LOVE LINGERS HERE: INTIMATE ENDURING RELATIONSHIPS XV. PLATE TWO: BEING A BREADWINNER (PRODUCING SOCIO-ECONOMIC VIABILITY/CAREERS)
Love and money seem in one guise or another to be central issues in the relationship between Helene and Frederick. They are deeply immersed at the present time in several difficult issues concerning breadwinning and its relationship to decisions about the spending of money that Frederick has earned. For Helene and Frederick, as for most couples, there’s more to money than just how much is needed, where it comes from, or how it’s earned. There’s the central issue of how it’s spent, what it’s spent on and who spends it. There is an issue of control here as well as one of values. How does the couple prioritize expenditures? Do Helene and Frederick purchase a refrigerator together with one large lump sum of money or do they pay for it over time? What about when they want to buy knick knacks and other inexpensive item? Do they have to check with each other?
The discussions between Frederick and Helene about money and, in particular, Helene’s spending of small amounts of money here and there, can ultimately be defined as discussions about identity and control. One gets the sense that Helene is asserting her identity and individuality by her purchases. She seems to be saying through her actions that “I’ve lived poor and don’t want to live like this anymore.” Frederick seems to be saying “I have also lived poor, but we have made decisions in our life [having a child, Helene giving up work] that precludes any frivolous expenditure of money.” It also seems that the issue of love and control relates indirectly to the affections of their daughter. If Helene is making all of the sacrifices in their relationship, in part for the sake of their daughter, then where is her reward, given that their daughter is primarily devoted to Frederick? Maybe Helene’s rewards will come through small purchases or a new career.
Can their child bestow identity with her love? Is it unfair that Frederick seems to be gaining gratification and rewards from both his career and parenting role, while Helene gets only the grudging recognition of making a sacrifice in her life? Will their daughter become the new turf on which Helene and Frederick’s battles will be found and territory won or lost? Clearly, the issues of economics and career are often interrelated with other critical matters in the life of contemporary couples. As we have shown in a variety of different instances, the various developmental plates we have identified are difficult to negotiate in part because they are so often interrelated with one or more of the other plates. Relational earthquakes and remarriages are most likely to occur precisely at the point where these plates interrelate or collide.