LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XV. PLATE TWO: BEING A BREADWINNER (PRODUCING SOCIO-ECONOMIC VIABILITY/CAREERS)
For both Frederick and Melony, the issues of money and career stem from dysfunctional families of origin. Like many other couples we interviewed who are very conflicted regarding money and career, Frederick and Melony were trying to undo their own upbringing, yet they both still were confronting the ghosts of their past. Frederick tries to escape from his past by spending money that he doesn’t have and achieving success that eludes him. Melony tries to find the security she never-knew as a child who was shipped from home to home to home. Yet, she doesn’t create the conditions that would make for a safe and supportive environment.
The glue that has kept this middle-class couple together for twenty four years appears to be their tenacious determination to survive their wounding pasts, their loyalty to one another for “the long haul,” and their shared commitment to raising children in a healthy and supportive environment. Furthermore, they still admire each other’s complimentary attitudes. Melony describes how Frederick helped her “come out of my shell” through his more optimistic and carefree attitude, while Melony has provided a stable home environment that keeps Frederick anchored. Frederick also uses humor as a way to deal with their differing views of life. He speaks of Melony’s desire for autonomy by noting that she is still “keeping her options open” after twenty four years of marriage. Ironically, in his humor and in his role as the “chatterbox” in their relationship, Frederick provides a warm and supportive environment in which Melony can feel a little less alone and a little more loved. These simple acts of kindness and care can make up for many struggles regarding both money and career.
Young couples in particular want to believe that money will never get in the way of their relationship. Often, they are disgusted with their own parents and their seeming preoccupation with the unromantic issues of income, financial security and budgeting. Yet, young couples often find that financial problems loom large in their development of a viable, long-term relationship. Karen and Ben offer an excellent and challenging example. Karen recalls that:
Ben went through a period with his business where he wasn’t making any money at all. He was working alone and he was really bored. . . . I was back in school getting a teaching credential so we weren’t looking forward to a lot more money. It wasn’t this high-powered degree where we were going to have the big bucks coming in. And we were strapped for money, and he was freaking out all the time . . .screaming and yelling and throwing things. It was to the point where I said: “Look, let’s give this another six months and you have to get this together or I don’t know how I can live with this.” I never had any intensions of our marriage ending, but it is the only time where it can be said that a change had to happen. .. … It’s interesting because all of the stress was money related. You don’t want to think that a relationship comes down to that but . . .