Money Monday: Her Independence versus His Responsibility

Unhappy African American couple sit on couch at home quarrel over domestic bills or financial documents, young black family dispute having problems with expenses or budget, paying online at laptop
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Many of us can attest that we grew up seeing our grandfathers, fathers, and uncles bear the responsibility of being financial providers. Similarly, others have the experience of their grandmothers, mothers, and aunts being single parents as well as partners in relationships exuding an air of financial independence. A few weeks ago, I found myself in another conversation that has resulted in the manifestation of today’s money Monday.

How do couples strike a balance in maintaining her independence while respecting his responsibility to provide? Why do some couples function as though these adjectives are mutually exclusive in their relationships?

The following couples are reflective of some of the unique relationship dynamics that exist in our society today that you may or may not identify with.

Up until six months ago, Jane held an executive position at a marketing firm before she was let go. Her partner John is a freelance photographer. They have been living together for two and a half years. Jane paid most of the household bills but could no longer afford to do so.

Marcus is an attorney, who has been dating Elizabeth for over a year. Elizabeth is a single parent, works part-time, and is a student. Marcus recently offered to render financial assistance, but Elizabeth shut him down.

Joshua is a school teacher and his wife Erin is a store manager. They have been married for seven years, throughout which they have maintained separate bank accounts. Each contributes a portion of their income to the family account for expenses. Eric feels emasculated in the relationship.

Financial Independence and Responsibility

Women have historically lost control of their finances when they enter into committed relationships or marry. One reason for that is that they defer all financial management to their partners, and were taught to be caregivers and homemakers. I am not in any way implying this is wrong, but I understand and have embraced the fact that we are ever-evolving as a society and relationships are partnerships. Financial independence is an important goal for every woman, whether she’s single, dating, married, or divorced.

So what exactly do these terms mean in the context of a relationship? Financial independence is a woman living the life she wants with confidence and self-reliance, being empowered by her knowledge of financial literacy, contributing her thoughts and ideas to the household’s financial goals and decision-making, and knowing account information. According to Pew Research, 31% of women in committed relationships bring in half or more of their household earnings. This represents a significant increase from years prior.

Similarly, from the beginning of time, men were taught and admonished to place a greater emphasis on their role as financial providers. In the same Pew Research, 71% of respondents say it is very important for a man to be able to financially support his family to be a good partner. I will take it a step further to highlight that men ought to be respected, empowered, supported, encouraged, and applauded for every effort and contribution they make to the overall functioning and well-being of their families.

Making Her Sense of Independence and Her Responsibility Co-exist

Has society truly embraced this many women in the workforce? Are women who work afforded too much independence that can be viewed as a threat to the family institution? The impact of the working woman has indeed changed the dynamics of relationships and dismantled the status quo of the family institution. Even though I firmly believe in supporting working women and maintaining their financial independence, I am old school in one point.  You must be able to transition from being the CEO of the boardroom to the humble partner at home. Do not allow the zeros in your paycheck or your title to diminish your respect  for your partner. And that goes both ways.

Communication is critical to the success of any relationship. When was the last time you got serious and talked with your partner about your finances? According to recent studies, money arguments and disagreements are one of the leading causes of divorce for couples. So, many couples just don’t deal with money discussions? They avoid having the conversation, go along with whatever the other person says, or live totally separate financial lives.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, I must point out that for some couples it will be crucial to first discuss whether independence and responsibility are issues in the relationship. Regardless, I encourage you to be honest and clearly define the parameters around both factors; in the event that you remain challenged by expectations, I would suggest that you seek professional counseling.

As the saying goes: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it! This article is not applicable to every couple but was written with the sole intention for couples to encourage one another and strengthen their relationship. Men, empower your partners to strive for independence by involving her and elevating her financial confidence. Women, respect and validate your partner because he needs to know that you have his back and that you are confident in his abilities to provide–whether he is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a gig worker.

In addition, I challenge you to think about your sons and daughters in the context of what behaviors are you modeling, and what encouragement are you offering them when it comes to understanding finances and relationships.

My writing is meant to provoke thoughtful and open conversations between couples and their finances. I am very passionate and committed to the success of relationships as I purposely encourage and support couples to strengthen their love, commitment, and relationship through financial intimacy.

WHAT’S UP!

Today’s What’s Up is about “ Right to Repair” laws. If you have purchased a laptop or cell phone and need repairs done to the product, you usually have to return the product to the manufacturer. Well, there are Right to Repair” laws sweeping the states giving the customers and consumers the ability to fix the product ourselves, or take it to an independent repair shop. What it means is that manufacturers will be forced to share information with independent repair businesses, or us as consumers when we decide to repair items ourselves, and not be at their mercy. The result is that both time and money can be saved by consumers. Check your state to see if any “ Right to Repair “ laws exist or will be in new legislation. These changes could save you money. And that’s what’s up!

 

Ruthven R. Phillip, Esq., is a tax attorney, Stewardship and Philanthropy Ministry Assistant, and CEO of Give2Getrich, LLC. Give2Get Rich, LLC 2023. All Rights Reserved. Any distribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited.

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