Tag Archives: reflections

Should you leave your unemployed partner?

Should you leave a chronically unemployed partner?

You are not a terrible person if you’re thinking of leaving a chronically underemployed/unemployed partner. We only get one life, and you’re allowed to put your own interests first. Love is lovely … but so is peace of mind and financial security. In some circumstances it might be blindingly obvious whether to stay or go. But in others it’s not – this one’s for you. (For the record: While things seem to be back on track, I’m keeping things separate so that they’re easy to untangle again if needed.)

How did I know I couldn’t keep going?

When I asked myself, is this relationship adding net value to my life? I could no longer say yes.

For all the good, the bad outweighed it, and had been for a long time.

Nobody knows all the gory details. They don’t need to. Honestly, I could have coped with it all – as long as he had a full time job. But all those things, combined with zero income … different story. Especially given the fact that going separate ways would render him eligible for unemployment benefits.

It is damn hard to tell where supporting becomes enabling, and being taken advantage of.

I am far from blameless. I made mistakes. There are many things I could have done better. And I’m much wiser for it.

I held on too long. Then I came to a crossroads.

I could keep being passive. And I would almost certainly wind up bitter and drained. Probably having a breakdown and having to take time off work – ironically, the only thing keeping us afloat financially, not to mention the only good thing in my life.

Or I could cut my losses. Put myself first for once. Heal from the toll of two years of uncertainty and stress.

Life was exhausting. Going from carrying the weight of two people to just me – it was infinitely lighter. I can’t quantify the relief I felt; I slept like a baby those first few nights after leaving.

There was second-guessing, of course. There always is. But after months of internal back-and-forth, I knew it was the right call. I’d done so much soul searching and so much reading, in pursuit of the answer.

What it boils down to, is that the discussions in these three threads hit me like a ton of bricks. Realising that we might never be financially stable  together. And I simply could not live that way

It’s so important to have a financially responsible partner.

It takes two. You cannot do it all yourself. And nor should you.

Love and trying isn’t enough.

Love is not willingness to live in a cardboard box together.

Love is doing whatever it takes to not get to that point.

Screw your false dichotomies – we don’t need ’em

Drizzle - The myth of false dichotomies

 

It’s not always an either/or.

  • Devoted, loving, domestic partner who makes no money, vs a workaholic, emotionally unavailable baller.
  • A cute apartment in the central city vs a McMansion in the suburbs.
  • A job you love paying poverty wages vs a job you hate paying six figures.
  • A $1k beater vs a brand new car you’ll be paying off forever.
  • Disposable fast fashion vs investment clothing that lasts a lifetime.

You don’t have to settle for one or the other.

Link love (powered by stew and strolls)

NZ Muse link loveI think I need to accept that life just never gets easier. Yes, you become stronger and smarter but as your resilience grows, so do the hurdles. Gone are the days of high-school-sized issues and injustices. It doesn’t seem fair, but them’s the breaks.

Women are awesome. My closest IRL friends may be male, and have been incredible supports when I needed it, but there are some things they will simply never understand. From crushes in long term relationships to emotional labour and pulling your financial weight, female friends get the gender dynamics that my dudes don’t.

I’m very passionate about the state of the housing market and the huge effects it has on people’s lives – mostly from a quite personal angle, but also at a more macro, societal level.  A spirited conversation about this at our weekly all staff meeting about this very topic and what it all means for New Zealanders – especially in retirement – got me quite fired up and reaffirms that I’m in the right place (both at work and at home). It’s incredible how much difference it makes being free of the “emotional and financial challenges of renting”, as it was put.

This week’s links

A great post on household division of labour and finances when the woman earns more (because things do not always fall neatly along the lines of High Earning Busy Spouse and Low Earning But With Lots of Flexibility Spouse)

Sherry sums up some thoughts on the circular logic of early retirement/financial independence more eloquently than I ever could have

Sometimes, YOU’RE the rich friend

A couple of  things about poverty

How important is job satisfaction, really?

Graduating beyond frugal habits 

You’re making life harder for yourself

What does money mean to you?

Sometimes less is just less – minimalism within reason, guys

Hopes and dreams? No thanks, I’m too old for that crap

Sometime I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast

Hope is a cruel thing.

I understand that sometimes it’s needed in order to survive. When there’s nothing else at all to pull you through.

But I’m not a fan of it at all.

I like sure things. Certainty. Probably because there’s been a distinct drought of that good stuff lately.

Every time I’ve allowed myself to dare to hope, those hopes are swiftly dashed.

“How do you people live like this? Day after day, just hoping people are gonna do what you want.”

I love this quote (by Kilgrave) from Jessica Jones. It’s stuck with me ever since.

Not so long ago, I used to be a dreamer. Now I’m the coldest, hardest, steeliest bitch. Got no time nor use for imaginings, only what is.

“The rest of us are just walking around, trying not to be disappointed with the way that our lives turned out.”

This melancholy line from Skeleton Twins (highly recommended, a solid movie with standout performances from usually comic actors) had me literally frozen in place, holding my breath as it washed over me. That is not what I want for myself. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, and that is far, far too long.

One cannot subsist on hope alone. But finally, I’m on the very cusp of achieving something I’ve dreamed about for so long.  It’s hard to believe, and it feels so surreal.

Forgiveness is a funny beast

Snowy plants close up in field

Recent events have brought me closer to and further from various people in my life.

It’s gotten me thinking a lot about forgiveness.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known the power of words. I can barely recall a time before I could read and write.

It’s strange, the things – actions and words alike – that I never thought I’d forgive. But looking over my shoulder, I realise that somewhere along the way, I did. It wasn’t a conscious choice.

And conversely, there’s the words that have actually stuck with me for decades and that I don’t think I’ll ever let go of. The funny thing is, I don’t think the people in question realise what impact those throwaway comments had. That’s why I’m so careful about what I say (and write).

Then there’s the things we say in emotional moments that are actually quite manipulative or malicious. We are all flawed, but it’s deeply disappointing  to see this in those closest to us.

Words matter.

While actions do speak a million louder than words, for me it’s words that actually stick in my memory, that have lasting impact, and will refer back to when the actions start to fade from memory.

There’s a lot of things I need to start to forgive and let go of, before they eat away at me.

Or failing that, in the words of Emily Yoffe, I must accept them and move on.

The 5 things keeping me sane right now

starry-skies-at-night-shot

The name of the game, at least for the foreseeable future, is stress management.

Ever heard of active relaxation? Oh, how I love a good oxymoron, but I think this is exactly what I need to be doing. I will report back.

Other things currently saving my sanity:

Running

I’m so thankful to live in a nice neighbourhood with quiet streets, ringed by a coastal bush track. That first glimpse of the sea whenever I head for the trail gets me right to my happy place.

Music

I’ve been on a playlist making binge lately (Guilty pleasures! Rock ballads!) and I’m not even sorry. My commute is basically measured in songs, as are my runs.

Introspection

I’m devouring advice columns at pace. Cheryl Strayed, Mark Manson, Captain Awkward, Ask Polly. If you know of any more along those lines….

People

After so many months of not being able to face other humans outside of work, half the time now it feels like there’s nothing I need more than social contact. Bless the friends who know that life gets away from us sometimes, and pick up right where we left off, be it text, email, or in person. And amazing coworkers and bosses – seriously.

Blogging

Possibly the best thing I’ve ever done. A chronicle of the highlights, the lowlights, the spending and earning. Blogging taught me to negotiate and made me some true friends.

Outside perspectives are so valuable when you’ve lost all sense of orientation. I know none of you can possibly know everything, and so I take them for what they’re worth, but the insights that even readers I’d never known existed until recently have offered have been amazing. I do not exaggerate when I say that comments and emails have honestly made me cry in a good way.

How is your 2016 shaping up? What’s rocking your socks right now?

Let’s see what happens when I choose myself

A goal without a plan is just a wish - NZ Muse

I can’t recall ever being so excited for a new year.

For so long I’ve been putting others first, to the detriment of my own physical and mental wellbeing.

All it’s served to do is drain my bank account and reserves of patience (and let’s face it, neither were all that flush to begin with).

No more.

Resisting that caretaking urge, to take over things, to handle them, goes against every instinct I have. But it must be done.

It’s easier to achieve when you have focus on a singular mission. This year that’s my own health and happiness.

After all, the only good things that happened last year were the things I made happen. Funny that.

The intersection of capability and circumstance (in personal finance)

financial capability nz

A few months ago I accepted a new position that perfectly suits my nerdy, money-loving heart – one with the overarching aim of helping people get ahead financially.

Very early on, I got to attend a particularly enlightening conference (the video below comes from that) and also a community workshop in a lower socio-economic area of Auckland. Let’s just say the challenge is huge. More than ever, I’m coming to understand the complexity of the issue: it’s not just about individual efforts and bootstrapping, it’s about human nature and psychology – and of course, the wider system.

In a country like New Zealand, where the cost of living is pretty astronomical, budgeting can only take you so far. Where housing costs are out of control, home ownership is spiralling out of reach, the rental market is squeezed and the condition of rentals is a public health issue. Where public transport is pretty abysmal, and low-income households often lack access to a vehicle, and therefore, supermarkets and healthy food options. Where certain cultural norms mean that family can either be a boost or a drag, holding individuals back from getting ahead. Where high burglary rates mean frequent setbacks, unless you can afford excellent insurance. Where people being locked out of the property market today is going to have huge ramifications when this generation reaches retirement.

True, some people don’t have huge lofty goals and aren’t particularly interested in ‘getting ahead’. But we can’t get away from the fact that we live in a capitalist society, and you need money to exist in it. Inflation is a fact of life; things are only ever going to get more expensive. We’re already a low-wage economy, and if your income remains stagnant, you’re going to wind up at the wrong end of the inequality gap – a yawning gap that’s only growing. I for one don’t want to wind up being a burden on society. So I was really happy to see a session on upskilling and increasing your earnings as part of that community programme, because spending is only half of the equation. It doesn’t matter how good you are at budgeting, if you don’t have enough money coming in, you’ll never get ahead.

 

Sure, let’s build financial capability so people are better equipped to deal with whatever circumstances life may throw at them. (Pretty much everyone can and should be doing better, to varying degrees.) But it’s about more than that. Health, family, educational, church systems – all contribute to financial wellbeing. IMO so much hinges on those early years; if you start out behind it’s a lot harder to catch up and overcome setbacks. And the worse that things are for you now, the harder it is to think about the future.

(For one of the best posts I’ve read on this topic, head over to Frugalwoods.)

I’ve been fortunate on the health, employment, family fronts. Not everyone has the luxury of that kind of head start. You need to be able to get ahead of yourself in the first place, to get ahead of your paycheck, build up a buffer, get a reliable vehicle, secure your housing situation.

And yet, I came on board at a personally tumultuous time, financially speaking. By the CFSI’s reckoning, I was probably a bit closer to Financially Tenuous rather than my usual Financially Striving. It was so, so hard to come into work every day, think about personal finance, listen to coworkers’ tales of buying houses, all while shit was falling apart in my own life. Despite that, I’m so happy to be doing what I’m doing. I feel like it’s the perfect time to join the fray – financial capability is on the political agenda, recent legislative changes have improved consumer protection around credit and disclosure, and we’ve only just begun.

What is happiness, anyway?

A is for Angst

“Are you happy?”

For someone who professed to be terrible at giving advice, he was a ninja of tact. When in doubt, and pressed for an answer, simply rebut with a question in turn – it’s a fail safe tactic. Particularly when you’ve been put on the spot by someone you don’t know all that well. Oops.

The problem with the ‘are you happy?’ benchmark  is that happiness isn’t static. If we all did what made us happy in the short term, well, the world might be a very different place. It’s called adulting.

“Happiness is fleeting and at times elusive. We won’t always grasp it, and we’ll forgive ourselves if we don’t. Our lives might not always be happy, but they will be full with experience and with one another.”    (via A Practical Wedding)

The struggle

I’ve been finding happiness in the little moments. But I don’t know if those are enough. I don’t know if that makes up for the overall instability of our current existence – because this is my LIFE, and I’m the only one who has to live it and the only one who can take full responsibility for it.

I can’t tell if I’m cold or codependent (that probably changes from moment to moment). I can’t tell if I’m expecting too much and need to learn to roll with the punches or if I’m an idiot for sticking it out so long. I feel like I could paint at least two very different pictures, two very different interpretations, of the past few years, and I honestly don’t know which would be the more accurate. I don’t know where to draw the line, because there is no clear demarcation for these kinds of things.

From a wholly pragmatic perspective, I should have walked months ago. I tried, sort of. But I’m very good at that womanly thing of Putting Others First. Too good.

The question I’ve been asking myself a lot is: How do you know? There are things we’ve been taught are dealbreakers in relationships. But for most of us, it’s not that clear cut. So many times I’ve just wished for someone to tell me what to do, and be done with it.

What is expecting too much? What is expecting too little? Am I settling? Am I being unrealistic?

I ain’t saying she a gold digger, but I do require an equal partner.

Truths to live by

It’s insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Do not expect other people to change.

I am the only person responsible for my own happiness.

(Oh, and the sunk cost fallacy – throw that in there too.)

Words of wisdom

I’ve been finding a lot of comfort in a lovely comment left here some months ago:

“I used to go to sleep some nights thinking I was going to wake up the next morning, pack a suitcase and head to my mom’s and start the separation process. … I also would give myself ultimatums like ‘if it’s not better by this date I’m leaving’”

I remember reading somewhere – I suspect in a post about unconventional relationship advice – that you must be willing to walk away. Now, I know it’s commonly thrown around that people just aren’t committed enough today and that they give up too easily or expect perfection. But to be frank, I’ve yet to see a single example of this in the lives of anyone I know. We’ve all got the opposite problem – we don’t know when to walk away. We hang on for all we’ve got.

I thought I was willing to walk. But it took months to actually muster myself to that tipping point and look over the edge.

And I can’t lie, the terror I felt was almost paralysing.

Being there, though – that was a turning point. I was making plans. I was saving listings on TradeMe. I went and looked at another place to live. It wasn’t just an option; I was committed to leaving. (Not necessarily the relationship, but definitely the living situation, for many pragmatic reasons.)

What changed my mind? So many little things, barely on the spectrum at all, really – a toothbrush, an unexpected encounter – but enough in aggregate to drive me into even deeper contemplation. Ultimately, a third path started to crystallise. I ran scenarios, crunched numbers. I thought I found a way to get what I wanted, without having to shake up my entire life right now. A win-win, as they call it. There’s nothing quite like feeling backed into a corner, and finally seeing a sliver of light in a new option as it reveals itself.

Moving forward

The most important thing is not my marriage. It’s ME.

I certainly haven’t been acting like it. But once I finally cemented this in my mind, things became a lot clearer.

Again, this is my life. I only get one, and I’m the only one living it. There are things I cannot control in it, things that have made life quite miserable. But there are other things I can control, and can change, to mitigate that. Sour as that lemonade is to swallow, it’s not as bitter as the lemons.

So, I’m making plans to achieve the things I want. My number one priority is myself. The status quo is unsustainable; a 2016 without progress is unacceptable.

Hopefully the future still involves us growing old together – but if it doesn’t, I have made peace with that. That might sound depressing, but I find this freeing.

Happiness is having a plan.

TL;DR: Money is the most important thing in the world. Don’t believe anyone who says it isn’t.

(Sorrynotsorry if that offends your romantic heart.)

On guilt (and a litany of confessions)

The last few months have brought a lot of tears.

I left a job I loved for a job that I also love, in different ways. I cried a lot about that. I carried a fair bit of guilt about it. But when it comes to career moves, I’ve never regretted saying yes, even though at the time I never felt quite ready to move on just yet. I feel so stupidly lucky to have had not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 dream jobs in a row, and to tick off working in two areas I really wanted to try.

I’ve realised I’m perhaps not the best at judging others based on first impressions. (Ironic, since I give off a terrible first impression myself.) I feel a little guilty for pigeonholing a few people so quickly, whom I now have lots of affection for.

I couldn’t stop comparing myself (and coming up short) against a couple of peers who I can’t help but feel a bit of rivalry with. I would always feel guilty for feeling a bit smug when they stumbled or came up against hurdles.

I’ve spent so much time pondering what I want and need from a partner. I felt a lot of guilt around balancing my own needs with our needs.

I developed the most inconvenient crush. I felt crippling guilt about this one. I’ve had them before – a guy at uni, a former boss – but in this instance things were different for many reasons. Not to the point I would ever have acted, obviously, but this one just kept growing for some time.

I realised I should have opened up more to friends. I can’t help but feel some guilt for being so selfish, and realising now that we were all separately, quietly, struggling. Maybe we would all have benefited from sharing.

I’m now in the phase of life where people around me are starting to divorce. I feel a little guilty for still being married and also, conversely, for the envy I feel – how much simpler in some ways a single life would be.

I feel guilty for the small, buried part of me that for the longest time conflated divorce with failing. As firmly as I am against staying married when things aren’t right – and hell, so many times I wasn’t sure I was going to make it myself – deep down I would have considered it a personal failure. But I’m glad to be able to say that this is one judgemental quirk I’ve now managed to put to rest, even if the catalyst for this is a sad one.

Bit by by, I’ve let go of all this guilt. It is exhausting to carry around. Ain’t nobody got time for that.