The women in my family had to be good with money
August 21, 2016 2:09 AM   Subscribe

"I was twelve, in that liminal state between childhood and womanhood, still playing with dolls but also shopping for training bras. Eager to soak up lessons about what it meant to be a woman, I watched, and learned, never once questioning why a woman who had a job had to hide money from her husband." (Previously somewhat related on mefi: The Fuck Off Fund.)
posted by dorothyisunderwood (68 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
While I will now proceed to RTFA, I did want to wonder out loud how the author, her mother and her grandmother all ended up with controlling husbands.
posted by infini at 3:51 AM on August 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


I thought about that too, but from a position similar to that of the author. It runs in the family: if you grow up in an abusive family, that is what you recognize as family, as love. You fall in love with someone who speaks into the reality you know, even if you hate that reality. It sucks. I'm happy for the author that she is out of it now.
posted by mumimor at 3:57 AM on August 21, 2016 [61 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted. Let's not immediately start with the usual generalized Woman Does It Wrong thing.]
posted by taz (staff) at 4:22 AM on August 21, 2016 [37 favorites]


infini: Sadly it’s very common for people to re-create the abusive relationship patterns of their parents in their own life. If abusive controlling partners are all you know, then real, equal relationships can seem weird - potentially even something to be avoided.
posted by pharm at 4:27 AM on August 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


I also add that people in relationships can sometimes change gradually over time, and inertia simply takes over in a way that makes tolerating little red flags that didn't appear in the first few years much easier.
posted by Karaage at 4:56 AM on August 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Short of actual death, the worst thing is that instead of seeing it, instead of fighting this "relationship" as the untenable abusive hostage situation it is, you simply... cope. You strategize. You use all your considerable skills to facilitate the continuation of it. And in doing so, eventually you accept it as your due. And that becomes your reality, your kids' reality, and their kids' reality.

Pharm's comment is absolute truth. If abusive controlling partners are all you know, then real, equal relationships can seem weird - potentially even something to be avoided. You no longer trust yourself. You, who may possess great intelligence and are infinitely capable in every other area of life, are wholly incapable of breaking this cycle.

The connection I felt to far too many parts of this article was incredibly depressing. So much time wasted, so much life unlived. I suppose in the end it's all a form of actual death. Because you have lost the life you should have had, and endured... that.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:08 AM on August 21, 2016 [21 favorites]


Sometimes, especially if things were good for the first couple years - good enough for you to have fallen in love - the sunk-cost fallacy can keep you around and putting up with a shitty relationship for longer than is good for you.

I speak from experience.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:14 AM on August 21, 2016 [43 favorites]


People who turn out to be abusers can often be very sweet and charming in the beginning. They often maintain that facade in public to other people, which is how they get away with being abusive in private.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:24 AM on August 21, 2016 [26 favorites]


I managed his temper, trained by a lifetime of soothing unpredictable men.

It was her normal, or maybe even better than normal: her husband never hit her (although really maybe he just hadn't gotten there yet).

As pointed out before, abusers don't usually start out at their worst, and can be very charming. And if he did give off some red flags, they may not seem so bad in light of her experiences with other controlling men.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:33 AM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just realized why I was able to a) identify the abusive behaviour as abnormal, and b) get out of it within a couple of years (arranged marriage) was because I didn't have the history in my own family. I also just realized his behaviour was the outcome of his dysfunctional family. Wow! Its been 16 years and I'm still learning something new.

But yes, its all very private, and the violence starts later. The upside of having met the man a week before the wedding is that while you might lose your innocence, and your romantic hopes and dreams of being a newlywed, you were never in love. Upside in air quotes.

The connection I felt to far too many parts of this article was incredibly depressing. So much time wasted, so much life unlived. I suppose in the end it's all a form of actual death. Because you have lost the life you should have had, and endured... that.
posted by infini at 5:38 AM on August 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


It's a stark reminder over three generations of how difficult it can be to recognise and change things about an abusive situation if that's what your normal has always looked like. What took the author eight years took her mother fourteen, and didn't even look like a possibility at all to her grandmother. And that is so little to do with the women themselves (who sound strong in so many ways), and so much to do with the men who threatened them, controlled them and wore them down.
posted by terretu at 6:04 AM on August 21, 2016 [12 favorites]




People who turn out to be abusers can often be very sweet and charming in the beginning. They often maintain that facade in public to other people, which is how they get away with being abusive in private.

The unpredictable alternation between sweet and charming and abusive seems to be a common pattern. And, the same manipulative skills that are used in abuse are also perfect for charming someone, and for maintaining the cycle of ups and downs that constitute a lot of bad relationships. The alternation between good and bad keeps the victim off balance and, like you say, helps maintain the public facade.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:44 AM on August 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


I was taught to always take extra money out with the grocery shopping. My grandmother's husband was physically abusive. My dad wasn't, but was cruel with money. My husbands (past and present) are fine, thank God, but that little lesson still stays with me.

Fantastic article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by kimberussell at 6:52 AM on August 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


My sister's abusive first marriage/troubled second one neatly mirrored my mom's marital history. Patterns are hard to shake and you often start repeating them before you have had time to grow up and understand them.
posted by emjaybee at 7:26 AM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


And that is so little to do with the women themselves (who sound strong in so many ways), and so much to do with the men who threatened them, controlled them and wore them down.

It wasn't just the individual abusers who ground them down, but society as a whole who helped keep the women there. The author's mother was pressured to stay by her own parents (and religious and economic issues can't be ignored). Maybe some of the issues her mother and grandmother faced aren't relevant or quite as common, but they still set the stage for the author that normalized the controlling behavior.
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:35 AM on August 21, 2016 [24 favorites]


In my experience, I have noticed that men rarely steal women’s dreams by forbidding them outright. Instead, they take our dreams slowly, over time, by urging us to be practical, by appealing to common sense. Like sand irritating an oyster, they wear you down. Only, instead of eventually producing a thing of beauty – a pearl – they remove your sheen and leave nothing but grit.

This is exactly it.

Also it is far from unusual that women hid money out of the household accounts. If you've never heard stories about women squirreling away small sums as a hedge from improvident husbands I'm a little amazed.
posted by winna at 7:43 AM on August 21, 2016 [43 favorites]


My parent's found somewhere around $30,000 in change hidden in jars all over the place by my grandmother when clearing up the estate for sale after she died.
posted by srboisvert at 7:49 AM on August 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


Instead, they take our dreams slowly, over time, by urging us to be practical, by appealing to common sense.

I wonder if there is an element of projection where men whose lives are forced to be practical and common sensical yet find little satisfaction in those roles then pervert and warp that dissatisfaction control. Just another way patriarchy hurts everyone.
posted by kokaku at 7:49 AM on August 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


I was taught to always take extra money out with the grocery shopping.

These days, with paychecks electronically deposited and every transaction visible to the person who controls the account, adding some cash back to every grocery trip must be one of the only ways to surreptitiously hide money -- everything else shows up on the record, and even the cash back would show if the abuser was so controlling as to want to see receipts.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:57 AM on August 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah it did occur to me that this article might expose the secrets of some women currently hiding funds from abusers.

God, I wished we took domestic violence seriously in this fucking country. Or any fucking country. We know manipulation and surveillance is part of an abuser's control. We know threats to children and pets are, as well as compelled pregnancy through destroying/denying birth control. We know that abuse often escalates from these "small" things to hitting/killing. We know that domestic abusers are a huge driver of gun violence, precipitating many many mass shootings (or else being a warning sign that someone would later become a mass shooter).

And yet there is still so little protection for women wanting to escape, such light sentences, so few prosecutions. So much "benefit of the doubt" so many sympathetic articles and TV shows about how hard it is, to be an abuser, how irrational/vindictive women might use those accusations to hurt men, steal their children. So many women going to jail when they do protect themselves with guns or other violent means in their desperation to escape.

Meanwhile, more women die or live in pain and fear.

It just doesn't matter to us, except as exciting fodder for many many crime shows. And maybe that's the final insult; we let this happen and then we turn it into entertainment.

After all, they're only women*.

*yes I know men can be victims of women too. Domestic violence prosecutions would help them also.
posted by emjaybee at 8:13 AM on August 21, 2016 [41 favorites]


I have kept this envelope. After one physically violent LTR & an emotionally abusive marriage, it just got to be habit. I was several years into my current happy, stable marriage before I decided I could be honest about money and showed the wife my cash pile. It wasn't much, but it seeded our mutual escape hatch savings account, & we daydream about where we're going to move to when we can afford to get out.

"Why does this happen over & over again to these women?" has a two-part answer. Yes, people in abusive relationships find themselves there because of family patterns & learned behavior, but also because abusive men are distressingly common.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:30 AM on August 21, 2016 [19 favorites]


[Couple comments removed. If you're explicitly predicting that your comment is gonna get a bad reaction, stopping and rethinking what you want to say and why in a way that doesn't need that disclaimer/doom-saying is the better way to go.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:31 AM on August 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


[Couple more removed. moiraine, if you want to talk about moderation, write to us at the contact form; don't keep coming back to the thread to complain about it after I've already had to leave a note. Give this thread a pass.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


it is far from unusual that women hid money out of the household accounts. If you've never heard stories about women squirreling away small sums as a hedge from improvident husbands I'm a little amazed.

Quick reminder of the mefi fuck off fund discussion in Jan 2016 which in its own first few comments links to similar recent articles and discussions. And emphasizes the need to have a safe place to go.

Moiraine, these women are taking responsibility for themselves- saving money in anticipation of leaving when possible. While that time never came for the grandmother, it did for the daughter and granddaughter, in large part because grandmother had taught them these tools to save money inconspicuously. But there are so many times when the abuse is not expected or the ability to leave immediately simply is not there-- whether due to society as a whole, religious beliefs, lack of a safe place to go or murderous partner intent to others if one were to leave, etc. It takes time and effort to get to the position where leaving is possible once the need is recognized. More than half of the 5000 USAns in this survey could not cover a $400 expense with cash
posted by beaning at 10:11 AM on August 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean, this article is on the memoir side of first-person account writing but the idea that women need to hide money away is somewhat universal and points to the social construct of women having less power in our world.

My wife does most of the money management in our relationship. I've always joked that it's because I'm prone to unexpectedly spending hundreds of dollars because I saw a beautiful guitar that day, whereas my wife can be much more disciplined and practical. It's only now that I realize that the difference between us is probably because of the privilege I enjoy. I mean, I might one day need to take the kids and leave, but it won't likely be sudden and under threat of violence. I suppose growing up and watching other women in your family do precisely that it changes your priorities, even if unconsciously.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:16 AM on August 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


I watched my mom leave my dad. It was nonviolent but also distinctly unpretty.

The thirteen-year-old which_chick's takeaway: You must always, in all circumstances, have your own job and your own accounts and your own vehicle; these things must be under your sole control and not in any way under the control of any other people. Trusting someone else to be responsible for your support and wellbeing to the extent that you forego the means to care for and provide for your own person is folly.

My life, well I'm probably doing it wrong. I have my own house and my own job and my own money. My fella has his own house and his own job and his own money. (I'm 46, he's 44. We've been associating for eight years or so.) We do not cohabitate (because common law is not happening 'round here) and we do not co-bank-account. He does not support me. I do not support him. We have sleepovers and alternate locations. If he (and his money and his job) evaporated tomorrow, the only substantive change in my life would be that I'd stop shaving below the waist.

This lifestyle does not really allow for children, so good thing I never wanted any. I don't know how women with children would manage to do this sort of thing. The system is kind of rigged against mommies.
posted by which_chick at 10:48 AM on August 21, 2016 [30 favorites]


It's only now that I realize that the difference between us is probably because of the privilege I enjoy.

I would say that the privilege you experience, Slarty Bartfast, is not the freedom from violence and needing to take the kids and run unexpectedly. Though, that is a truth on some certain level. The privilege is that you think the universe will catch you. Which it most often does if you're a white male. You also think that there's more where that came from. Which can certainly be true, if you're a white male. I could go down a list as long as my arm about how women are overtly and covertly marginalized but we've been there before. Men can walk away. Women can't. For reasons, not the least of which, is lower economic opportunity. If women don't watch the books, men will spend it all and then wonder how things got so tough. And then resent the women and children hanging around their coattails.
posted by amanda at 10:54 AM on August 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


When I was broken by abuse men from "broken" homes were more tolerant of the after effects of abuse. Difficulties with school and work performance, spaciness and dissociation from daily tasks. Things they saw their mothers going through while abused and/or left by their partners under horrible circumstance and things that were normal to them.

These are men I could relate to because they knew indescribable pain, they knew being different, they knew being unable to function the way others did and constantly being seen as an inferior by the same people who shame you for not just "choosing a healthy partner".

Healthy in tact people don't want dysfunctional people.

We find each other. And try to make love happen in an abyss of suffering and coping mechanisms that take away some of the pain but come at great costs.

There was one guy I was with- he was a horrible human being. And he knew it. I remember we were in school and this girl who is 18 says she's marrying a forty year old. Both me and this guy (who was then 34 to my 22) gave each other a look- a look that said we both knew this was harmful.

Yet I felt different, when he pulled my into a really shitty sexual relationship I had stated I didn't want after he offered to be my friend and "he could tell I had trauma issues."

I felt like... I had already been broken. And I was a bad student, dysfunctional at home life. Not a candidate to ever have a healthy relationship anyway. I would have to learn gratitude for scraps and whispers of love- and they fed that whole within me that needed love, genuinely needed it.

That guy told me, it's better to be the wolf than the sheep.

Those guys can smell women who have been abused, who have already been trained to freeze in the presence of a man, to behave submissively and pleasingly and rotate around keeping such men happy to keep themselves safe. To subsume all other thoughts about it because predatory men can sense when you doubt them, when you are internally defiant. You have to destroy all of that in yourself so that ou can genuinely submit, so that you can appease them. So that you can stay safe, and they can be happy and everything can be ok.

And it's deeper than just words. Because I was adopted at birth and yet I have lived out exactly what was going on my biological families homes despite not even knowing what that was until later.

And I didn't go and find these men. I often didn't even engage with them willingly.

They found me, and I had fewer abilities to see through them and get away from them. So I think the idea that abuse survivors are "attracted to recreating the abuse" is likely a tiny fraction of the issues that make this a recurring issue for survivors. It's extremely complex and multifaceted and I was someone who avoided men entirely and they would find ways to offer "Friendship" to shame me for suspecting them of anything because how dare I etc etc. And it also worked because I was sympathetic to the pain they had went through too, often they had been through childhood abuse and trauma and I cared. And I wasn't willing to shun them for being unable to function normally or having dark reactive thoughts- things that maybe the good nice people who have good nice relationships screen out, maybe?

They found me.

Everything, a big bad wolf could want.
posted by xarnop at 10:55 AM on August 21, 2016 [55 favorites]


I also think we are learning that the injuries of abuse can last on biological functioning for many generations.

So it might not be that injured animals seek out sharks so much as they are more likely to be targeted and less able to get away- and a lot of effort has been done to abuse women to the point they will be compliant and unable to safely get away over hundreds/thousands of years of history and pass on those survival traits to their offspring.
posted by xarnop at 11:01 AM on August 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


Society itself really helps keep women in abuse situations. Part of it is religion. Part of it is the criminal justice system and the civil justice system.
The West talks a great game about women's rights but it's really as much an MRA paradise as the Middle East.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:49 AM on August 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm disappointed that so much of this thread (even considering the deletions) is "Is this really a thing?" posturing. I mean, I'm a man from a fairly functional family, and nothing in this article seemed unlikely or surprising to me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:31 PM on August 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


In other words, is it so hard to just believe women when they describe their lives?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:37 PM on August 21, 2016 [36 favorites]


When I left him, he hadn't hit me... Yet.

Walls got punched, names got called in a joccular, just teasing sort of way. Shoved. Hurt. He terrified me, but with my family I was used to living scared of my loved ones.

It took so damn long because I had no control over my money. Without it, he controlled my space, and could deny me sleep. Without it, he could be content that I just worked in a call centre, while he worked on a PhD, made more than me but somehow the money deficit was always on my account not his.

We shared the apartment with seven luxury bicycles, bought at treats from his money- in his mind what was his was his and mine was ours. Then I got laid off. No more money to steal, he yelled at me but backed off.

I started an emotional affair with a guy miles away, got a job and put my money where he couldn't get it. Nonetheless when I ran away in the night he owed me about $250 in arrears. But I never let him know my salary so I could put it by properly.
posted by Phalene at 12:55 PM on August 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


I grew up with a (diagnosed as) narcissistic, financially and emotionally abusive father. The main lesson I learned in my childhood was the necessity of financial independence. My great grandmother taught her five daughters how to squirrel away money. My grandmother taught my mother. My mother taught us. I am single, and have a very healthy relationship with money, have only had functional -- to the end-- relationships with men in my half century of life, and yet I cannot imagine intermingling my finances with someone else's. That level of vulnerability would be unbearable.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 12:59 PM on August 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Even insulated by a few kinds of privilege and only having experienced the banal light abuse that's so common in relationships it's almost invisible, I don't know why anyone who can figure out a way to pull it off wouldn't make sure they have some degree of less visible personal funds on top of whatever transparent personal and household funds they work with.

I love the vision of having total trust and a high degree of intimacy in a relationship. But my experience has been that even non-abusive people can have a way of staking claims about what you can/can't should/shouldn't be doing with your life, and even people who have good intentions and maybe have been respectful, reliable, and trustworthy up through a certain point can hit inflection points where their values and behavior change for reasons beyond your control.
posted by wildblueyonder at 1:41 PM on August 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


In other words, is it so hard to just believe women when they describe their lives?

Believing what a woman tells you, just because she told you, is still an act of radical resistance to the status quo. And I can promise that if you do, you will be counseled by many people who tell you to be careful that she's not deceiving you.
posted by emjaybee at 1:54 PM on August 21, 2016 [29 favorites]


My partner and I have set up our finances so that bills are paid from my income and his entire income goes into a joint savings account. I had a nominal amount in personal savings but it was just enough to cover a car repair or something minor.

I recently left my job and it has been eye-opening. I am never again going to be without my own savings. My partner has been 100% wonderful about taking care of bills and everything else, but the sense of powerlessness I have felt is overwhelming. He doesn't track my spending in any way, but I am still relying on and using someone else's money. It's terrible and I have resolved it is going to change. If I had to leave him, I would have to ask family for money. And that would freak my parents out since I made and expect to make again a decent salary.
posted by tippy at 2:13 PM on August 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


My parent's found somewhere around $30,000 in change hidden in jars all over the place by my grandmother when clearing up the estate for sale after she died.

That's... at least 400lbs and probably twice that.

Respect, grandma.
posted by rokusan at 2:44 PM on August 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


We are getting married soon, but we have had two joint checking accounts for three years now. We joined them because it was easier to pass money back and forth this way. When we decided to get married, we created two more joint accounts: a household account that we each transfer a set amount into each month to pay for bills, and a joint savings account to pay for the wedding. We each have separate credit card accounts and savings accounts that are inaccessible to the other person. When explaining our financial setup to others, they often think it's too complicated. People have told me that our marriage is doomed because we have so many accounts; that there can't really be trust there. I think of it as a fancy envelope system, which is a common enough budgeting technique. Reading this article gives me some perspective on why it's important to keep some things separate.
posted by domo at 2:51 PM on August 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The older I get - I'm middle-aged - the more I appreciate the many ways my mother's decision to divorce has impacted my life. I mean, even at the age of six I knew that I hated and feared my father, so our leaving him was nothing but positive, but of course I didn't know until she told me many years later that one reason she left was me. She didn't want me to grow up seeing her treated that way, and to be treated that way myself. Of course I WAS treated that way, for alternate weekends through the next decade, until I was old enough and strong enough to tell my father (who she felt unable to stand up to after leaving him) that I wouldn't see him again.

Another reason she left was money. Am fuzzy on the details, but after marrying at the then-relatively late age of 23 and staying home for eight years with two children, she felt that leaving with us and entering the job marketplace without a college degree was preferable to staying and wondering about money. "Where did your father put his money!" she once said. "Was there a hole in the backyard?" She refused alimony on principle (she was an enthusiastic second-wave feminist), became a paralegal, raised me with few frills but no real poverty, and bought her own condo as a single woman at 44. When I bought my own house as a single woman at 35, she must have felt the echo of her own choices.

And I won't marry, partly because of money! Because though my fella is lovely, and we've been together for a decade now, he has no sense of money. It's a huge fly in the ointment of a sometimes too-placid relationship (no drama for me! Weekends with my dad turned me off dramatic men for life) but the notion of someone else having control of my money is so frightening. I don't have much but it is mine, I earned it. My fella would never squander it but I won't enter into a contract with him without more financial parity between us than he's so far been able to offer. My peace of mind demands it. Think I'll call my mother and thank her, again.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


It's a weird feeling for me, reading this article, and the comments in this thread. I found myself almost constantly reading things that resonate deeply with my own experiences, sometimes to the letter. "This!" the voice in my head says, multiple times per comment.

And yet, the weird part is, as a man, I feel like a total outsider, and am compelled to not share my own experiences lest they be taken as... less than sincere, or trying to somehow diminish the experiences of women here. Which would suck for everyone.

I'm not sure what else I could say really without screwing it up, so I'll just leave it at that.
posted by some loser at 4:55 PM on August 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I guess I'll just add that, over four years out now, I still see in my own writing of my last comment, evidence of the skills I developed in response to my situation.. Always qualifying statements and trying to use precise language that could not possibly be interpreted in any other way than how I intended it.. "almost constantly" instead of "constantly" because what happens if someone can point out a time where it wasn't "constant"? Anyhow.. :(
posted by some loser at 4:59 PM on August 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I can't remember many fiction books I read growing up (historical fictia and romances) that didn't mention "egg money" or "putting a little by out of the budget" as something women just do. Heck, Scarlett O'Hara realized the only way to keep control of her life was to manage her own finances after Hubby #1 died and her father "lost his mainspring" after Ellen died. Usually girls as training for marriage to help things along or build their own dowry, etc. But you look around the stores and there are little "lottery" or "vacation" money jars that also kind of reinforce this. Beyond the idea of "christmas accounts".
I was taught to always take extra money out with the grocery shopping.

These days, with paychecks electronically deposited and every transaction visible to the person who controls the account, adding some cash back to every grocery trip must be one of the only ways to surreptitiously hide money -- everything else shows up on the record, and even the cash back would show if the abuser was so controlling as to want to see receipts
I usually use my charge card at the grocery store. It's just easier accounting-wise for us and kicks the bank account hit down the road a couple weeks. Once in a while if I'm in a rush or grumpy at the "store policy" to "show my card" because they STILL don't have working chip readers, I'll use my debit card. When I do that, I believe that it breaks it out on the account statement that way in my bank account.... $21.93 for groceries and $35 cash back. I have some groceries to pick up so I'll check it next time I do so.

Of course, that's debit cards. Most people don't do checks, and fewer stores in my area take them (I just noticed Hair Cuttery stopped, and IKEA down here never has).

When I worked at one of those stores that became Macy*s, there were a number of women who would do a couple of complicated things to get cash. One would be to buy gift cheques (we had fixed amount cheques, not cards back in the day) and then buy clothes with the cheques. Then when they had an odd amount left over, under I think under $20, they would bring the cheques to us at the cash office and exchange them in for cash. I mean like a dozen or so at a time so they'd walk away with a couple hundred dollars or so. I knew it was purposeful because I asked my manager at the time if I should offer to just consolidate the balances onto one cheque and he said don't even bring it up.

Another thing I've seen people do is price matching (I noticed it at the cash office but I've seen it all the time at other stores too, and done it myself without the intent of squirrling away money but realizing one could if one had to) of stuff. They'd buy something, wait for it to go on sale, then come back for a cash back price adjustment instead of "putting back on the card".
posted by tilde at 5:44 PM on August 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


My teenage "rebellion" was essentially opting out of dating, as I'd decided that bad taste in men ran in my family, and I was having none of that. My grandmother, mother, older sister, and several aunts all had garbage husbands, most of whom were physically and emotionally abusive.
posted by ktkt at 9:26 PM on August 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


When I met my last partner, he was asset rich but cash poor and living on $14k pa. I was also living on around the same. I turned his assets into a $85k pa easy part-time income that covered all his asset expenses and gave us a good living. After a while, he resented that I was expecting a share of the income I made, instead of just my living expenses. So I began to study for a new profession. He then demanded that when I began earning in my new career, that money would go in the 'joint' (read his) business account. That's when I started squirrelling away $10 here, $50 there, all in cash, so that when the verbal put-downs and mid-sleep demands to know if I had changed my will in his favour yet got to much, I could leave. It took over 12 months to get to $1000, and during that time, when he was away from the house, I would go and count and smell my escape cash. It calmed me down.

Now what calms me down is knowing that I will NEVER ever let myself get into that dependent position again. NEVER.
posted by Thella at 10:18 PM on August 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


This brings up so much for me too.

I remember my mom being so proud of the savings account she had managed to build up, she was planning on something (I don't remember what) and was so close to the amount she needed. This was an account she had that my father was a co-signer on in some way. One day she came home crushed to find that he had wiped out the account because he needed something for his business and wasn't it just the greatest idea that he took it because he could make more money and would be able to buy the thing for her. Of course he never did. For some reason I think he had to do is just to go in and play the husband card and the bank just gave it up.

Every time she tried to get ahead in some way he would thwart it. I remember my sisters and I licking green stamps from the A&P grocery store and filling out the books so that she could get a food processor, a luxury we could never afford, but she wanted with all her heart. We were all so excited when the books were finally filled and we would go to redeem them. The next day my dad came home with an orange juicer machine thingy and a bag of oranges from which he painstakingly produced a few tiny glasses of juice and went on about how much better it was that he had taken the stamps and gotten this juicer. Then it was put away in a cupboard never to be seen again.

Finally, she stopped trying to save in plain sight and started squirreling away actual cash. She saved $2 bills. It used to be a tradition at the banks to include one every time you cashed your paycheck. After she died my dad packed up all her stuff into trunks without going through anything. After he died my sisters and I went through them and found several thousand dollars in twos! I remember feeling at the time that after death she had a very small victory over him. A very small legacy for her three daughters.

And as for being programmed to repeat the bad relationships you witness as a child, every good man I have been in a relationship with I grew restless with and replaced with an asshole who I ended up supporting. I now think it is because it didn't feel natural without the drama and crazy. I no longer date or wish to (although I think that might be something I just tell myself, because ugh), because I just don't trust myself. Well, there is the real legacy.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 11:30 PM on August 21, 2016 [29 favorites]


That's what it is--playing the husband card. Even if he lets you do whatever you like with your/his/our money, he's still top dog.

Yeah, it's let--as in giving permission.

My brother gifted me with some cash, no strings. He said I want you to have some fun. After thinking about it, I decided having no strings would be part of the fun, and opened up my own private checking account without husband's access. You'd think I'd a knot in his dick. It's not like I'm running rampant buying emeralds, liquor, and lace panties.

I paid the mechanic to fix the truck. Paid 2/3 of the bill for the tires on account. Paid the vet bill for my old horse I had to have euthanized. Five hundred for groceries, poultry feed and livestock supplies.

I want to roof the house and paint it. Buy us plane tickets to see the brother and my daughter. Get my granddaughter braces. Pay some hospital bills to keep the creditors off our butt. There are a few things that I feel would be not necessarily important, but nice--get the parts to repair my 10 year unfixed livestock clippers, buy new handles for my pots and pans--I like my pots and pans. They're 40 years old, but sturdy and in good shape. Buy a new shower curtain. There's some 'just me' stuff like a hair cut, new jeans, and a new riding helmet. That's it. It's gone then. No lace panties. No emeralds. Maybe a 6 pack of Rolling Rock.

Christ, the wailing and crying and shity comments!!

You don't trust me! Don't you love me?
I don't do this to you!
We need to talk about this.
You need to... You can't... You have to... You SHOULD... You OUGHT....!
I'm tired of being the only one responsible for the bills! I always have to pay for everything.
Why did you do this to me? We're married! You shouldn't have opened an account. WE already have one!


I've been told I'm supposed to pay the property taxes, a year's worth of insurance, pay a year of internet service, take care of the power and phone (as long as the money lasts)

Today's gem is when he turned to me at the Sinclair station and told me I had to put the next tank of gas in the truck since I have money. This time I didn't bother to say fuck you. Next time.

Money has always been tight for us, but we have muddled along for 40+ years. An awful lot of the fights have been about money. He had the job. I stayed home with 4 kids. I did shit minimum wage jobs and got shit whether I worked or not, so mostly gave it up and 'retired' after the kids grew up. Now I bring in dibbles and dabs. Right now he's bitching because he has to put up with a very sweet well-behaved lab that I'm keeping for a friend. It's a big inconvenience for him to have her here. The friend prepaid me, and I handed it over to him. I know he used it to buy clutch parts for the other vehicle, some groceties, nothing exciting.

I have some resentments and regrets about money, and he has his, too. I KNOW that he who has the money controls the power, but I still delude myself that we have been equal partners. That's the husband card.

But this last little issue has made me feel he has no respect for me and the decisions I make. That's the husband card.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:56 AM on August 22, 2016 [18 favorites]


I don't think we've come up with a real solution to protect mothers who have children and want to stay home with them during the nursing and toddler years (which can amount to a lot of years especially if you have more than one) or who want to work part time so someone can be there with them in the afternoons and summers from the financial imbalance of this.

A lot of the solutions are to get women back to working full time ASAP after having children, but for a lot of women child birth, nursing and bonding can really not work well with the model of focusing all your energy in a career in the same way. I know people say "Well it should just be balanced with the father" but in most cases the father didn't carry a child for 9 months, didn't produce all the hormones designed to bond a child with the mother, produce milk to provide nourishment for up to the first few years of life. It IS different.

I'm not sure that trying to convince everyone that because there are exceptions in which the father is a better candidate for stay at home parenting in that time, or an equal parent that the model of shifting the care during those years is the idea for every family and that making it exactly equal during that time is the only way we can provide some protections for stay at home moms or moms who work part time to focus on caregiving other parts of the time. (Or men who do this for that matter.)

I also think there are some traits that may be both socially and or biologically more likely to happen in women that really do predispose to not being as skilled with career oriented goals (or even WANTING to have skills at this). Thinking about things in an interdependent way, valuing each person involved rather than just doing what makes money at an cost to people who have to be fired, the environment that has to be destroyed, the sweat shops that have to be opened... etc etc... caring about human beings is sadly a detriment to work success in a lot of the higher earning jobs where men are making all this money that they think makes them superior and more worthy of it. Certainly women can be just as ruthless as men, but I think it's possible there are general trends in different modes of thinking and feeling associated with women that are shunned and make it hard to fit or desire to fit into a lot of workplaces or to try to focus on the "making money" side of caregiving which for a lot of us distracts from "what does this person really need" as opposed to how can I make money off their need.

Not to mention women are dealing with higher rates of sexual assault and abuse which can impact cognition, employment, and scholastic and work performance.
posted by xarnop at 3:50 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


And yet, the weird part is, as a man, I feel like a total outsider, and am compelled to not share my own experiences lest they be taken as... less than sincere, or trying to somehow diminish the experiences of women here. Which would suck for everyone.

I am also a man; it's saddening that, although men can be subject to the same sort of abuse and similar problems, this idea that for generations women have had to save up a hidden cache for 'escape,' a means for release from abuse, is so ubiquitous that each generation teaches the next and abusive men are just some immovable, oppositional force that is just there for women, something everybody runs up against, and that's just the way it is, so here's a set of skills required for you to prepare. Men shouldn't be like this, so what's causing it?
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:38 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


We call it abusive now, but remember Betty and Wilma and Lucy and Ethel all hiding their shopping sprees from their respective male spouses? It seems this was culturally okay back in the era of Stepford Wives.
posted by infini at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hello, I am a man in a traditional marriage. I'm the one with the salary, and my wife stays home with the two kids.

I think a lot about issues like financial dependence and "mad money" and the economics of stay-at-home mothers and all those kinds of things. I think about them because I have a daughter and because these abstract principles get very suddenly and dramatically real when she asks, "Mommy, how come you don't work?"

We explain to her that both Mommy and Daddy work very hard to provide a nice home and to take care of the family, and then we talk about the benefits of a second salary versus the costs of childcare, and we talk about how Daddy's salary lets us buy the food but it doesn't make the food magically appear in the fridge and it doesn't make the food magically cook itself, and that's usually when she gets bored and wanders off to play Nintendo. But still, that question just kills me, because in our own relationship, the one that will be the primary model that my children will use for the rest of their lives, it's the husband who is the financial provider and the wife who is financially dependent.

So what do we do? What can we do? We emphasize the 50-50 nature of the household work, but we also try to model that directly with a 50-50 split of the finances. Each month, we pay the mortgage and the utility bills and then divide the rest in half and put it into each of our accounts, and we tell our kids that this is how we do it. So, Daddy has his money that he can use for his toys and his clothes and for taking kids to the movies, and Mommy has her money that she can use for her books and her clothes and for taking kids to lunch, and each month it is exactly the same amount, down to the penny, that goes to Mommy and to Daddy.

We try to make it clear, as well, that when Mommy makes some extra money on the side or when Daddy gets a bonus, that this extra money is household money and not individual money, and that these bonuses go into the household account and benefit everyone. Even that $100 sign-up bonus I get for opening a new credit card, or that rebate from the pet food company, things my wife would never know about, I make it clear to everyone that hey, we have a little extra this month thanks to the new Visa card or the deal with Purina.

Still, in reading these stories, I'm thinking that I'll have to remember to have more conversations with both my son and my daughter about the importance of equity and fairness in all things and especially in financial affairs. Because in a few years my son will be old enough to notice the same things my daughter does now, and it will be him who asks next, "Mommy, how come you don't work?"

Gaah. Maybe not, though. Maybe by that point we will have had enough conversations that he won't need to ask that question. One can only hope.
posted by math at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I made that comment about "egg money" and today a young lady of my acquaintance offered me some of her home raised free range eggs for sale. But for her it's a fun and ethical hobby; she was raised in a whole other world than I (annuities she inherited when she came of age, time at boarding school, full ride college [she's just turned 30]).

I also read this earlier today while looking for something else ... kinda resonated with the vibe here.

Especially that part about "babies come when they come" for lack of birth control options and "not being taught to cook" to keep one woman from getting married young. I find magazines of that era fascinating and a look at a world I was just a kid in (though not as old as the writers). We got Organic Gardening mostly; others were boring women's mags in waiting rooms, but in retrospect I find them a fascinating time capsule of a land I wasn't exactly in (these mags are fascinating to me still becuase I still don't see myself in those young and middle aged housewives/professionals though by all marketing measures I am them) .

math Just keep making it "normal" conversation. It soaks in. I know enough about what I learned growing up to see now how it influenced me, and how I use it for good and bad (I'm a sucker for BINGO halls, and I've always insisted we'd use a third party to get our taxes done.). My spouse did the same, and we talk about how our parents did things and use it to figure out what we want to do.

Now that I think about it, I remember my parents talking about how my grandparents managed their small businesses and their money and the advent of the Social Security System and all kinds of stuff as well. My spouse's parents do, too. Maybe you can do that, too. If there are helpful examples available. I also was taught the concept of a "fuck off fund" though it was more a "get the hell out fund" and was usually lent with out expectation of payback to someone who really had to get the hell out.
posted by tilde at 10:06 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Expectation of NO payback ... Darn preview fail on my part ...
posted by tilde at 10:12 AM on August 22, 2016


math, it sounds like you guys are really doing things right in terms of teaching your daughter about money and equality, so I feel a bit nitpicky saying this, but I think it's relevant to the conversation, so I'm just going to say that, in general, this bugs me:

and then we talk about the benefits of a second salary versus the costs of childcare,

Why does it always seem to work out such that the wife's salary is seen as the "second" one, the one that has to trade off with childcare? I mean, I know why, because of the patriarchy, and because women are usually the lesser-earners, but it still bugs the hell out of me and shows me that we're still at a place societally where woman as caretaker and man as bread-winner is still seen as the ultimate default. And that attitude is part of what leads to what we've seen in this thread, where so many people don't see women's money as their own.
posted by lunasol at 10:15 AM on August 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


AskMe gets "Should i merge my finances?" questions pretty regularly from people about to move in together or get married. There's a surprising - to me, anyway - amount of negativity to the idea of keeping finances separate. The idea is that all money should be "our money," but as commenters above point out, it's not unusual for the reality to end up all money being the other person's money.

Next time I see such a question on AskMe, I think I'll point them to this thread.
posted by needled at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


"because of the patriarchy" I think there are reasons other than patriarchy that some women prefer to do caregiving of their children. I have talked to a lot of other women who experienced a very strong bond during and after pregnancy and childbirth and for some of us (NOT ALL mind you!) we are deeply changed and want to be able to continue a bond that was created in the womb long after the 6 weeks legally provided. We nurse, and hold, we connect, and this relationship can really change some people. It can take your head out of an "success oriented" business model of thinking and bring you into being part of different world where intuition and emotional connection matter a lot more than deadlines and winning big monies.

I really don't think it is empowering to women to assume the only reason people who birth children might want to spend more time on the caregiving than their husbands is patriarchy. I think we need to make sure that even for women who want to do more of the caregiving that we build in financial protections and provide financial assistance in the event she needs to leave an abuser or needs to become a single parent after focusing on caregiving rather than career success.

I hear you on the idea that this model should NOT be forced onto families because it doesn't work for all families at all. But I think there are reasons that it is assumed that maternal bonding matters for small children more than paternal bonding and I honestly think some of that is born out in research, removal from mothers is almost universally used as essentially torture for baby mammals. Absence of fathers has impacts but not nearly the same.
posted by xarnop at 11:24 AM on August 22, 2016 [8 favorites]


Hey, I'm really sorry if I gave the impression that I thought women only stayed home "because of the patriarchy" - that wasn't what I was trying to say.

What I do think is because of patriarchy is the idea that the wife's salary is, by default, the one that is seen as the trade-off for daycare costs. I've seen so many cases where women seem to feel that their salary needs to "justify" the costs of daycare, but I have rarely seen the same from men.
posted by lunasol at 11:35 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


AH!!! Sorry I misread. Totally agree.
posted by xarnop at 11:47 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Interestingly enough, I feel better now that my husband and I have a joint account for everything, not just bills. This is because I make a cool $10,000 less than he does per year (this is an improvement - last year he made $18,000 more than me. We are both college professors). We would each put 50% of the expenses into the joint account and keep the rest in our own accounts . . . and he ended up having more disposable income than me. If I wanted something expensive, I had to ask him for money. He always gave it and never acted weird about it, but the resentment I felt at being a grown woman having to ask her husband for money was straining our marriage. Plus, the stuff I bought - shampoo, body lotion for my extremely dry skin, haircuts, new clothes - always cost more than his stuff. Finally we merged accounts entirely and now we just use the joint account for everything. I feel more like I am spending my money, our money, and not having to ask.

Sadly, it's way easier to say, "Just marry a non-abusive man who is good with money!" than it is to do for the vast, vast majority of women.
posted by chainsofreedom at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


My parents grew up in the Great Depression, neither of them went hungry, but times were tight. So I grew up with a hatred of debt, and an understanding of frugality. That meant that when my now ex- was an utter asshole and left us, I was able to keep the house, keep working and support my son and myself. Tight times aplenty, but we got through it. And it meant that when my boss decided to screw me over, I had fuck you money to keep me solvent when I decided I'd had enough of sexist assholes and sued them (successfully). My advice to all women: have financial independence. Don't support a man who won't work and contribute. For way too many women, especially in these times when minimum wage is wildly insufficient, I know it's not possible, but do what you can. Financial freedom enables other freedoms.
posted by theora55 at 12:53 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sadly, it's way easier to say, "Just marry a non-abusive man who is good with money!"

That's exactly the problem. So much of what we do in our lives, in our relationships, in our jobs, in everything, is dependent on the shared set of expectations we all carry and on the goodwill of others. It's great when you marry a non-abusive partner who is good with money, and it's great when you work for a non-abusive boss who is a good mentor, and so on. But what about when you don't have that?

I think a lot about what y'all have written here, and in this case I think that our modelling for our children is a bit incomplete. My wife and I do pretty well in showing how a well-functioning partnership can work, but we need to do more in showing how to prepare for things not always working out (whether in relationships, or in careers, or in anything else). A huge part of that, of course, is teaching both our children to be financially independent, to be self reliant, to have the confidence and the skills to be able (if it comes to that) to tell the loser boss or the deadbeat lover to fuck off.

Our children may decide, for various reasons and in given circumstances, that it makes sense to be in a one-income household. My wife and I chose that path, but (and here's the kicker) it was after years of discussion and it was from a position of mutual strength (both of us having had established careers). We ended up going the gender-traditional way, but there was a point where it looked like it could have gone the other way, too.

lunasol, your point is a good one, and I especially appreciate your last lines, of "... we're still at a place societally where woman as caretaker and man as bread-winner is still seen as the ultimate default. And that attitude is part of what leads to what we've seen in this thread, where so many people don't see women's money as their own." And here I am, a child of second-wave feminists, reinforcing that societal default in my own marriage. But as xarnop says, sometimes we end up there for good reasons that are (somewhat) independent of the patriarchy.

tl;dr: financial independence is worth its weight in gold.
posted by math at 1:36 PM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


My husband has a cash stash. I've made more money than him for a long while now, and I handle the money, but he always holds a little back from the cash he takes out of the ATM. Sometimes having your own money is just a declaration of independence.

But then I grew up when every woman had her "pin money" even when she was married happily, so it makes sense to me.
posted by Peach at 2:08 PM on August 22, 2016


> It's a weird feeling for me, reading this article, and the comments in this thread. I found myself almost constantly reading things that resonate deeply with my own experiences, sometimes to the letter. "This!" the voice in my head says, multiple times per comment. And yet, the weird part is, as a man, I feel like a total outsider, and am compelled to not share my own experiences lest they be taken as... less than sincere, or trying to somehow diminish the experiences of women here. Which would suck for everyone.

Certainly there is a clear gendered thing where this is "relatively normal" (or at least deeply recognizable) for women and less so for men, because patriarchy. But that certainly doesn't diminish your circumstances as less valid. Thank you for sharing that you identify with this article.
posted by desuetude at 9:40 PM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


math, I grew up with a mom that worked and I always assumed I would. My husband's mom didn't. It didn't matter till we had a kid, and had to discuss when he went to daycare. As it came about the husband was the at-home parent, which he found really stressful, but he resisted daycare because his mom didn't use it and he felt guilty and worried. But my mom did, and I turned out fine so I wanted to use it. Because that's what you did when both parents worked.

And to me, it was normal, while to him, it was fraught. Because what your parents do does impress on you what "normal" is.

Had I had a mom who stayed home, I might have not been able to feel good doing anything else.

So I guess I would say, make sure your daughter sees other families doing it differently, and talk to her when she's older about it, explicitly. Tell her about the downsides and make it clear that both ways can work and she should do what seems best for her and her family, when the time comes. Because it's unspoken expectations that mess you up the most.
posted by emjaybee at 3:30 PM on August 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes - Chase bank at multiple retailers breaks out purchase amount and cash back on purchases with debit card and pin. On the website and statements not on the app view both Chase app and Mint app.
posted by tilde at 7:44 AM on August 26, 2016


Agreed, Chase Bank absolutely lists the cash back amount on your statement. I've called them and asked them specifically not to do so, however there is no mechanism to opt out (and, less-than-charmingly, the CSR was completely baffled that I would make this request).
posted by vignettist at 10:48 PM on August 26, 2016


I know this story all too well. My mom was fabulous with money. My dad was fabulous with overtime. We did nothing, went nowhere, they lived in a shitty neighborhood. Unfortunately, saving was the only thing they were good at. They were both extremely abusive and I wish my mom took 1/2 and left him. Instead it was 60 years of daily abuse until her last breath. Her last words as she was dying was "that bastard ruined my life." and he did. I talk about my dad a lot in joke and jest but that's because when I talk about my mom, I am overcome with profound sadness. She would constantly call a lawyer asking how much of his pension would be, what would she get, etc. (this was in the '80s) and back then, it wasn't good. Unfortunately I think my mom had some mental issues beyond my father but the abuse didn't help them. She didn't want to work, even if she left him. Knowing that she knew that money would run out. She wasn't interested in dating. And she was afraid of losing custody. So she stayed.

They died a year apart from each other. They died with 1/2 million. They could have done anything they wanted including divorce. But the most miserable, hateful people in the world, stayed together because of money. I can relate way too much to this story. My mom's wallet had many $5 bills.
posted by stormpooper at 11:23 AM on August 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


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