As I mentioned yesterday, I left my job last year and have been traveling around and enjoying the finer things in life… on Brandon’s dime. Although this is only temporary, I have learned a lesson or two (actually 3) about the right and wrong ways to financially depend on your partner.
I think this is important to talk about because it doesn’t just apply to age gap relationships. In fact, discrepancy in pay between couples is not unique to age gap relationships at all and my guess is there’s only a small percentage of couples that make the exact same amount of money. Phrases like the “bread winner” and “bringing home the bacon” are common place for a reason. Usually one partner makes more money than the other.
So this begs the question: how do other people deal with this? I have yet to overhear this conversation taking place over a casual dinner or at a lunch among friends. It’s never talked about. And I don’t think I’m alone in wanting guidance on how to best navigate this portion of a relationship, as all things relating to money are typically fraught with landmines. I’ve been learning as I go and here’s what I’ve gathered so far:
Spend Money Like It’s Your Own
One of my dearest mentors taught me this policy a few years back. She and I were on a trip together and we stopped by Peet’s Coffee in the Chicago airport to guzzle caffeine before our long flight home. She was in line and as I was perusing the refrigerated section when I asked if she wanted me to grab her a bottle of water. She looked at me, dumbfounded and asked, “why would we pay $2.50 for something we can get for free?” Even though the company was picking up the expense, she never spent the company’s money on something she wouldn’t pay for herself.
This holds true anytime you’re not spending your own money: always treat it like it’s yours because you will inevitably be more cautious with your own money than other’s.
This gets harder because your lifestyle changes. When you’re accustomed to sitting in coach and all of the sudden you’re sitting in first class, you might start to think that you can spend money the same way your partner does. But hold your horses. Unless you’re married or it’s in writing, from lawyers, with mutual consent – their money is not your money. So don’t spend it like it is.
I was originally thinking that this point should be titled “show gratitude.” And yes, you need to go above and beyond to show the person you love how grateful you are that they are financially supporting you. With every purchase. Every dinner. Every shirt. Everything. But beyond that, you need to actually be grateful. It’s easy to say thank you. It is hard as hell to live in a place of gratitude. I think this is because it’s easy for it to start to feel normal. The law of diminishing returns kicks in and the 10th never feels as special as the first. Slowly but surely, you grow accustomed to this new lifestyle. So much so that the nasty feeling of entitlement kicks in. You deserve these things, right?
Sorry ladies – but you are wrong.
If you haven’t worked for them, you don’t deserve them. Period. End of story.
But there’s good news, because you have options my friend. The first option is to go to work and make your own moolah. Yes. You can do this. If you want more things, go work your ass off to buy them for yourself. If this doesn’t sound fun or doesn’t fit your lifestyle, there’s good news: option 2 requires nothing but self-work.
Option 2: Be grateful. For every single thing in your life. The beautiful thing about coming from a place of gratitude, is if you’re doing it right, you will want less – not more. This is harder said than done but you really don’t have an alternative that will lead you to a happy life. There is an option 3: apply as much pressure at possible to your boyfriend/fiancée/husband to earn more, give you more, buy more. And maybe you’ve even tried this. How did that work out? Did you get what you wanted? Is your relationship better for it? Are you happier? I think not.
Learn to be grateful.
The Gifts Can’t Turn Into Necessities
Brandon is the world’s greatest gift buyer. It doesn’t have to be a special day of the year for him to want to give me something special. But the first time we fought about spending money was when I bought something special for myself without mentioning it to him. Last year over Christmas, I started buying my own gifts. They weren’t things that seemed out of the ordinary for Brandon to buy for me, but it was the first time I bought them for myself. With his credit card. Without asking. I didn’t even think to mention it to him but this is exactly where I went wrong. This is a slippery slope because I don’t think you need to ask permission to buy every little thing. But when it comes to expensive things, or items you couldn’t afford yourself, never assume. Be straightforward and talk about it.
I can tell you that it is Awkward – with a capital A – to buy something with someone else’s money and have them ask after the fact “what was this for?” Don’t get in the habit of having these conversations. Talk about a budget and monthly spending allowance and stick to it. Let him buy you the fancy things when he wants to – not when you think you deserve them.
Alright enough for today. We just arrived in Calgary and it’s time to explore. I’ve never been here before and based on the drive from the airport to downtown, I’ve already determined it’s BEAUTIFUL.
Until tomorrow – Xoxo Natalie
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