to his family. Together with his parents he rented an apartment. As a fairly recent immigrant he had bought a new car (but a modest one) at an average price, but with less-that-stellar financing that he eventually paid off. My husband did not have any credit cards or any other debt. Without his knowledge, my husband’s ex-wife got several credit cards ran up the bills, and never paid. These were eventually “charged off.” My husband always paid his bills, though sometimes late. When he checked his credit, it was wrecked. He contacted the credit card companies, and without much trouble got the major black marks off his credit report since he had never signed, used or even known about the cards.
While we were dating we lived separately and had a fair number of talks about certain aspects of our finances. We planned to buy a condo and move in when we got married. Which we did. The real estate agent advised my husband to get a credit card and use it responsibly to build up his credit. He did, and I did the same. We got a great mortgage rate and some extra assistance with the purchase through a First-Time Homebuyers program in our area. We bought a condo I knew we could afford.
We paid for our wedding with savings and gifts from our parents. We have done a lot of work on the apartment ourselves and furnished it with a lot of things we got at the wedding. We are pretty frugal.
Though I imagined we would share money after we got married, it hasn’t happened. With my higher salary I pay our mortgage, our telephone bill, our homeowners insurance, car insurance and medical insurance, my own cell phone bill, and some other minor monthly bills. My husband pays for our cable and our condo fee, in addition to his child support. I pay a greater portion of our entertainment and grocery costs, but he does pay sometimes. I came to terms with the child support before we got married. I truly believe that it is not in the best interest of his son that he pays so much, and I think he would agree but he does not want to go back to haggle with his ex about it. And I have accepted that. He did increase his salary when we bought the condo, but it is still about half of mine.
I’m stretched a lot farther financially now. I rarely have extra money for the little things I used to do, and save a lot less. And sometimes I resent that. I worry about paying for college or having more kids or some unforeseen medical disaster just around the corner or being able to take the vacations I want.
When I start to talk about money, he always winds up saying — “If you need money, just ask.” But even if I do ask, it is usually forgotten. I wouldn’t put myself in a situation where I really needed his money. I don’t know if he feels that our financial burden is as unequal as I think it is. Maybe it is pretty equal and I just need to hear his side. Maybe I just need to ask for more. Maybe I just worry too much.
The thing is, his smaller salary doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind that we almost never go out to eat or go to the movies. And this whole financial analysis makes my husband sound so lesser, when in reality he is an amazing amazing husband and one of the most incredible fathers you have ever seen. He is gorgeous, and funny, and helps out around the house, and sometimes surprises me with a note in my purse or dinner cooking when I get home tired or a foot massage. He always has the words to make me believe, and is so supportive of me in ways no other man has been. I could go on and on – the patience, the sex, the trust. And I think, so what does money matter? We have enough.
We have talked about him staying home if we have more kids, and I think it would be great. And he really wants more.
We have agreed that is his ex-wife tries to apply for more child support, we will fight it. (But I swear — if his ex-wife was in need I would gladly help her out. Take my word for it, she does not need the extra income. And she is not very good with money – my dream is that if she takes us to court for more money, maybe we can stop with the child support altogether and save that money for college for the kid. He spends half his time with us and we split or cover costs of all the basics, anyhow.)
We have talked about me going back to school ~ I’d like to change careers.
We have talked about getting a new car.
We have talked about helping some of his extended family overseas and talked about moving back there once V goes to college.
We have talked about taking care of our parents when they are older, or my brother who is developmentally disabled.
But those are dreams, plans, hopes and fears. We haven’t talked about who will pay the next time we go to the grocery store.
Here and now, I am left with bills that will take up most of my paycheck and a shockingly small amount left over. Lucky he is so damn good.