All That I Have I Share With You… Or At Least Split It Down the Middle, Part 5

I freely admit I got badly burned. I barely made it through the first time. I don’t think I could take losing everything all over a second time. Financial independence is a must for me. I’m willing to downsize; I’m not willing to be homeless if I don’t live with my mom or someone else. I know that’s ironic considering I’m still reliant on spousal support, but if I remarry or live with someone I have to give that up. The spousal support I receive now gives me financial independence in my relationship with the mobster. I can afford to buy my kids things they need and want because of that money. I don’t have to ask the mobster for it. If I want to go somewhere or I want to buy something, I can do that. I am not reliant upon the mobster for it. Ultimately though I want to be financially independent even if there is no spousal support. Quite honestly, I would love to make more money than the mobster. He jokes about me being his sugar mama. I would love to be in that position.

I keep going back and forth. Is it important to be able to do it on your own? Yes, I think it is. Do you have more buying power when there are two of you? Yes, I think you do. How do you merge those two? That is the million dollar question. Maybe it comes down to not buying anything tangible that you cannot afford on your own but being willing to co-mingle money when it comes to the intangibles. Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is I have no desire to lose everything all over again, and it seems like two becoming one is the surest way to do that. 

Maybe the real trick is to make sure marriage benefits both of you. Hell, even looking back at my own marriage I could see that it benefited both of us.

I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my kids. That was my main benefit. I got to do all kinds of amazing things with them and I was very involved with their school. I’m sure there are many working women who can say the same. I’m not one of them. It’s like I told Picasso not that long ago, “I used to be a good mom.” I don’t have the time to devote to them. Period.

I also had 100% access to his paycheck. I could book tickets to fly back to Utah. I could pay for gymnastics for my daughter. I could pay for hockey for my son. I could buy them whatever they needed and plenty of it. I could also buy them most of what they wanted. I didn’t have to worry about money, and I never had to ask either. I was free to do whatever I wanted with it within reason.

As for him, he was able to climb the corporate ladder. He was able to make an excellent salary, far more than I will ever be able to earn. He never had to wash a dish, do a load of laundry, pick up a kid from school, take a day off work because a child was sick, run kids around for activities, make a meal, or even fix his own plate or put his own clothes away. He never had to worry about trying to juggle working full-time with raising his kids because I was at home taking care of everything. 

Obviously, the benefits were lop-sided, and he ultimately benefited a hell of a lot more than me in the end.

Perhaps the real indictment is against ever being a stay at home parent. I had nothing of my own to financially contribute. The entire financial burden was carried by someone else. Everything I had was paid for by someone else. And then- POOF- it all went away. Maybe if we had been bigger savers the hit might not have been so bad; there could have been money in savings to split- if he didn’t blow it all on Harley first. If our house didn’t go into foreclosure when he lost his job, or if he hadn’t walked out one fucking year after we bought the damn thing maybe we could have sold it and I would have had a little bit of money to sock away. Shit, I had over $10,000 socked away at the time he lost his job. If he’d kept working none of the bullshit that happened would have happened. I probably could have kept the house, even though it wouldn’t have been a prudent financial decision. My kids wouldn’t have been uprooted. I would have had a $10,000 head start in regards to my divorce.

It’s easy to blame it all on staying at home but even in the prior examples those people are taking risks. My best friend is earning a third less than what she could be and the longer she stays out of private practice the harder it will be to build up her practice again. My cousin might very well not find another job as great as the one she left behind to “take care of herself”. My co-worker could find that she’s no longer being considered for promotion because she no longer wishes to work full-time. All of those decisions require taking a risk and placing your faith in the person you’ve chosen to trust and share your life with.

Not to mention even if you’re both working you’re getting something out of being married in most instances. I make $100; you make $100. Together we make $200. Twice the money to put into savings, put towards vacations, pay household bills, raise children. I know it doesn’t work that way all of the time, but in a lot of cases it does.

Maybe another answer is this. Be able to be self-sufficient. Earn enough money to be able to pay a mortgage on your own. Be able to afford your car payment. Be able to fund your retirement and put money into savings. But if this marriage truly benefits both of you then you’ll both lose something if the marriage ends. 

Perhaps that would be the difference this time around. If I make $35,000 and the mobster makes $65,000 and we bought a house based on what we make combined, then it doesn’t matter if I can’t afford the house payment on my own; he couldn’t either. When I was married I could afford nothing and Jerry Lee could afford everything because I had no job. Maybe this time around I’ll be the one providing the insurance and contributing a good chunk of the retirement funds. After all, there was a period of time in the beginning of our marriage where both Jerry Lee and I worked. Our combined income didn’t come close to what he eventually made but we were young and had no children either. We didn’t stress about money. One paycheck covered our bills nicely and the other paycheck allowed us the freedom to go out, buy gifts, and do all of the little extras. It was a team back then. Honestly, I think we were much happier back then, back when we both worked. Him being the sole provider meant an immediate power imbalance. As much as I miss my free time and the ability to get shit done in the middle of the week I know I will never go back to that.

I don’t know why I puzzle over this so much. Even in this woman’s story, when it comes right down to it, she’s going to marry again- for financial reasons. It doesn’t matter that she can pay her rent, or that she refused to buy a home with her husband that she alone could not pay the mortgage on. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t rely on her ex’s $250 a month for child support. It doesn’t matter that she could support the family when her husband was out of work for a few months. It doesn’t even matter if she continues this mindset with the new husband, refusing to live in a house she alone cannot pay for, refusing to take on any bills she can’t cover. She doesn’t have a well funded retirement and she doesn’t like paying out hundreds of dollars a month for insurance. So she’s getting remarried. She’s teaming up with someone else. Where she falters, he will help her. She can continue to pat herself on the back for being self-sufficient and doing it all on her own, but in the end… she’s not doing it all by herself. She needed help and she’s going to get it- by getting married.

All That I Have I Share With You… Or At Least Split It Down the Middle, Part 4

When I first read Mandy’s story, and throughout the years, I always wondered what the point in being married was if you were going to live like she did. Marriage is supposedly about being a team and combining your resources. Not much of a team effort when everything is separate or must play to the lowest common denominator. Now, having had my life systematically dismantled by a cheating man who held the wallet in our marriage, I see the benefits. Despite the flaws in her thinking I admire how smart it is to never purchase anything you alone cannot pay for. I look back now and I realize none of it was ever truly mine. It was all given to me by Jerry Lee and when he decided he was done with me I lost everything. No more nice big house, no more pool, no more vacations, no more outings with the kids, no more shopping sprees for them, no more financial freedom.

Yes, I understand that me tending to the home while he went out and worked allowed him to concentrate on his career. I completely understand and agree with the idea that if not for me he might not have been able to climb as high and as fast as he did. I get the whole “we’re a team” thing. But when that team breaks apart some of us quickly realize that our contribution to “the team” didn’t mean squat in terms of financial security. Nobody hires us on our ability to help our spouse achieve career success. When you split up that career success all goes to the person who is actually working. They leave and continue to make big bucks. The person who supported them are left behind, scrambling to find a job and figure out a way to support themselves and their kids.

I’ve written before about never dating again, never marrying again, and me not wanting to lose everything because the next guy can’t keep it in his pants, or he just decides he’s tired of me. Well, you know how the “never dating again” thing has turned out. I’ve even relaxed my stance on never marrying again. But, losing everything because he walks away? That’s a huge fear I continue to have. I absolutely do not want to give up my spousal support, be completely financially dependent on the mobster, buy a house, create a fantastic life together, and then have him walk out the door, leaving me destitute again and knocking on my mother’s door because I can’t afford to live on my own. It terrifies me. Financial independence is an absolute must before I ever consider living with or marrying the mobster (and he knows that for those of you who might worry he’s just now learning this).

Then I zigzag right back and I think, “Why bother?” Why bother creating a life with someone else if everything is separate? Isn’t the purpose of marriage to be a team? To combine resources? All that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you. Those were my wedding vows twenty plus years ago. All in. Not half assed. 

If I make $35,000 and the mobster makes $65,000 together we have $100,000. Doesn’t that $100,000 go farther than my measly $35,000 or his $65,000? Or even if it’s a lot more equal and I make $60,000 and he makes $80,000 together we make $140,000. Sure, we could both do okay on our own, but wouldn’t we do a lot better combining our incomes instead of living like we were single? Again, there would be two incomes paying household bills, two incomes going towards retirement, two incomes to contribute to savings, two incomes to pay for vacations, two incomes to help put kids through college.

Lately I’ve been seeing lots and lots of benefits of being married. For example, a co-worker at the bank just got married a little while ago. She was able to move from her home in the city to an adorable little house out in the country with plenty of space for her 4 dogs, 2 cats, and 2 pigs. She loves it out there and is always posting cute pictures and videos of her animals in their new home. She’s also gone down to part-time instead of working full-time. All of this has been possible thanks to her new husband. He is why she can buy a new house out in the country before selling her old house. He is why she can work part-time instead of full-time. She definitely could not do that on her own.

I have a cousin who had an amazing job at this tony military retirement community as an activities director. She remarried a little over a year ago. I know this because her husband, for their first anniversary which is paper, presented her with tickets to Hawaii. Nice. She has now quit her amazing job to take some time to take care of herself. She’s busy posting pictures of the bread and other goodies she’s making and talking about all the projects she’s tackling. Again, this is made possible by a husband. A husband who has no problems supporting her and her son. I suppose we could switch it around and say a man could also do this if he had a wife who made good money, but most men don’t tend to do that.

I’m happy for both of them. Honestly. After what I’ve been through I’m also a little scared for them. I keep thinking, “You better hope the bottom never drops out because if that happens you are going to be screwed!”

Then again, neither of them is as stupid as I was. My cousin is in her 50s and has been married twice before this. She’s struggled and she’s worked. She’s done it on her own before and I have no doubt that if she had to, she could do it again. The co-worker has worked full-time since probably age 18; she didn’t marry until her mid to late 30s. I have every bit of confidence that she, too, can re-enter the workforce in a full-time capacity if she needed to.

It’s everywhere- this benefit of marriage. Partnership. I see person after person who is benefitting from being paired up.

I look at one of my best friends who is a chiropractor. Before meeting her husband she was a single woman in her late 30s, working 70-80 hours a week. Soon after meeting him she quit her job to go into practice for herself. She became a mom to his three children and was the one doing laundry, making dinner, and getting kids to school and sports. Now she is teaching at her kids’ high school for a discount on the tuition. Maybe it’s free. Nonetheless, she has gone from working 70-80 hours a week making almost 6 figures to a teaching job making about a third of what she was making but where she has summers off and plenty of down time during the school year. She leads a completely different life. Thanks to a husband.

Another woman from high school just got married. They’re building a house.

Another one of my best friend’s is thinking about letting her ex turned on-again/off-again boyfriend move back in with her because the little bit he contributes to the rent and utilities helps her out considerably.

Yet another friend lost her full-time job during the coronavirus shut down. She’s been living with her boyfriend in another state during the week and then coming back to our town on the weekends to work her part-time job which she really likes. From prior conversations it’s apparent that he wants to take care of her. I have no idea if he’s helping her with her bills during this time but I know she’s looking for a job in his state and would move in with him for good if she was able to find something there.

It’s a complicated situation. On one hand I don’t ever want to be financially dependent on a man again. On the other hand, I see by all the examples outlined above, how beneficial it is when you work as a team instead of as a single person against the world. But then I think, “What happens if I’m discarded again?” Yeah, it’s nice to have a home of your own. It’s nice to go on vacation and buy things you want and need. But when the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with walks out on you and drastically changes the socioeconomic path of your life you get a little gun shy.

All That I Have I Share With You… Or At Least Split It Down the Middle, Part 3

Like Mandy. She was super proud of the fact that she could cover the mortgage when her husband was out of work. Good for her. She was also “fortunate” enough to land a house that had been foreclosed on. Much nicer house for a lot less money. 

She was constantly patting herself on the back for not needing child support from her ex; she said there were times he would apologize for being out of work and not being able to send it and her reaction was, ‘I didn’t even realize he wasn’t sending it,’. What she didn’t factor into all her blustering was that her ex did a lot of extras for their son- bought him clothes, took him shoe shopping, took him on trips, took him on excursions, bought him a car. Plus, there was the fact that they kept everything out of the courts and they agreed on $250 a month for child support. Hell, if I was only getting $250 I could probably brag about not missing it, too. There was also the matter of her being in her early 20s when this all happened; she had plenty of time to build a career and find ways to make money. Nor did she go from living on six figures down to next to nothing. She lived with her parents for a period of time (probably until she moved in with her husband). 

She also didn’t give much credence to the fact that being married allowed her to be self-employed with no thoughts to how to pay for insurance. She might have been able to cover all the bills, but she couldn’t cover all the bills and save for retirement apparently. And, even though she could pay for everything by herself she didn’t have to. Not only were the bills split between them, I’m sure her husband bought her things she wanted, took her places she wanted to go. There were two paychecks paying for those vacations. Two paychecks contributing to savings. Two paychecks paying for home repairs. If one took on one burden, the other could tackle something else. In the end, despite being able to stand on her own two feet, she’s getting remarried for the financial benefits. She’s getting married again because she wants great, low cost  insurance and money for retirement. She can pat herself on the back and toot her own horn as long as she would like but she’s not doing it all on her own.

Little Miss Lululemon, from the same board, who can discuss child support and how it’s way too much until she’s blue in the face, also talks about how she and her husband both contribute to the cost of raising their child. They both contribute to the household bills. Unlike those slutty single moms who try to live off of those men they tricked into getting them pregnant.

Bull! She’s basically a teacher’s aide who works nine months out of the year. Her husband makes the bulk of their income. She doesn’t own a home in one of the priciest cities in North America because of what she’s done. She owns that home because she’s married. She’s not buying $80 t-shirts, $100 flip flops, or $90 leggings because of her job. She’s able to buy them because of her husband’s job. She doesn’t take $7500 vacations every other year because of her amazing job; they take those vacations mainly because of his job. If her husband ever decides to leave and take his good paying job with him, I don’t care what her Google search tells her, she’s going to be in a world of hurt.

I think it’s a fantastic idea to be able to stand on your own two feet. Sadly, I’m not there yet. I also think there are very few people who can truly say that they could.

I had one friend in high school whose parents both worked. They saved one paycheck and lived on the other one. I never thought to inquire if their paychecks were equal. Maybe they were. Then again, maybe they lived on the larger one and put the smaller one away.

There are definitely some people out there who ended up divorced and found they were able to save more money now that the spending spouse was gone. Ironically, I have more in savings than Jerry Lee does and he earns almost 5 times what I do. And he has a wife that makes around three times what I do also contributing. There are people out there who are the breadwinners and found themselves divorced and also found that life didn’t change that much because their partner hadn’t contributed that much. It’s possible. But I think the reality is that most couples tend to combine their incomes. You make $50,000. I make $50,000. Together we are a $100,000 income family. Of course, it gets a little dicier when you make $25,000 and he makes $75,000 and you’re a $100,000 income family. 

Then again, I think unless you are making a tremendous amount of money any money your spouse brings in is going to help. Jerry Lee makes $140,000 a year. I think most people would think that was great money, and would ensure you could easily stand on your own two feet. However, the fact that his wife works and brings home a paycheck means that even though he’s taken quite a pay cut his standard of living hasn’t changed because she can make up the difference and then some. 

Harley makes somewhere around $80-$90,000. Again, plenty of money to be able to stand on your own two feet; I certainly would be happy making that kind of money. But by marrying her cousin her household income has more than doubled. Together they’re bringing in over $200,000. As a bonus, Harley no longer has to worry about going to jail because she overspends and writes bad checks because she’s got another $140,000 coming into her household.

There’s also the fact that no matter how much money you make if you marry and your spouse contributes anything to the household you’re going to be worse off if that person leaves. Will you be destitute like me? No. But take another look at ol’ Jerry Lee and Harley. Because of what he needs to pay me he would be screwed if she left. He certainly wouldn’t be living in a huge house in a sweet little subdivision. Without Jerry Lee’s money Harley would be dodging the police again because she can’t stop spending money she doesn’t have, and she, too, would have to give up the nice house in the nice subdivision. She’d be back to renting junkers. Marriage benefits them, even if they both earn good incomes on their own.

Sometimes it’s not about the money. My former supervisor worked for the benefits. Her husband’s job did not offer insurance. She covered both of them. My brother’s ex-wife worked for benefits as well when he quit his full-time job and bought his own business. He has done very well for himself but until he got hired on at the fire department he didn’t have insurance. She did, so she was the one that covered the entire family. It’s not an uncommon thing.

There are other benefits as well. As yet another woman from the debate board once pointed out, having a stay at home wife can be a value add to a household. Jerry Lee never had to worry about turning down opportunities because he was saddled with child care. I was there to pick up any of the pieces. Me not working allowed him to climb the corporate ladder. And even if both parties in the couple are working, again, that’s twice the money to go towards savings, retirement, college funds, vacations, Christmas gifts, household bills and repairs, groceries, etc.

All That I Have I Share With You… Or At Least Split It Down the Middle, Part 2

I have met the most amazing man. I always like to say it’s too bad that Jerry Lee no longer feels Harley is worth the money he has to pay me each month. In my case, the mobster is worth giving up that money. And yet… I still hesitate. He says over and over again that we could build a beautiful life together, free from Jerry Lee’s money. Realistically though? Together I think we could do really well for ourselves, especially once neither of us has full-time kids to consider. If he decided to leave me, or for some reason I left him, he would be fine. He could make it on his own; he already is. We’ve discussed this before and he admits that his wife walking out the door didn’t affect his life financially, not the way Jerry Lee walking out on me had on mine. He still lives in the same house. He still has enough money to pay his bills. He went through a brief spell where he worried about losing his house but he refinanced and ultimately picked up several additional stops on his route; he’s actually doing better now than he was when he was with her. His job pays him enough that he wouldn’t be reliant on me. I, on the other hand, would be screwed if he ever decided to leave me. I’d have to sell off a house, sell my possessions, and move back in with my mom. There would be no spousal support to fall back on this time. I would have the meager paycheck I get from my full-time job and that would be it. I don’t make enough money at this job to pay a mortgage, even in the bad neighborhoods. There’s no way I could buy him out of our house. There’s no way I could buy another house, or even afford rent.

I’ve told the story before of the woman (let’s call her Mandy) who was so proud of the fact that she would not buy anything that she alone could not afford, even though she was married. The house they bought? She could pay the mortgage on it by herself if it came to that. She paid her car payment. For many years they split utilities and food. She was very, very proud of the fact that if her husband disappeared tomorrow it wouldn’t affect her financially.

When I first heard this I thought, “Wow! How incredibly sad. What an awful way to live when you’re married.” Then I got divorced and lost everything and I thought, “Wow! She is the smartest woman in the world!”

Here’s where it gets interesting. She and her husband divorced. She let him keep the house; she moved into a luxury apartment. Everything should be fine for her, right? Well, it wasn’t so much that she couldn’t do it on her own. She did, however, come to find out that paying for your own insurance can really suck. Despite all of her bravado over doing it all on her own, or being able to if she had to, she never factored in that her husband covered her and her son on his insurance. She was self-employed. She quickly tired of paying out a bunch of money for coverage.

A year or so after her divorce she ran into an old boyfriend. Keep in mind, this is a woman who swore she would never remarry if things didn’t work out between her and her husband. Hey, we all say things we don’t mean, right? Look at me! I said I would never date again. We also tend to find that we change our minds once a little time and distance has passed. Lo and behold they are talking marriage. Funny thing is she made mention of the fact that she didn’t think she would ever marry again but he had great insurance, and while she was able to meet her bills and her thrills with what she makes, she hadn’t put much away for retirement. You may have guessed it already. This guy has a lovely retirement portfolio as well. I’m not reading anything into this. She actually came right out and said, “I didn’t ever intend to get married again but I’m self-employed and paying for self coverage sucks; he’s got great insurance and he’ll put me on it. I also don’t have much saved for retirement and he does.” I’m sure that in the years to come she will still be congratulating herself on making it on her own and always being able to pull her own weight. When she’s living a comfortable retirement I have no doubt she will go on and on about all of her hard work and her efforts while ignoring the fact that she latched onto someone who could help her in the areas where she lacked.

What it comes down to is this: Marriage, with its benefits and its pitfalls, is a complicated beast. I really don’t know where I stand on this issue anymore. It’s easy to say, “I don’t want to buy anything that I can’t afford on my own,” but actually doing that is a lot more difficult. I know I want to be financially independent but is anyone who gets married really financially independent?

All That I Have I Share With You… Or At Least Split It Down the Middle, Part 1

Hi. My name is Sam. I’m 51 years old. I was married for 20 years. After our kids were born I became a stay-at-hom mom and my now ex-husband began climbing the corporate ladder. 

My daughter participated in competitive gymnastics, not an inexpensive sport. Towards the end we were paying over $600 a month for 6 months out of the year and over $300 a month for the remaining six months for her sport, plus travel expenses for out of state meets. Don’t even get me started on what I paid for new leos, grips, and miscellaneous supplies. 

My son played hockey. Not quite as expensive as gymnastics because he didn’t do travel league, but still not a cheap sport. His last year I spent over $400 on equipment for him because he had outgrown all of his old stuff. Before that he regularly played baseball, soccer, and even enrolled in karate. 

I could shop for clothes and toys and make-up for my kids whenever I wanted, without having to consider a budget. It wasn’t unusual for me to take my daughter on a shopping spree once or twice a year. If they needed new clothes I could easily go out and drop $200 at a single store in order to stock up. 

The last year of our marriage I lived in a 4000 sq. ft. home where my kids had their own rooms and their own bathrooms. We even put a pool in our backyard. 

We could go back out to Utah and to Indiana to visit friends and family. I could afford to take my kids and do fun things with them. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have season passes to the amusement park and water park every summer. I took my kids on vacation. I made sure they had everything they needed and most of what they wanted. I rarely worried about money and could afford to be generous to friends and family. And then… I got divorced.

I lost pretty much everything when that happened- my house, my furniture, 90% of my belongings, my children’s emotional security, my financial security. I didn’t even get to remain in the same city. My kids and I had to sell off everything, vacate the family home, and move 600 miles away in with my mom. That was a mere two years after he moved us two thousand miles across the country for his “dream job”.

Five years after finding out about his affair, almost 3 years after the divorce, I’m still struggling and he and the OWife are doing great. Pulling in over $14,000 a month together. Living in houses just like we used to do. In fact, the first one they moved into together could have been an exact replica of the one he left behind in Virginia. At least from the outside.

I made a vow after this happened to me that I would never be financially dependent upon a man again. This is actually kind of funny because I’m still financially dependent on the ex in the form of the spousal support he is supposed to pay me. Nonetheless, my vow was that I would never be financially dependent on another man again. Losing everything and being forced to move away from the place that I called home (even if I didn’t particularly love it there) almost killed me the last time. Most of my friends who went through a divorce right around the same time as I did have no idea what it’s like to go through your entire home and put price tags on almost everything you own. They have no idea what it’s like to have to leave the family home. They have no idea what it’s like to have to tell your kids that we are once again moving and I’m going to be uprooting them from their friends, their sports, and their schools all over again. I cannot do it a second time.

I believe we’ve covered all of this before so you may be wondering why on earth I’m writing about it again. That’s a very good question, and one that deserves an answer. I’ll do my best, although it’s going to be a circumbendibus story.