A Fragile Balance of Power: Making It Work When Only One of You Makes the Money
For centuries, the cultural norm of the husband bringing home the bacon while his wife tended the homefront tipped the scales of relationship power firmly on the side of the man. Culture has taken enormous strides in the past few decades, however, and has left an entire generation of women expecting more balance in their relationships — but not really sure how to achieve it. Women in the workforce has helped, but that isn’t a practical solution for every family. And when Mom is the breadwinner while Dad stays home with the kids, the problem is often amplified.
Be Honest About Your Expectations
Whether your work situation is about to change or you simply feel like the balance of power in your relationship needs to be more balanced, the two of you need to have an honest conversation about what you expect from each other and from yourselves. You may find that you have very different ideas about your roles in your relationship. Clarifying — and finding a way to agree on — expectations now can head off problems in the future.
Be Flexible About Your Expectations
When you spend your days juggling a newborn, a toddler, and a never-ending pile of laundry, it can be easy to plop Baby straight into your partner’s hands the minute they walk through the door. Similarly, it can be easy to feel like you shouldn’t have to do any housework even on the weekends when you spend your days making the money that houses, clothes, and feeds the family. While you definitely should help each other out, expecting things that you didn’t explicitly agree on will only set you up for disappointment at some point.
Make Money Decisions Together
Of course, you talk about the big things — buying a new home, when and how to get the car fixed, saving for retirement. But even the small decisions, such as how often you should go out to eat or how much to spend on school clothes for the kids, should be a joint decision. Only one of you may make the money, but how it is spent affects you both.
A stay-at-home mom or dad can easily feel powerless when they are financially dependant on their spouse. Make an effort to communicate about your needs and expectations, and that fragile balance can bring harmony to your relationship rather than drive a wedge through it.
Current Culture and Commitment – What are People Truly Looking For?
In recent years there has been a popular trend for individuals to make up a list of every quality they are looking for in a partner. These lists get revised, added to, deleted from, and sometimes ripped up in frustration by those who committed themselves to following their list but still have not been able to find a partner.
Sometimes people stop seeing someone simply because they lack one or two “qualities” that are not on the list. But is it really a matter of just finding someone who is an exact replica of the list? Is that what people are truly looking for? Probably not. How many people have met someone who fit all their criteria yet still there was no spark? If people hope to succeed in finding what they are looking for, they need to be honest with themselves first. If you truly are not looking for a committed relationship at this point in your life, then own it. Be honest with others and don’t lead them to believe you are looking for commitment when you actually are not. By not wasting their time, you also don’t waste your time getting involved with someone who wants more than what you do.
If you truly can say you are looking for a committed relationship, be open and flexible enough to look beyond your list. Most people, when they strip away all their superfluous wants, actually just want unconditional love. They want a partner who cares about them and who values and respects them. Dr. Phil, a famous psychologist, often uses the terminology of being “a soft fall” for each other. That means being willing to open up to another person and creating an intimacy that only two people can share with each other. Does a person really want to open up to another individual and become vulnerable through intimacy if they think they can expect a scolding for not picking up their socks or because they “failed” at being a good cook? Couples often struggle because they only look at the superficial, rather than having the maturity to look deeper at what a lasting relationship can offer.
Finding what you are really looking for, means starting with yourself. Are you mature? Are you forgiving? Are you focused only on the superficial? Do you actually like the opposite sex and are you planning to give of yourself to be their companion, or are you just looking for them to give you something? When you are ready to give, rather than focusing on what you want to get, that is a good first step. Don’t stop looking until you find someone who feels the same way.
Overall, financial strategies for blended families should not be that much different from strategies for a traditional family. Hopefully couples have already talked about such things as their current finances and their financial goals for the future. In addition, they should have already created a budget to ensure their daily living expenses are covered after their marriage, with an eye toward saving money for future expenses such as a home or a large purchase such as another vehicle.
Both adult parties of the blended family, in order to get off on the right foot, also need to understand there could be monthly expenses from prior relationships or marriages such as alimony or child support. The best way to minimize issues with these types of monthly obligations is with simple acceptance. Couples are better served by presenting a united front and tackling what might be a tight budget, together, rather than going into separate emotional corners and considering thoughts like, “it’s his alimony payment, not mine” or “her ex should support her child, not me”.