Taboo but True: Readers Share How Money Affects Relationships

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The intersection of relationships and money is one of the most taboo of subjects; only a handful of columns over nearly 20 years of Modern Love have revolved around the theme. Some surnames in these reader stories, culled from hundreds of submissions, have been shortened because of privacy concerns.

My Husband’s New Shoes

I’ve always made more money than my partner, and I always will. We’ve accepted this reality because he’s a teacher and teachers are criminally underpaid. Still, I never thought about how unfair it was to split bills exactly halfway until he brought it up during couples therapy. In the years we’ve spent living together, I always thought he was too frugal. He mostly shopped at thrift stores and wore things beyond their lifetime. Then he revealed at therapy that he’d felt too strapped for cash after paying our bills, but he didn’t feel like he could say anything. I think he’s an excellent teacher and I respect what he does so much. It’s unfortunate that society doesn’t give it enough monetary value. After our therapist’s suggestion, we started splitting bills through income percentage. I’m happy to report he recently excitedly purchased a great new pair of shoes without guilt.

Rozette Halvorson, 33

A Father’s Affair and a Daughter’s Dilemma

My relationship with my dad completely transformed when he began an affair with a woman he met while traveling. Apart from the emotional pain and damage — my parents have separated — there’s a financial component. My dad opened a bank account for the woman, and started giving her money and gifts, tens of thousands of dollars to date. My husband and I have been trying to start a family and are exploring I.V.F., for which we have no insurance. In the past, my dad has occasionally helped me with minor financial support. Because of his transgressions, I’ve refused his recent offers to assist now. I’m deeply hurt by what he’s done, and am concerned that money from him would be used to “buy back” our once-good relationship or interpreted as condoning his actions. Although extra funds would help immensely, I feel I must be firm. But I worry, what if refusing his money means we are ultimately unable to have a child?

Jennifer L., 41

A Fiancée’s Expensive Ultimatum

Less than two years after we met, my former fiancée and I bought a house together and were planning our wedding. As two lawyers, we felt like a power couple. When she became a partner at her firm, I celebrated her success and didn’t feel jealous that her compensation now doubled mine. Her spending had always outpaced mine but, with the new income, it increased dramatically. After about four months of her lifestyle creep, she gave me an ultimatum: either we upgrade our lifestyle with first class flights, 5-star hotels, fancier cars and luxurious vacations, or we were done. When I told her I couldn’t afford to keep up and didn’t want to spend beyond my comfort level, she moved out. I ended up making partner six months after she left me, and now might make more than she does, but I haven’t let it affect my spending.

Damon Y., 36

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