Once we got engaged and the ring sat on my finger, it seemed that problems were not always handled effectively. One of us was compromising to the point we were dismissing potential landmines so that we could get married. It was about the wedding and getting through to that day so we could live blissfully ever after.
I would also add to this article from Be Like Water that financial collaboration and intimacy is unbelievably important even after accounts become joined, credit cards become shared, and incomes are combined. After my own divorce ended in a financial disaster for me, I have found that many, MANY people share my story. We trusted each other, we were both financially independent and secure when we entered into our marriage, and we were open with each other about every piece of debt, loans, open credit, etc. BUT that trust led to my own downfall – I didn’t keep checking our accounts, didn’t look at bills or make sure they were paid, didn’t check my credit or look at our taxes. We tried doing our budget together but since we both had such different ways of doing the physical budget (I like pen and paper, he liked Excel – my Excel spreadsheet went from top to bottom, his went from left to right) that I eventually entrusted the whole process to him. Like I said, we were both capable adults who had spent years in charge of our own finances – I thought I had no reason to double check everything.
So eventually I had no idea that our bills weren’t paid or our debts grew. I didn’t know he lost his job until the pharmacy told me I no longer had insurance. I thought we were fine. I knew we were on a budget, sure, but we still went out to eat with our friends and bought new things when we wanted them.
I didn’t realize our “$200” car repair actually cost us $2,000. I didn’t know that he added himself to an old credit card of mine and charged thousands of dollars to it. I didn’t know he spend hundreds of dollars buying everyone rounds of drinks at the bar each night.
I had already left him by the time I discovered all of the debt. I had no money to pay anything; my paycheck went into our joint account for which I didn’t even know the log-ins or passwords.
So my advice is this: even if you don’t check often, make sure you CAN check. I speak about this with all of my friends, clients…heck even friends of friends I’ve just met. People who say, “oh I’m bad with money, I just let [my partner] handle everything.” Or “he/she has me on a budget because I just don’t pay attention to that stuff.” Make a note to check your accounts, at least every quarter. I’m not accusing your partner of fraud or anything, I’m suggesting that he or she may get into a bind and think “well, I’ll pay the savings account back next month” or “I want her to have a good Christmas, I’ll put this on the credit card.”
If I had known how stretched we were financially I would have stopped spending money! I’m sure pride and depression and alcohol and the fear that he was losing me all contributed to my ex-husband not telling me what was going on. When I finally did leave I had no idea the mess that we were in financially.
But I honestly take some of the blame for our financial burden. By being lazy and stubborn (“fine! If your way is so much better, you can just do it!”), I put the entire responsibility on him. We should have been a team when it came to budgeting and spending.
I am positive he thought he was doing the right thing to try to make me happy. Maybe at the end some of his spending was spiteful, but I am 100% it didn’t start out that way.
Pay attention. Be a team. And – I say this with the experience of many, many people I’ve met – protect yourself. I promise you, ALL of us at one point said, “that will never be me. My partner would never do that to me.” Please be safer and not sorry.
PS: Shout out to the many, many people who have helped me survive (literally) since that time. From the one buying me mac & cheese and SunChips in bulk at Costco (lived on that for months), to the one who let me live in her guest room for free, to the ones taking me out or to shows or to dinner, to the one replacing the broken things and sending me beauty for no reason other than believing I should have it. I may be living paycheck to paycheck, but I wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for the incredible people who have picked me up along the way. Which is a whole different blog: can we be friends with the people who save us?