Dr. Romance’s fellow blogger, the delightful Melanie Waldman of Travels with two, writes:
Back in the late 90s, my then-boyfriend and I were in our late twenties and had been living together for about four years. I’d just recently realized that we were in a negative pattern, and had begun to wonder about the shape of our future.
The gist of our struggle was financial. We’d moved in together after a short, helpful talk about the division of chores, but had never discussed how we’d handle our joint finances. He made a lot more than I, but we nonetheless split our rent and utilities fifty-fifty. I did our grocery shopping and errands, always using my own money; I would then have to ask him to pay me back, something he didn’t always do right away.
I was patient at first—I mean, I knew where to find him—but after my bank account dipped into fee-incurring zones a few times, I became more insistent about being reimbursed. It took me a year or so to admit to my feelings of resentment.
I asked if we could open a joint account so I didn’t have to shake him down for money like a bookie with a chronic gambler. But I wasn’t surprised when he said no: on some of our dates, I’d experienced him step up to a movie theatre box office and pay for only his own ticket.
I was beginning to see that sharing money was a very difficult concept for him. Here was a wonderful, warm, and funny man, always generous with his time and emotional energy, but despite his making a decent salary, he wasn’t generous with cash.
As the child of a psychologist and a social worker, I knew a red flag when I saw one. I knew this pattern wasn’t just going to disappear without laying it out on a table for examination. I asked my boyfriend, who I hoped to one day marry, to accompany me to therapy. I found us not one therapist, but two—a married couple who specialized in relationships.
We started seeing them once a week. Right away, they helped my boyfriend recognize his own selfish behavior, and I soon saw that I’d allowed my lack of self-confidence to keep me from taking charge of my own financial situation. I hadn’t been aware that, rather than using more direct means, I often relied on sarcasm to relay my fear and anger.
Meanwhile, our therapists helped my boyfriend see that his relationship with money—formed in reaction to his dad’s, mom’s and stepdad’s financial woes—could change; he agreed to a joint bank account, and we were both relieved.
But that was just the start. Thanks to feedback from our therapists, we were discovering that we didn’t have a clear, shared picture of what comprised a good marriage. His parents had been pretty dramatically divorced since he was an infant, and my own parents, though long married, frequently argued and complained about each other. Over the next eight months, we began to build a model for ourselves based on clear communication, with both listening and mirroring.
When we got engaged and turned our attention from therapy to a wedding, we made what felt like a natural choice—we asked our therapists, ordained as Universal Life Church ministers, to perform our wedding ceremony. These two lovely people, who themselves had struggled with love on the way to finding each other, had given us the tools to create a better life for ourselves; ten years in, we still feel there was and is no couple better qualified to bless our union.