Perusing the homepage of Huffington Post yesterday, I noticed an article titled “20 Marriage Problems Real Women Face.” Although I’m not married, I was intrigued and clicked on the link. The number one issue the women polled cited was money. “Ah yes,” I thought, “I should have known.”
I remember when my father had his official talk with me when I announced that I was moving in with my boyfriend of nearly four years. We were sitting in his parked car letting the silence hang between us as we were lost in our own thoughts when he suddenly said, “The number one reason that people break up is over money,” he paused and looked piercingly into my eyes. “Understand that no matter how much you guys love each other, you will argue over money. People don’t really know each other until they have to figure out how to pay the bills. It can change your relationship.” I, of course, downplayed the importance of this advice. “We have a plan—we know how we’re splitting the bills and we know that we need to save for a while. We’ll be fine.”
Now, eight months into our live-in arrangement, I understand the wisdom my father was trying to impart. No level of planning can prepare you for the phone you break that needs to be replaced now. Or the fear and anger that rises from the overdue bill that he was supposed to pay. Or the birthday trip (that he warned you against) that cost more than you thought that causes him to sneer at you come bill time because you still haven’t recovered financially. These money issues will then cause you to snipe at each other spitefully. “Oh, I see you have money to buy those sneakers you wanted. You better have some left for the light bill next week!” And “You need to learn how to do your own hair instead of going to that overpriced salon!”
Your relationship might teeter at the brink a few times before you can step back and realize what the root issue is. For some, that last minute step of salvation does not come. Mine came from a simple moment of reflection borne out of one of those embarrassing Twitter accounts I follow that spews out (often cliché) quotes. It said something to the effect of: “Don’t let money issues make you forget why you fell in love.” That’s when you remember that you used to admire his dope sneaker collection because you’re both sneaker heads. Or when you recall how he used to tease you about the fact that you were cosmetically inept and pretend to thank the heavens for your hairstylist. You remember what defines your relationship and realize that it never had anything to do with money.
This is not to say that it isn’t important to make sure you and your partner are on the same page financially. It’s imperative that you discuss what is expected from each other, understand those expectations, and (most importantly) act accordingly. However, that discussion cannot be had whilst your each hanging on to petty resentments about what each other spent two months ago. Let go of the bitter taste of arguments past and focus on solutions. You’ll find the frost that had settled over your home slowly begin to melt to reveal the reason you moved in together in the first place.