My husband is a wonderful man and an excellent spouse. I’ve extolled his virtues on so many occasions that I’ve had to stop for fear of being accused of idol worship or braggadocio. After all, with 50-60% of all Christian marriages ending in divorce, wouldn’t it appear conceited for me to talk about how wonderful my husband is? What cockiness!
I’ve openly discussed the issues that Marshall and I have had over the years, but I can honestly (and gratefully) say that those issues have never included the following:
- His not having a job
- His not helping with the children
- His failure to communicate
Like any relationship, Marshall’s and mine has had its own unique set of challenges over time. At the moment, our challenge is that I have a hard time accepting money from my husband. This is more my dysfunction than his, but it still affects him indirectly.
Last night I got off of work at BS&W and midnight. Did I want to be at a shoe store that late into the night? Absolutely not. But I needed the money to pay for a project I’m working on, so I had to put in the hours. When I got home at 12:30 am, Marshall was still up waiting for me so he could at least see me. I said some brief words in greeting, got into the shower, crawled into bed, and fell into a coma. The next morning, Marshall asked me why I was working so hard. I explained my reasons.
“Well do you want me to just give you the money so you don’t have to work so hard?” he offered.
I balked at the very notion of him giving me money for a personal project. Like many marriages like ours, I stay home to look after the kids and he goes to work. His income pays for EVERYTHING. It wasn’t always like this, of course. I had a job once, and a good paying one too. I’ve lived my life paying my own way for everything. I couldn’t accept money from my husband.
“No, no,” I said quickly. “This is something I have to do on my own.”
“But it’s not a lot of money,” he countered. “And I just got a check from a project I’ve been working on…”
I repeated that I wanted to do this on my own and went back to doing dishes or eating chocolate – I can’t remember which.
I don’t know if this is a problem that other married women struggle with, but my single friends have assured me that I’m stark, raving MAD.
“Ah. Isn’t this what husbands are for?” said one (a Ghanaian).
“Girl, us single gals are TRYING to find a guy to pay for stuff,” said another (a White girl from the South).
Recognizing that my perceived insanity was not cultural (after all, an African AND an American had just told me I was being foolish) I decided to talk to my husband about it. Maybe there was something wrong with me?
He knows that I have an abnormal relationship with money, because I didn’t grow up with much. I was more often than not on the receiving end of a gift, and it’s made it hard for me to accept generosity from others. I hate feeling like a charity case…and when I spend my husband’s money, I feel like it’s just that: charity.
“Babe,” I began, “I want to talk about why I can’t take money from you…or why I have a hard time at least.”
“Okay; but I already know why that is,” he said sagely.
“Eh? Why is it then?”
I barely knew myself. How could he possibly know?
“Because you’re a first born and self-sustainer,” he said simply. “I’m the same way. I couldn’t live on anyone’s handouts.”
Self-sustainer. I wrote that down on our whiteboard. That was a new term to me.
“Okay, cool. Then you understand,” I said. “Well, I feel bad that I can’t take your money. I think it would make me less of a woman.”
“How is that? Every time you use your debit card you ‘take my money’.”
He laughed in that way that makes me feel like an idiot. I immediately bristled.
“Ah! When I use the debit card, I’m using it to feed the kids or buy something for the house. I’m talking about going shopping for myself, or in this case, needing $x00 to fund my project.”
“That’s because you’re selfish,” he replied.
How could I be selfish? Wasn’t I being the very opposite of ‘selfish’?
“Yes, selfish,” he continued. “You need to write down ‘value’ on the board too. You don’t think that I value you you enough to try to make your life better, or work for the children and all the stuff we do have.”
I found it hard to argue with that, so I used the best defense I could conjure: The one time that he said something that made me feel less than valued. It had to do with the car he’d just bought in October.
“Remember when you told me YOU had worked very hard to afford that car? I felt like you were saying that because I didn’t have a job that generates as much money as yours does that I was not as valuable.”
“Well, Malaka, I did work hard to pay for the car…but that’s not what I said to you. Don’t misquote me.”
“I’m just saying that’s how I felt.”
I quickly realized that I was failing to make my point. He was showing me the absurdity of my sentiments. All the same, I still harbored them. I told him as much.
“Look, here’s the thing. What I really feel bad about is that I should be able to spend your money because I’m valuable to you, but I just can’t.”
He paused and nodded. He understood. He said that made him feel good.
“Because I know that you won’t try to jack me and have checks bouncing all over the place.”
I snickered. I hate bank overdrafts.
“Malaka, it’s not like you haven’t taken money from me in the past, when we were dating.”
“But I always paid you back,” I countered.
He said he didn’t remember being repaid. I assured him I did. I’ve never been one of those girls who could take money from her boyfriend because my parents taught us not to be that chick. You never want to be in debt to some guy, especially for something you could afford yourself. I have never been able to abide the idea of a man taking credit for my accomplishments!
By the end of the conversation, Marshall encouraged me to look at the money I was offering as an investment, and not a gift. He said if I REALLY had to, I could look at it as a loan.
“If you really feel like you need to repay a loan to your husband,” he smirked.
I thought about it. I could take the money as an investment…but then something occurred to me.
“If it’s an investment, you’ll be looking for a return on that investment, won’t you?” I asked.
“Babe,” he said, cutting me off, “a return on investment doesn’t have to be monetary. My ROI could be you getting more sleep, not having to work more hours, you having a better day, us having better sex (because you’re not so tired), or you just having a smile on your face more often than you do.”
I had one friend tell me that I need to get off my “feminist soap box” and take my husband’s money. I’ve earned every cent in stretch marks and a scarred uterus.
“Calculate the cost of that,” she said.
I hear what everyone is saying. I really do. The world is crooning “You should let me love you/let me be the one to give everything you want and need” – but all I can hear is Kanye hollering “She ain’t nothing but a gold digger/She’s a trifling friend indeed!”
Surely other married women struggle with this, right? With all the issues surrounding money, sex and power, my feelings can’t be unique, right?
Right?? Talk about it here…or tell me I’m mad. ?