This is a post from Make Love, Not Debt staff blogger, Abby.
My relationship is not unlike many in my age-group. This is the time for figuring out your career, for going to graduate school, for living cheaply and on different sums of money depending on where you are. My husband and I try to base our relationship on a degree of equality – his graduate school is no more important than my career, for instance, and vice-versa. In a while, I’ll be doing a part-time graduate program for a masters, and for a summer (or two), he’ll be working at various positions that supplement the household income.
We have varying levels of income – I work a full-time job, with benefits, and he’s currently in a program that alternately pays him to do research, and requires that we take out loans for his tuition. We’re in a luckier position than many, given our living situation, but we still have expenses and savings goals. And the fact that I work, and he is dependent on tuition loans, means that for the time-being, I’m the breadwinner.
To be perfectly honest, I love being the wage-earner in the house. I love having disposable income, and feeling in-control of finances, and like a useful, contributing member of society (this is an entirely fabricated feeling, I know, and graduate students are also useful, contributing members of society, but allow me my irrational feelings). It’s not a power issue – I don’t feel that I’m in control of my husband, or that I get “power” over his finances or need to give him an allowance. Our finances are, for the most part, shared (another post, to come), and what isn’t shared is disposable on each of our parts. What I have leftover I can use for what I like, and he can likewise use his money (earned from tutoring and other related stipends) as he sees fit.
And yet I know this feeling of “control” comes from a place of inequality. I’ve done a great deal of reading on feminist history, and have particularly strong feelings about women and money, and how we can take control (financial and otherwise) of our lives. I’m of the (unpopular, at times) opinion that it’s essential for women to have their own livelihoods and income sources, particularly in marriage and where dependents are concerned, because you never know what’s going to happen (divorce, death, layoffs, financial crisis, etc.). I like making money, and being able to put lots of it towards our savings. At the moment, I’m the one contributing to our savings accounts for a future home, for vacations and car expenses, etc. And this, perhaps, is where the equity comes in. My long-term career goals are lofty, but I work in an industry where the upper pay-ranges are not incredibly high. My husband, on the other hand, will likely ultimately earn more than I will at the height of his career, based on his industry. In a way, I’m comforted by the fact that when we buy a house, it will be with mostly money I’ve saved (even though, for all legal intents and purposes, all of the money going into our household is “our” money), because I know that there will likely come a time when many of our expenses will be covered by my husband. As warped a feeling as it is, I’m glad I have this decade to do my “part,” because I know he’ll be doing his one day (not that he isn’t now, in a different way – clearly there’s no way for me to write about this without putting my foot in my mouth).
Is this a totally sensible feeling? Not really. But we’re part of a generation navigating changing terrain, with different careers and incomes and financial support systems.
How have you navigated the “breadwinner” issue in your relationship?