Thursday, March 26, 2009

Money

I don't want this blog to be just about our move to __________, so, today, I thought I'd cover the subject of money, and how Chris and I, as a couple, have dealt with that over the years.

A few years ago, one of our friends from a gay couple asked us how we managed money. There's no written rules on that, as far as gay relationships are concerned, but I think many gay couples are curious about how other couples handle it. I know I am.

When Chris and I first moved in together, in 1993, both of us worked, and both of us kept our money separate. That is, my money stayed my money, and Chris's money stayed his money...EXCEPT for shared expenses. (I think both of us felt a little insecure about our relationship, which was very young then, not knowing if it would last, and we kept our money separate in case each of us had to go his separate way. Fortunately, that didn't happen.) Every common expense, including rent, food, utilities, and the like, was shared 50/50. I looked after paying everything, gave Chris a detailed list of his portion of our shared expenses, and he wrote me a cheque. That's the system we used for many years.

When we bought our first home together, in late 1994, we shared all those expenses 50/50 as well, again, because it would just be easier that way if our relationship didn't work, and we had to divide everything in half.

After we moved to Victoria in August 2000, we still kept our money separate, and we still shared common expenses. But I made about 60% of our household income, and Chris made about 40%.

I learned from a book I read long before I met Chris that money is power in relationships. The person making more money has more "power," so to speak, and, if something isn't done to equalize the amount of money between two people, the couple is generally restricted, as far as what they can do, to how much the lower income earner can afford. So I tried to equalize the situation between Chris and me by taking on a larger share of our expenses, giving us a better chance to live a less financially restricted life together.

Two and a half years after we moved to Victoria, Chris and I decided to buy our townhouse (the one we live in now and recently sold so we could move to _________). Chris didn't have enough money to help with half of the down payment, so I paid the full amount. But it was at that point that I began to look at my money as more our money. As far as I was concerned, Chris had put in half of the money required for the down payment.

The above financial arrangements between Chris and me as a couple remained in place until I left my job to pursue a writing career in July 2007. Both of us understood that I may not earn an income for some time, but we knew, having sold our condo in Vancouver and having paid off all of our debt, that we could easily live on Chris's income alone.

This was a big adjustment for me. For the first time in nearly thirty years, I didn't earn a penny. I haven't earned anything in over a year and a half now. Sometimes, I feel guilty and believe that I need to earn an income to help with our expenses.

But our lifestyle hasn't changed as a result of me leaving my job, and Chris has been wonderful about supporting my writing efforts and reminding me repeatedly that his money is now our money. He has never once made me feel guilty about not earning anything, and I'm most grateful for that and for his generosity.

When our household income was reduced from two wage earners to one, Chris made me joint on all of his accounts, as I did on mine. When he gets paid, "we" get paid. And I look after all of our finances, ensuring money is set aside for uncommon expenses, paying all monthly bills, and putting aside funds so we can afford to do things in the future. This arrangement has worked great for us, Chris has been completely supportive, and I imagine we'll continue this way for some time to come...until there is another change in our lives.

If I've learned anything over the past seventeen years, it's that financial arrangements in a couple can change as their lives together change, and you have to be prepared to adapt to those changes, keeping what's best for the couple foremost in mind. If you do that, money doesn't become an issue between the two of you.

6 comments:

  1. I'm dating a gay guy now. He used to be well off before, but because of some unexpected events in his life, he lost his business and is now unemployed. He has a five year old daughter. When we dated, he was honest enough to mention these details to me. However, his socio-economic status bothers me a lot. Lately, he borrowed some cash from me to pay off some of his bills. I felt irritated but I just gave in. On the other hand, he showed me to his family the other day. I met his parents and his siblings too! I can feel his honest. But the thought of his financial difficulty draining on me is just a spoiler. I also support my family and pay my bills. And having him, I thought, would be another financial burden, so to speak. But I can sense his sincerity, and I would also feel guilty to leave him just because of his financial status. Lately, he has found a job in the city. But this is just a blue collar job that will not really suffice to his financial needs. I worry that if I pursue this relationship, it's just going to rip my finances too! His family ad daughter depend on him as well. I guess it's going to be my problem as well if I continue to hang on with him. But I can tell that he loves me. Or am I just blinded? Please let me know. Had he been stable with his finances, everything would have run so smoothly in here. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. RESPONSE, PART ONE:

    For me, Anonymous, the root issue here is, you haven't been with your partner long enough to know whether or not he's taking advantage of you. Obviously, your relationship is still new, and you're not sure you can trust him to land on his feet so he doesn't go on using you.

    Over the years, I've seen a good many gay men fall on hard times and count on family, friends, or partners to get them through it. That's not the problem. The problem, as I see it, is will these men continue to rely on others to help them financially, longer than they realistically should because they lose the interest or the gumption to land on their own feet?

    Your direct question to me was, are you too blinded by all the good things going on between you to see what's really going on before it's too late and he financially ruins you? In the end, only you can answer that question for yourself, based on what's going on day-in and day-out, and what your gut tells you to do.

    If Chris and I had been in this very same situation after we first met in 1992, I don't know if we'd still be together today. But, I hastily add, neither Chris nor I would have counted on each other to get out of a difficult financial situation.

    Less than two years after we met, and less than a year after we moved in together, I left my job without having another one to go to (it's a long story). I was out of work for over six months and knew I was still responsible for paying my portion of our monthly rent, household expenses, and groceries. I collected employment insurance, I depleted my savings, and I spent a pension amount I was entitled to from the company I left.

    Let me be clear. At no time did I count on Chris to make up my portion of what I was responsible for. I would never have asked him to kick in more rent, utility, or food money because I was short. I wouldn't have put our new relationship under that pressure. I would not have allowed him to think I was a deadbeat.

    I'm not saying your partner is a deadbeat. But it seems to me he should have approached family members first, and used all other resources available, to help him financially before asking someone he met not long ago and is supposedly in love with.

    What only you can decide is if what you've seen of your partner lately is the very rare occasion–something he's made a priority to rectify as soon as humanly possible–or if he's the type who will continue to use you over time. You don't want to pass up on the opportunity for a great relationship, if in fact that's what you have, but you don't want to feel taken advantage of either and risk your own financial ruin.

    To your partner's credit, he's landed another job, even if, as you put it, it will not meet his financial needs. At least he knew he needed to get another job. This time will be a test for him. Will he continue to look for a new job that meets his complete financial needs? Will he keep looking for another part-time job to augment his income? Will he scale back his spending, and do without in the short-term, so he can make what he earns work for him? Or will he keep relying on other people, including you, to bail him out of his situation?

    Please see Part Two

    ReplyDelete
  3. RESPONSE, PART TWO:

    It's easy to go blind into a relationship and not see what's really going on because you love someone so much, and because you want it to work. You are not like that, and I give you a lot of credit. You know what feels right and what feels wrong, and that's why you asked for my advice. That tells me you'll know when the time arrives to cut your loses and move on.

    Some people might tell you to dump the slug now before it's too late. But, from what you tell me, your situation isn't that straightforward. There's some great stuff going on between you and your partner, and relationships are difficult enough to find without throwing away something that could be very good and endure over time.

    So here's a suggestion. Don't provide your partner with any further financial aid. Not a penny more. Tell him how you feel about him–that is, you love him, or you could come to love him–and be clear that you are not in a position to give or lend him anything more. If you stand your ground and your relationship lasts this test, then you'll know it was meant to be. If it doesn't–that is, your partner leaves you because you won't help him–then you'll know it wasn't what it seemed.

    I recognize how difficult what you're going through is. It's important to know whatever happens–you stay together or you don't stay together–is meant to be. And if what you have now doesn't last, then that's only because something better for you is just around the corner.

    In other words, if you and your current partner don't make it as a couple, that's all right. Better to learn sooner rather than later what you're dealing with so you don't get too sucked into it. You will land on your feet. There are lots of great gay men out there who will love you for who you are and not for bailing them out financially.

    Thanks for your interest in my blog, for contacting me, and for trusting me enough to ask my opinion about this important matter. A lot of couples–gay and straight–don't make it because of money issues. If you get through this with your current partner, then your relationship was meant to be. If you don't, then it was never yours to begin with.

    Respect yourself enough to follow what you know in your heart is right for you. I wish you good luck and lots of love in your life.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi could you still guide me in this topic? :) i have a lot of issues now with my partner

    ReplyDelete
  5. Of course I can, Anonymous. I'd be happy to.
    But the issue of money is a big one in relationships, with lots of different manifestations. It might be easier if you sent me an email, explaining how money has become a problem for you and your partner.
    I'll do what I can to help.
    Hope to hear from you again.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Alternatively, Anonymous, if you feel more comfortable leaving me a detailed comment here, and you can fit what you want to say in a relatively small space, you can do that too. I'm happy to respond to you either way.

    ReplyDelete