When my husband and I first met, I had a great job with amazing benefits. I made more money than him (by a lot), but all the years of inching my way up the ladder hadn’t made me very happy. So with my husband’s support, I shook off the chains of my corporate job and set up shop as a freelance writer. I was happier for a while… until I fully realized what it meant to no longer be the main breadwinner at home. It’s been a long and stressful ride for both of us, and at one point, it nearly destroyed us.
Using his money for my bills made me feel useless. While I was still building my career up to a point I could support myself, I was sometimes a little short on funds. Asking my husband for money always feels bad even though I know he’s 100 percent behind me. For a girl who’s been paying her own way for years, this was a big blow to my self-esteem and that feeling didn’t make our relationship any easier.
We could no longer afford the things we used to take for granted. Going out to dinner, going on little vacations, or even just buying better food at the grocery store for making healthier meals. A much smaller food budget and a nonexistent vacation budget was a much bigger strain than we imagined. Going “just” a year or two without vacations, without going out, or without our normal fun things was massively stressful. A lot more so than either of us ever imagined.
Watching him spend money started to make me jealous. On the months when I had to borrow enough just to get by, watching my husband spend money on things he wanted, even if it was just a video game or a burger out with friends, made me unhappy. We’d always had separate finances, but nothing really rubbed in how unequal our situations were when I had to scrounge up $4 in change from my car for a cup a coffee when he was blowing $100 on video games. It was incredibly immature on my part, but it’s still something I had to figure out how to deal with it.
It started more arguments than we’d ever had before. While we used to argue about a lot of things from the right way to clean the bathroom to which road it was better to take into town, we never really had fights about money. If you’ve never fought with an S.O. about money, let me tell you it can get incredibly heated. Money is a really difficult and emotional issue, especially when there’s not enough to go around.
It added stress to already awful situations. A few months into my new career, my husband nearly had his car paid off. That was going to free up a lot of extra money to help pay down other bills. We had a plan. Everything was going perfectly… until he ran his newly paid off car into a parked car. He felt horrible about it and I didn’t help things by having full-blown panic attacks. What were we going to do? The added stress of an already stressful situation made us both worse off.
I spent a lot more time at home. Working from home might sound like a dream, but by day 38 of sitting at home alone with nobody to talk to and having no reason to change out of your pajamas, you start to feel a little like you’ve been forgotten by the rest of the world. I started leaning on my husband for all of my social needs, not realizing how stressful it would become for him.
I felt like a failure even when I wasn’t. My parents had always raised me to equate success with a fat paycheck. My father had always been unhappy with his job but made great money, so everyone thought his life was “perfect.” His generation had more of a “suffer but pay the bills” mentality that I think a lot of Millennials have shied away from. Although I knew I was giving up stability for happiness, I also gave up that regular, big paycheck. Feeling like a failure, no matter how many times my husband would tell me I wasn’t, put a strain on me and everyone around me.
He ended up getting a second job because of me. Having seen that I was happier with my new job than I had been in corporate America, my husband started to look around at other jobs he might enjoy more, too. So he began looking at part-time jobs in other places to figure out what his own “dream job” would look like. He started working more hours. It led to us spending less time together than we did before even with me working from home. It was hard at first and caused a lot of strain, but it has made us both happier in the long run.
We’re still working on making it perfect. While things haven’t always been perfect (like I had to take some money out of my retirement fund and skip on a lot of things we wanted and needed), we’ve learned to cope with the smaller paychecks and the added stress of being lower on funds. Although it’s really difficult for both of us, we’ve come out of it a stronger couple. I don’t think I’d even want to go back and relive the last few years, I look back at all of the hard times and I wouldn’t change a thing about them.
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