Some books are life-changing.
The Secret Currency of Love: The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money, and Relationships is shaping up to be one of those for me. It’s a collection of essays by writers about their deepest feelings about money and how it affects their relationships with partners, family and themselves.
There is so much rich ground covered – and I’m only a third of the way in!
Stories so far delve into the realities of dating/marrying men who make less; dating a rich older man and being offered the chance to live a comfortable life as a kept woman; watching the transformation of a partner into a financially responsible adult; the stress of becoming the de facto breadwinner and the relief when that burden is lifted (“fortified with dual incomes, we began to believe that our marriage might stand a chance”).
These tales and their truths may make for uncomfortable reading for some people. Personally, I applaud the courage and honesty and wish there were many more to read. Here are a few snippets that stood out to me:
On romance vs reality
For those of us predetermined to be the breadwinners, it’s more fun to date a man than to marry him. We understand that the more people there are living under our roof, the more it costs us. I am appalled by how unromantic this sounds, but there you have it. The breadwinner will ALWAYS be worrying about replacing the clutch in her car, or paying her life insurance premiums, or if she’s a homeowner, covering all the uninteresting expenditures that go with that.
I suppose that what I am rather ridiculously pining for is the luxury of having someone else pick up the slack. It has always been a girl’s prerogative, hasn’t it? To choose to either make money or not … But being responsible for making all the money all the time means being forever prevented from engaging in the magical thinking that money matters less than love and romance.
On struggling to come to terms with struggle
I’ll never know if something inside of me shifted or if it was the revealing of a truth that was already there, but … I was suddenly and clearly not okay … I told myself that there were people out there who never paid their Con Ed bill on time and still went on to lead happy, fulfilling lives. But the tears still streamed down my face as I sent American Express my last penny and ticked off the days until my next paycheck.
On income and class differences
My three most significant relationships were with a carpenter, a lighting designer, and the furniture maker … At the time I never thought money had much to do with the demise of these relationships. But now I’m not so sure. In retrospect, I think it was troubling to be dating someone who might not be able to take care of me for the long haul.
On knowing when to call it quits
The difference between help and rescue is sometimes difficult to see… I finally reached a point where stretching any further would have done nothing more than take me down with him … The only person I could save was myself.
This week’s links
How to stop being afraid every time your manager wants to talk to you (THIS. IS. ME. But for no good reason…)
It is uncouth to talk too frankly about money to people who have it; it makes them feel self-conscious, guilty, and defensive, as if you are suggesting that they don’t have difficult lives filled with complex problems. And I saw that my friends had strong ethics about, say, not accepting help from their relatives, or which kinds of help it was acceptable to accept. (Direct deposit into bank account: no; down payment on purchase of apartment: yes.)
I, meanwhile, exploited a rule of class struggle: You may lump everyone who comes from more money than you into a monolithic bloc, dismiss their hardships, and, if you wish (one does wish), downgrade your opinion of their achievements by however much seems appropriate to account for the favors, tips, recommendations, opportunities, and inflows of cash without which their talents would not so easily have flourished.