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By Jody Valley
Slow down and get to know each other
Q: My lover and I have decided to tie-the-knot, as best we can, that is, given we can’t do it legally, here. That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that my lover “Gerald,” wants to buy expensive rings, like with a big diamond in it. Personally, I think two wedding bands would be great. We could even get ones that look artistic. I’m sure they would cost enough, anyway. Gerald also wants an expensive ceremony and reception. He says–when I ask him why he wants it–if we can’t have the legal advantages, we’ll sure show them how to “put on a gala affair,” even if we can’t make things legal.
Jody, we’ve been going together for almost 5 months. I know I love him and want to make it permanent and show the world that we are committed, but I just have a hard time spending money like this. I feel that we can spend money on more practical things, like buy a house, furniture and other such stuff that we will need. What do you think?
A: I think you need to spend more time “going together,” and getting to know each other better. It seems to me that to “tie-the-knot” after only five months is a bit fastÑunless of course you are lesbian! The issue of spending money, how much, on what and when is a big problem in relationships, even when people share similar value systems. My guess is that you two have not talked about moneyÑin general, or much else either, given the amount of time you have been together. Tying-the-knot should be creating a loving partnership where many of life’s issues have, at least, been initially discussed, to avoid large issues later. For a good example of this, read the next letter.
Money talks and matters
Q: “Dana” and I always have fights about money. This has been going on since we moved in together; we didn’t have them before, but then we didn’t live together then, either. It doesn’t matter, almost, what it is about, clothes, groceries, how high we keep the heat/air conditioning, the fight ends up about money!
It’s bad enough that we fight about money, but when we are out and I order some food from the menu that Dana thinks is too expensive, she let’s everyone at the table know. Then, in front of our friends, we have an argument or I bite the bullet and say nothing, but seethe inside while I order something less expensive. Even in the grocery store, we have arguments about what we are buying. It’s not pretty! I feel humiliated and pissed. My alternative to this scene is that I order the most inexpensive thing on the menu or by the cheapest thing on the shelf, thereby being a “good little girl.”
I wish I had known this about Dana before we got together. It’s getting to the point that I just want to leave, even though I love her and respect many other things about her. I don’t know what to do to change things, or if it can be changed. What do you think would help us? (Don’t tell us to go to a counselor as we don’t have insurance that covers that and we can’t afford itÑthat I know and agree with.)
A: If all you do is fight about it when the issue comes up, like at a restaurant or grocery store, I can understand why it doesn’t get better for you both. What I would suggest is that you set aside some time when you are not dealing with the money issue and talk about itÑwhen you are not angry. You both need to express to each other (without the other one interrupting) what money means to you, fears around money, what your values are, etc. During that time, I wouldn’t even try to solve the problem, just really listen to each other, without judgment. Listen to each other about feelings and past experiences around money. If you do that successfully, then you could, at a different time, talk about some compromises and ways to meet both your needs around money issues. By your question, I’m also assuming that you share money. If you can’t solve it by what I’ve just suggested, perhaps you need to go to each having your own money, with both donating to pay the bills in common. However, it would be a lot better if you could solve this by listening well to each other and coming up with a plan that suits both your needs because that lays a good ground work for other life issues.