Cope With Loss of Financial Independence in a Relationship
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When one partner takes to staying home after both partners have been working, the sudden loss of financial independence can be a source of frustration, tension, and misunderstandings. It is very important to have clear understandings about money in this situation, so that neither partner feels a sense of loss, abuse, or curtailment of the ability to make choices.
- Have a solid relationship. One person losing financial independence will not improve a shaky relationship. It will usually make things a lot worse. Before one makes this choice (if it is a choice), be sure of the relationship and its strength. Take the time to discuss the likely negative consequences of less income in the household, from tighter budgeting, to loss of friends with more money, to kids annoyed that they can't have what they want right there and then.
- Value your partner's contribution. The loss of employment can have an enormous impact on a person's self-esteem. One of the most important things you can do for your partner in this time is to value the contributions they are making whilst between jobs. This will mean being supportive of their efforts to find new employment, and appreciating other worthwhile activities that they participate in to help your household or the broader community.
- Make lifestyle changes. Both partners will now have to go without certain things that could be afforded easily before. This means that the partner with money must also reassess his or her priorities too and not lump all of the sacrificing onto the partner staying at home. Make this very clear to the partner still working; it may take some reminders now and then. But it is important for the partner at home's self-esteem that he/she doesn't fall into a bad habit of letting the partner with money spend on his or herself at one's expense, leaving one to feel that he/she will just "have to go without" again. The person who makes the money should not be the one "making the rules" and the new rules must be made cooperatively, in consultation with each other and by consensus.
- Expect some people in one's life to disappear. This can be a good test of who one's friends really are. When one begins declining the restaurant invitations and the expensive outings that one used to go on, some friends will disappear. Those who stick by a person and his/her choices are worth every bit of the friendship. They are the people who respect one for who one is, not for one's earning potential.
- Create a budget. This budget should cover all the bills, the basics, the needs of any children. And it should leave room for some private spending money for each partner. This money should be spent, saved, donated, whatever, according to the whims of each partner without dictates from the other. Even if it's only $20 a time, it's your $20 to do with what you will. And don't ask questions of each other about this private spending money; it is information that can be volunteered but not demanded. This continues a sense of financial independence over which the partner-at-home does have control.
- Take on the responsibilities of bill payment, budgeting, bargain hunting, etc. This frees up the lunch hours of the working partner (avoiding those queues!) and it gives the partner-at-home the knowledge of what is coming in and what is going out.
- Do not expect it to be easy and do be wary of falling into common self-esteem eroding traps. Losing financial independence is never easy and it can leave you feeling vulnerable, worthless, and helpless. The partner at home should avoid these feelings like the plague, however tempting it is to succumb. The partner at home is an important person regardless of earnings capacity. Perhaps one is caring for children, recovering from an illness, or between jobs –whatever the reason, one is still an active participant in the relationship, in keeping the home running well, in raising the children, in seeking employment etc. and all of these activities matter.
- Look for the positives. Do not see it as a loss of financial independence. See it as an opportunity to take charge of household budgeting, to be a good manager of all that you have become responsible for. The partner at home should look at the time he/she has available to make savings, such as growing your own food, cleaning the home with eco-friendly homemade products, picking up the kids early from school instead of using after school care, making your own meals instead of buying pre-packaged etc. Whilst there is a big income drop when one partner stays home, there is the pick-up of time and if one assesses all the shortcuts taken when working (e.g., takeouts), one will likely find one can do it all better, cheaper, at home.
- If one learns How to Calculate One's Real Hourly Wage, one may see how losing a job may not represent the loss of income one thought it would.
- Invite people over more. Friends and family around the house will keep one good company and show one that life is what this is all about, even in the midst of financially lean times.
- Volunteer work a few hours a week can help increase the at-home partner's sense of giving and provides friendships and colleagues to be with. It is likely that there is something one can volunteer in, even if one is housebound.
- The at-home partner should not put his/her self down: He/she is every bit as important as the working people. Affirming this at least twice a day should help.
- Both partners should be wary of feelings of resentment that may be felt by both parties -the at-home partner and the working partner- and be receptive toward understanding these feelings and be ready to do what it takes to alleviate them if possible.
- Both parties in the relationship should be aware of the state of their finances. For a partner to naively ask to do something that requires financial resources that are not available may be offensive to and/or incite anxiety in the person aware of the financial situation.