For as long as I can remember, my dad has always taught me and my sisters that we should never rely on a man for financial support. “Go to college! Get a good job! Don’t rely on a man to take care of you!” he would tell us. I finally understood what my dad was talking about all those years after he and my mom got divorced in 2004: since my mom didn’t have a college degree, she had a hard time finding a job. Therefore, she had to rely on her new boyfriend to help her pay her bills. She was depending on another person to stay afloat financially, and she hated it, but she had no other choice.
Because of my dad’s gratuitous advice and my mom’s post-divorce experience, I always told myself I would never rely on my future husband for income. I didn’t want to end up like my mom: I didn’t want to ever have to become dependent on someone else to take care of me. So I went to college. I worked while doing so. I was able to financially support myself while getting my education. And because of the path I chose, I’ve developed this “Little Miss Independent” mentality: I work to earn my own money to pay my own bills, so I don’t need a man to take care of me, because I don’t ever plan on not working until I’m retired. And I certainly don’t ever plan on being a full-time, stay-at-home mom because I already hate the idea of my future husband financially supporting me, much less me and a family of four.
So what happened when my future husband had to start relying on me for financial support after I moved home from Korea?
I didn’t mind it at first. “It’s only temporary. He’ll have a job soon and then he’ll be able to pay me back all the money he’s borrowing from me,” I told myself. But as the days turned into months, and the money in my savings account began to decrease, and my credit card balances began to increase, I realized that I was going to be financially supporting Chris for a lot longer than I had anticipated, and it started to really stress me out. Because of my stress combined with his stress of not having a job, we fought a lot. There were times when I became frustrated because we were using all of “my” money to pay our bills. I asked him how soon he’d be able to “pay me back” after he got a job. I started to understand why financial hardships wear and tear on a relationship so much. I cried and thought, “Why the hell is this happening to us?” Relying on someone else for financial support–something I had always sworn against—was actually happening to me for the first time. Only the situation was reversed, and I didn’t know how to handle it.
As more days turned into months, I started to become more accepting of my and Chris’ financial situation. I started to realize that when you’re engaged and especially when you’re married, there is no such thing as “my money”, but instead, our money. There is no such thing as “paying me back”, but instead, helping each other out when needed. This is happening to us because relationships aren’t always all rainbows and butterflies; a lot of couples face financial hardships, and right now, we happen to be one of those couples. Chris being unemployed and me having to support the two of us with my restaurant job is the single hardest challenge we’ve had to face in our relationship. But to be completely honest, I’m glad it’s happening because it’s teaching us so much about selflessness, money management, showing appreciation, working together as a team, and most importantly, relying on and supporting each other through the hardest of times. This experience is preparing us for marriage, and while we’re slowly figuring out how to handle it, what we know for sure is that we love each other, and no matter how long it takes, we’re going to get through this.
What are your thoughts on financially supporting a spouse? Have you ever experienced it?