Love, with a heavy price tag

You know they weren’t talking nonsense when they said that love endures it all but toothache and being poor. Sure I think it’s rather wicked to make a blanket statement about something so sacred to if not more, at least 99% of the world’s current adult population, but you have to admire how intimately whoever it was that come up with the axiom must have endured the farcical reality of life: that financial concerns do, sadly, interrupt the otherwise downy process of love.

True love is a continually evolving sentiment that is ideally supposed to be preserved by holy matrimony. It needs to be nurtured, respected and cherished for it to reach its full potential and bear fruit, but if one has an unfortunate array of financial difficulties to recurrently try to make past, then many times the first thing to go out the window is the intimacy that keeps love alive and the marriage afloat.

Seriously, this is reality, and there are times in everybody’s lives when they have been so stressed and depressed over issues concerning finances that staying in bed all day seems a perfectly normal option, but if you are an intelligent adult, you buck it up and cope; and if you are a mature adult in a serious relationship with another mature adult, the two of you buck it up and cope together.

The key word here is together. Not many people realize just how important it is for couples to share their personal problems, whether emotional or financial, with each other and try to come up with qualified solutions simultaneously. Not only does sharing warms up a relationship, it creates a sense of harmony by stressing focus on shared aims and building trust and confidence in each other. Granted lacking financial security (I’m thinking the inability to pay for utilities, mortgage, car repair, insurances, medical bills etc.) can be a lethal burden on most relationships, but wouldn’t it be great if at trying times, couples would turn to each other for support and to comfort instead of blaming the other for their lack of financial means, or inability to manage expenses and save, or simply for not having enough ‘fun’.

Everybody deals with difficult situation differently. While some people lash out and throw tantrums, the others tone down and hold back. The way one retorts usually depends on how he or she was brought up and whether everything was available to them without questions asked while growing up or did every luxury come with a long-term plan of inculcating a bias for humility and strong, creditable morals.

“I personally know a few ladies who constantly complain about how they never have enough money to meet their personal day to day expenses…indirectly pointing a finger at their hard working husbands who unfortunately don’t earn 6-7 figures a year,” told me 37 year old Ayesha, the daughter of a well-heeled lawyer who married into a comparatively modest family. “I don’t see how making weekly trips to day spas and having a closet full of designer clothes and perfumes equals having a smile on your face…”She added. “Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop and buy nice things for me and my home, but I don’t get upset with my husband because the poor guy can’t buy me every single thing I take a fancy to! He loves me, and that’s all I really need!”

For the most part relationships can thrive in any income-bracket and not just in the perceived wealth laden bliss, provided the income is an unwavering amount and its source is secure. I think it’s often when there’s a sudden decrease or increase that there’s deterioration: Imbalance; change; adjustment; getting more or less than you had bargained for, and ‘bliss’ does not necessarily mean that the man is comfortable with what the woman is earning and vice versa. There can be bliss in that there’s sufficient money for everything, always enough to go around, but if only one person is earning it, then that can be a real strain, and it is usually felt by the dependent person, regardless of the support they receive from the other. Even if there is a sharing of everything, the psychological implication of spending what is not by law yours is not one I would underestimate.

It’s particularly hard for most people to relate to this because it’s different with every culture. Here, the women generally stay home and look after the family while men go out looking for ways to bring in the bread. It was unusual for these women, although properly educated, to get out and earn their own money until a few years ago because men took full responsibility of supporting the family. Shortages of cash were conveniently blamed on the divine plan, quieting all complains and worries at the outset. This primitive trend is now inclined to evolutionary change much to everybody’s silent pleasure, and women are finally working for that extra income without feeling exploited or useless. They are putting their hard earned degrees to use and are thus able to chip in for bill payments and afford spontaneous treats all in the same month.

“We (women) are rejuvenated and independent with a crucial setback.” Said 29 year old Maria when asked how important a role does the financial potential of one’s spouse play in compatibility and marriage. “We know what we want and know how to get it too, but are often discouraged from being as passionate about our careers as men because we can work hard and prosper all we want, but at the end of the day, even the most open minded husband will expect his wife to quit her job and raise kids.” She further added, “I’m not saying raising children is secondary to careers in any way, but I still think it would be comforting to know that we can make our own financial decisions and have our own money which doesn’t essentially have to be accounted for…there are a million different expenses that need to be made when you’re running a house, and I can’t help but feel a little dejected when my husband demands I give him a detailed report on every Rupee I spend. It’s humiliating. We fight a lot because of it.”

Sadly, money will ruin many marriages, and the only apparent yet unworkable solution that comes to mind is you wait till you are well established and only then think about tying the knot and starting a family. If everyone decides to play it smart by doing that, however, then half the world will die virgin and (consequently) unhappy, and nobody knowingly wants that.

To get a man’s opinion on the issue, I turned to my friend Asim who’s been happily married to his proverbial high school sweetheart for the past two years. “My wife works but makes a little less than I do. She usually handles bills such as food and other day to day necessities while I pay the mortgage and other bigger bills. We discussed this a few weeks after our wedding and the arrangement works just fine….we also budget and maintain our own separate saving accounts, which I think is very important for the both of us.” He explained, “I’ve seen many women who are left by their husband at 50, who stayed home while married, and as a result end up with nothing to fall back on. I’d never want my wife to want financially but divorce brings out the worst in the best of us, and who’s to say what’s in store for us?”

A rather smart way to prepare for the future indeed; thinking about securing your personal finances in addition to securing and maintaining the financial stability of the family. Having these discussions with your spouse early on is important, so when your wife spends what is technically your money, you won’t view it as such. After all, the woman has, or will hopefully, bear you children in the coming years in addition to putting her promising career on hold to stay home with them while you continue to work. You can’t put a dollar value on such things, and overlooking them would be impertinent to say the least.
Similarly, I spoke to an older couple where the stay-home wife is quite obsessive about giving and receiving expensive gifts because she thinks it helps her maintain a certain image in their social circle. The poor man has been pleading unaffordability for years in vain, and even took his better half to a shrink when she secretly sold a family heirloom to buy him a ridiculously expensive watch just because he was going through a rough patch at the office.

“My wife spends like a madwoman! There were times I seriously thought about leaving her because I just couldn’t fulfill her outlandish demands. It was worse because she’s really a very nice woman who loves to give, and there I was thinking about punishing her by leaving her…there was a lot of tension early on and she still spends more than she should, but I’ve finally learned to control her and things are a lot better between us now.”

Gifts, while very nice, are special occasion things, and not part of the daily muscle of living together and working out any problems that come along. If you think of yourselves as working horses, your daily life being harnessed together on a wagon, pulling as one so that neither of you is doing nor assuming he or she is doing all the real work in the relationship.

Expensive gifts, designer clothes and costly dinners at posh restaurants are like the occasional sugar cube; nice alright, but not a necessary part of your daily diet or something to be expected on a regular basis for you to find true happiness. Coincidently, when you can’t, you don’t…with a smile, because a dark path always ends in light and the ones who succumb to ephemeral pecuniary demons instead of fighting them off are the one’s usually found on the losing end, because true love will eventually, with the right amount of conviction, no matter how heavily priced, become affordable!