LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XV. PLATE TWO: BEING A BREADWINNER (PRODUCING SOCIO-ECONOMIC VIABILITY/CAREERS)
Karen and Ben clearly experienced a major conflict at this point in their relationship that centered in their financial life together. This conflict called for either a significant transition in their life (a remarriage) or the termination of their relationship. Ben began to focus with new energy on his business and soon became quite successful. Both Ben and Karen decided to postpone having any children until his business stabilized. Ben seems both sheepishly proud and a bit uncomfortable in the role of successful business man. This certainly was at variance with his personal image as a “party man” and with the anti-business perspectives of their young friends. Ben tries to keep a distance from his business commitments by describing this work as a “Monopoly game,” and both want to believe that relationships don,, t come down to finances. However, there is a reality to marriage!
Sarah and Dan similarly speak of money as the source of many strains in their relationship. When there is a monetary crisis in their household, Sarah responds with emotional outbursts against Dan. Like many young adults (or older adults for that matter), Sarah equates having money with overall family stability and a sense of well-being. Dan has an excellent work ethic and applies himself unstintingly to the generation of money for the family. When money is in short supply, he tends to avoid getting emotional about the issue, in part because Sarah’s father always displayed very upsetting emotional outbursts. Dan didn’t want to be “like her father.” This was particularly important, given that he is thirteen years older than Sarah. Instead, Dan worked that much harder to create new sources of income.
Like many traditional couples, Sarah (as the female) worries a great deal about money, yet does not feel it appropriate to work outside the home. Hence, she feels powerless in confronting the issue of inadequate funds. She can’t blame Dan, since he works so hard; yet, she is frightened about their financial future. By contrast, Dan resents her emotional outbursts and feels that she isn’t doing anything useful to overcome their financial problems. Unfortunately, Dan, like Sarah, doesn’t want her working outside the home; hence, he can’t identify any particular role she might play in overcoming their financial problems. Fortunately, Sarah and Dan’s financial arguments usually last only one or two days. Gradually, they begin to talk about their fears and about what needs to be done. They come to realize their differences in background and each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and use this realization to reestablish their strong, trusting relationship.