Yesterday was a relaxation and rest day. Today we need to get back to work; Jed has a small pile of stuff, and I need to do two things -- a) finish reading subs and send out acceptance/rejection letters for the SH workshops, b) get back to writing some fiction on the YA novel. If I'm still hoping to get Sharyn a draft by the 15th or so, then I need to average around 4000 words a day. That's not at all undoable, as long as I actually do it. But I fully intend to try, at least.
This is the summer where I have the luxury to just be a writer; I think in the fall, I'd better find some more steadily paying work, so I can pay off the last of those piled up bills. Might try to find full-time adjunct work again; teaching usually leaves me at least some time to write. I probably don't have to work, but while I'm willing to let Kevin buy me food and let me live rent-free, I'm just not comfortable asking him to help me pay my credit card bills, especially since most of those bills were purely frivolous indulgences, like music and cute clothes and frappucinos. Though there were the couple of thousand in dentist bills...
It's weird, negotiating this shared relationship where finances are concerned. A lot of my friends in couples just seem to throw it all into the pot and divide the results evenly; I'd be more comfortable with that if there weren't such a huge discrepancy between us. Right now, he's got a condo plus a nice steady professorial income; I've got a pile of debt. And the gender thing doesn't help; being a woman supported by a man is an uncomfortably traditional position. I'd much rather it was me supporting him. I keep telling myself that this is a short-term situation -- someday I'll graduate, and then I'll get a job, and this will all even out very quickly. And writing is by its nature erratic financially. But still -- life would be easier if they hadn't cut my fellowship for the coming year. C'est la vie.
What about y'all? Do you just throw it all in together? Is there anyone else out there bothered by this kind of thing, or am I just weird?
10 thoughts on “We saw Secretary last…”
“What about y’all? Do you just throw it all in together? Is there anyone else out there bothered by this kind of thing, or am I just weird?”
John and I just throw it all in together, one joint credit card, one joint bank account into which both incomes are deposited. But then, we’ve been together, married, for our entire adult lives, so we never had the need for anything but joint accounts. My first credit card was the one we took out together when we were, like, 21.
The point is, I don’t think you’re weird. Finances are subjective; each couple deals with them differently, and lots of people find them a source of conflict or unease.
Rats that your fellowship was cut. That sucks.
I worry about the issue too, because (1) women do tend to earn less in our society, for complicated reasons and (2) in any couple, it’s easy to say “whoever earns less should do more housework to pull their weight.” It sounds rational on an individual level–and often it’s the less-earning partner who volunteers to do more housework, out of guilt–but basically it ends up translating a social inequality into the heart of a romantic relationship, because guess who ends up doing more housework according to these rules? If you multiply it by all the couples out there, it means women still end up doing the housework. I think income issues should be strictly separated from housework issues. Otherwise things become too much like a contract: since you make more money I’ll darn your socks. It’s a relationship, not paid employment. And, yes, it sucks that the fellowship was cut–but you know, you work as hard as Kevin does (if not much harder!!) and you both chose your lines of work because that’s what you’re passionate about (he didn’t choose it because of the steady income, did he?) so I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about. But I know these things are hard to discuss, and hard in general. Good luck.
I should make clear that while I do tend to do by far most of the housework, it’s entirely my own guilt at play there — Kevin has no expectation that I will. As long as I do my half of it, he’s happy. And similarly on the worrying about money stuff; it’s almost entirely me stressing about being a non-equal financial partner, not him. We really need to sit down and talk about this sometime, I suppose; I suspect that the best financial path for us really is for him to mostly support me for a few years, giving me the best shot possible at finishing my degree well and writing a good book or two, but until I’m convinced that he’s really comfortable with that, I can’t be comfortable with that. If that makes sense. And if he’s not (or I can’t believe he is), then I’ll just try to pull more of my own financial weight, which might slow down the writing process some, but I have to believe not too terribly much.
It’s also much easier to let him pay for actual essentials; it feels weird to have him paying when I feel like getting a manicure or buying a trashy novel (the kind he wouldn’t ever borrow). And I buy way more clothing than I actually need, far more than he does. I just like pretty things, and I am lacking in willpower.
We don’t combine money. I think it would probably make me crazy. We have separate plastic, separate checking accounts, separate taxes, etc. The only thing we do jointly is the mortgage and we split that down the middle whenever possible.
I’ve never worried tremendously about who was making more money as long as the bills got paid and everyone was okay with HOW they got paid.
And that works fine when you’re both making a similar amount of money; that’s what we did for two years in Philly, no problem, when we were both making around $20K or so. But Columbine, say Debby got a massive raise — say her salary doubled, or tripled. Obviously, you could both still afford to pay half for actual expenses. But she would suddenly have a massive lot more money to be frivolous with, or to put into a bigger house (not that your house isn’t plenty big enough), or to go jet-setting around the globe. Would you let her pay your way on that stuff? If so, would you feel weird about it? Or would you say that she should spend that money only on herself — and would it then be frustrating when you had to work at a job you didn’t like when she could easily support you *and* treat you to nice things? That’s much closer to the situation I’m in at the moment, and even aside from the gender stuff, it’s just weird, I tell you.
That was me, anonymously, above–just wanted to say that I didn’t mean it to sound like a criticism of you or Kevin! Just want to be one of the posse rooting you on to feeling lower levels of guilt for following your dreams. 🙂
Debby makes quite a bit more money than I do. Not double, but it’s significant. Never bothered me. Sometimes I buy her stuff when she wants it and I have the cash; sometimes vice versa. We don’t keep score. The rule is the person who happens to have excess gets to pay for that month’s frivolities.
If she could support me single-handedly I would gladly stop working and stay home and become a domestic engineer. I’d even cook. I think, based on her comments in the past, that this too is a reciprocal feeling. Of course the ideal would be neither one of us working, but there I think we do have a difference: I can goof off, and she doesn’t know how to. I suspect if she didn’t have a day job she’d go crazy.
“I keep telling myself that this is a short-term situation — someday I’ll graduate, and then I’ll get a job, and this will all even out very quickly.”
This is more of what resonated with me — having just drawn to a close a three-year relationship in which I was the primary breadwinner while being a grad student, largely on the grounds of responsibility and motivation, I’m probably not the person you want talking about relationships and finance right now. 😉
But, that said, I entirely sympathise with how you’re feeling. Being anyone (woman or not) supported by anyone else is an uncomfortable position, full stop, and tradition be damned. The only consolation I can offer is that graduate school does end (she said, strongly considering making an early end of it herself), and you will be vastly more hireable and all sorts of good stuff thereafter, and you will make it out not just alive but successful and thriving.
Just some extra rah-rah from someone who has been there/is still there, and knows how it feels. 🙂