In Search of Gay Money: Don’t let money ruin your partnership
As gays and lesbians writing about money, we’ve grown weary of reading all the personal finance content that’s written from the perspective of straight marriages. So at Queercents, we’ve turned the tables on money and relationship advice by asking: What if all of our favorite money columnists were gay? Would their advice be more relevant to our lives?
We think the answer is yes! And as such, this is our weekly series called In Search of Gay Money where we reprint their advice by swapping out pronouns and a few other words to make it seem like everyone is queer!
Don’t let money ruin your partnership
By Dan Kadlec and Queercents
When we hooked up 22 years ago, my partner and I started with two old cars and not much more. I had spent my last dime on my education; he was just finishing school. At the time it seemed as if years would pass before we’d have the income to travel again. So without telling him, I began to sock away $20 a week. It was my secret vacation fund – and, it turns out, my first act of financial infidelity.
Nearly every partner occasionally fudges numbers. My partner once brought home a fancy flat-faced kitten that cost way more than he admitted at the time. We ended up chuckling about it – and my vacation fund too, after we raided it to make ends meet one month long ago.
But like most partners, we sometimes experience more serious tension when allocating our resources. Therapists say that half of all couples fight about spending and that money issues are a driving force behind most breakups. Learning to peacefully resolve such disputes may be the key to a lasting partnership.
Most partners could use the help. We confront money stresses that our parents never experienced, and while these aren’t the sole cause of quicker breakups, they compound tensions that may already be there.
Let’s tackle these partnering challenges one at a time.
Dual incomes, double trouble
The accompanying shifts in the balance of power between partners can exacerbate clashes over spending, saving and goals. If he says, “You spent how much on what?” then his partner is now more likely to feel mad, not guilty: “Hey, I work, it’s my money too, and you can’t tell me what to do with it!”
With two earners under one roof, it’s also a lot easier – financially speaking – to break up. “When you both make money,” says Gemma Allen, a family attorney at Ladden & Allen in Chicago, “you’re both more able to pack up and leave, and the temptation to do that at times is strong.”
Before you think about heading for the exit, try giving yourself what’s probably a long-overdue attitude adjustment. Take heed: The financial rules of partnerships have changed, and it’s time we started acting like it. Nobody should be behaving like Lord of the Money, with the titular right to decide how much your household should spend, where to invest and what your financial priorities should be. Managing the household money is a team sport.
When you do discuss money issues, frame the conversation in a way that defuses emotional land mines, Allen says. Start on neutral ground, talking over coffee or lunch, perhaps; getting out of the house sets a more businesslike tone and helps both of you stay on your best behavior.
And focus on the goal, not your judgment of your partner’s behavior. How you can pay off a particular credit card given your income and expenses is a fruitful topic. Debating who charged more frivolously to run up the balance in the first place is not.
(Too) great expectations
Sure, partners have always argued about how to spend money. But they have never had quite so much to argue about. We are a prosperous generation, inundated with opportunities to buy things and only too willing to believe a media blitz that declares we deserve it all.
“We are in an era of unparalleled consumption aspirations,” says Pamela Smock, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. “We want the life we see all over the Internet and TV.”
End the sparring over who’s entitled to get more of what they want by setting a simple house rule: You are each able to spend up to, say, $250 with no questions asked. But above that limit you will consult each other. If your partners nixes a bigger-ticket item that you want, try explaining why it’s so important to you and find out why he is so resistant (you can always stomp off in a huff later).
If your partner knew you were eager to send your kids to sleepaway camp because you never got to go and feel you missed out on a great experience, she might be more open to the idea. And if you understood just how worried she was about big bills putting the family in debt, maybe you’d find a cheaper program.
Dan Kadlec’s writings can be found here. He’s not really gay, but he is really looking for people over 45 to interview for his latest book called Significance. Hopefully, he’ll include some significant gays and lesbians.