Why My Husband and I Combined Finances in the Name of Love
But we did it anyway. Not for ourselves, or our relationship. We did it for the government.
You see, my husband wasn't born in the United States. To start the long process toward citizenship, we had to prove to the powers-that-be that we were in love and that our love was real. Apparently that meant shared finances and pictures of us on various holidays with each others' families. It seemed like a poor way to prove devotion to another human being, but so be it.
We opened a joint checking account but kept our individual accounts. At first, we just funneled equal amounts of money into the account and used it to pay for joint expenses. It was pretty easy to do, and we were still free to spend money on our own guilty pleasures (clothes for me, video games for him) without feeling the need to explain ourselves.
Slowly, however, more money started going into the joint account, as we took more vacations together and bought more big items together. It felt good.
Then we decided to move from Chicago to New York.
We were moving because we'd both always wanted to, and because my husband is a comedian with dreams of finally quitting his day job to try doing comedy full-time. As you can probably guess, it's not the most lucrative of careers, so we discussed it long and hard and decided that I would work full-time to support us while he tackled becoming a professional comic. (Yeah, I know how it sounds.) It was a deal I made willingly after much discussion. And it meant getting rid of the individual accounts and living completely off the funds in our joint one.
The first year in New York was miserable. I didn't make nearly enough money to support us, he barely made any money as a comedian despite hustling constantly for gigs, and we spent a lot of time eating potatoes in our tiny-yet-expensive apartment, terrified of the future. We fought over who provided what and how, and who spent money more frivolously.
Eventually, realizing that fighting wouldn't pay the rent, we decided to focus instead on taking the emotional element out of our financial situation.
"It's just paper," we'd repeat to each other, over and over, like a mantra.
It is just paper. We attach self-worth, trust, security and success to money, but in the end, it's just paper, and being horrifically poor with my husband taught me that. We trusted each other enough to agree that money couldn't be a sore spot for us. So instead of letting it become a weapon we could use against each other, we banded together to fight how broke we were.
By the time we entered our second year in New York, he was doing well enough in comedy that I was able to quit my job and start freelance writing (my turn to have a non-lucrative career!), and when he incorporated himself, we became co-CEOs.
These days, I don't feel guilty when I spend money on myself because I know I had his back when he was starting a new career, and I know he has mine. I also know that money has nothing to do with how much we love each other. It's just paper. Sometimes one will make more than the other, sometimes one will spend more than the other. In the end, it has a way of balancing itself out.
I used to think combined finances wasn't a good measure of whether a couple is truly in love. Now, I'm starting to see things differently. Maybe the government was onto something after all.
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