Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just call me Mrs. Cleaver

We bought a new car this week, replacing my 11-year-old Saturn. Mike did all the negotiating while I sat silent, a child on my lap. The new car is in both our names, but the salesmen and finance guy barely made eye contact with me, and we had to remind them that my name should be on the paperwork, too. In their defense, Mike and I kept forgetting to have me sign things as we negotiated. What the salespeople didn't know is that Mike negotiated because he's good at strategic stuff like that while I'm too impatient and open to deal with the bluffing and bullshit. They didn't know that I'm the one who noticed the transmission starting to slip and decided it was time to get a new car in the first place.

When it comes to money or major purchases, our marriage resembles something out of a Leave It To Beaver episode.

I am a feminist. I work outside the home. While Mike and I occasionally default to "traditional" roles -- he mows the lawn, I do the laundry -- we share cooking, childcare and most other responsibilities more or less equally. Except for money. Money is all Mike.

About the time we bought the house just before we got married, we merged everything and I happily handed over financial control to Mike. I mean, I CAN check on our accounts and do once in a blue moon, but Mike pays all our bills and is the keeper of the balances. I have my own 401K that Mike does nothing with, but everything else is his to worry about. And that's why I have no problem with our system: I don't worry about it. Money makes me anxious. When I balanced my own checking account, I was obsessive about checking how much money I had, how much money was going out, how much money MIGHT go out. I fretted and lost sleep, doing mental math over and over every night.

We budget with credit cards. We put everything on them and pay them off at the end of the month. We don't really have a discretionary spending limit, but I would say neither of us would spend more than, oh I don't know, $200 without checking with the other one. We check in with each other as the bills come in. We each review our own statements, though I might warn him or vice versa if one's coming in high.

I don't think about our system very much. It works. We're both happy -- though Mike does grumble every once in awhile when he pays bills. But when we make major purchases, I'm reminded how very "submissive wife" our system looks.  I hope it's clear I'm pretty much the opposite of submissive.

I guess that's my point: You never know what it takes to make a marriage -- really, a partnership -- work. From the outside, you can't know who's picking up whose slack or who's giving up control in favor of mental health or why they trust each other so much.

What tasks have you completely handed over in your marriage?


HereWeGoAJen said...

Working. When I was pregnant, I quit my job and since then haven't worked at all. And we are both fine with that, but, man, from the outside, it looks like the 1950s are strong here. Except that I don't wear dresses. I should probably get some dresses.

Julie said...

I am the money person in our house which should come as no surprise with my job and degrees. Chris isn't good with money so it is all on me. I'm ok with that though since I like being in control of the finances.

I let Chris handle anything that requires negotiation. He is much better at it than I am. That sort of stuff makes me anxious so it is all on him.

Erin G said...

Mark is the money person in our house and it is maybe the task I feel the most consistently happy and grateful to him for dealing with, because I haaaaaaaate thinking about it. Hate. It was a HUGE BURDEN lifted from me to have him deal with the budget and bills. (I mean, I KNOW the budget, and since I do most of the shopping, I follow it, but I do not have to plan it or pay bills THANK GOD.)

However, I am the haggler. He would never buy a car without me there to argue my way into a lower price. It is my Thing and I love it. Until it is time to manage the transaction itself.

It's a good system for us.

Erica said...

I am in charge of everything. Mostly I'm okay with it.

k said...

I don't know. There isn't much T handles solely (other than manning the grill--it scares me--and manning the snow blower--that also scares me).

T, who handles ONLY finances and numbers at work, hands that over at home. I think it makes him weary.

april said...

I 100% do the cooking, and C 100% deals with the money, because this situation makes us the very happiest. He's happiest eating the food I make, and I'm happiest being completely blind about our finances (and crossing my appendages that doesn't ever bite me in the ass). I hate money - all it ever does it stress me out. I deal and negotiate all day at work, I wants nothing to do with it any other time. Just tell me if I'm okay or if I need to tighten the bootstraps.