“We need groceries,” my fiancé tells me. “I know, I’ll order ‘em,” I respond quickly. Days later our fridge is still empty.
Dan is rightfully upset. Aside from being hungry, ordering groceries is part of my financial responsibility. He takes care of most of the rent, the car payment — pretty much the bulk of our household expenses. And I’m stalling. I’m hoping my freelance check arrives so I can contribute financially again. It’s late. Sixty days late to be exact. But I refuse to tell my partner, the man whom I should share everything and anything with, that I’m strapped for cash and he has to pay another bill.
I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want Dan to grow resentful. He hates how unsteady my freelance writing career is. He wishes I made more money. He fears my work won’t ever be stable enough to make me a consistent, financially contributing partner. I fear the same because I have always had an unhealthy relationship with money. I have always felt uncomfortable with financial matters and have spent half my life running away from saving, planning, or seriously considering my financial future.
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I used to blame my lack of cash and nonexistent retirement fund on my creative spirit. I’d often say I didn’t need money to be happy, that as long as I was fulfilled professionally I could live off chump change. “Call me a struggling artist!” I’d shout whenever my sister, Adayna, questioned my financial indecision. In reality, I was broke because I had a lack of self-worth. I didn’t think I deserved a six-figure salary. I didn’t believe I had that much value as a professional.
So you see why I find it difficult to discuss money matters with my fiancé. It goes beyond a late freelance check and an empty fridge. We’ve been engaged for almost a year now and haven’t set a wedding date…because I’m afraid of the costs. Dan will not pay for the wedding all on his own, and I don’t expect nor want him to. But how can I split such a huge expense when I just started saving? Will I be able to pay my share to have a Caribbean beach wedding within the next year or two? Or will I have to forgo my bride-to-be dreams and get married at City Hall?
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Our future home also isn’t within reach…because I’m terrified I won’t be able to afford a mortgage. It’s a strain to buy a home and pay a mortgage and taxes with only one income. Will we ever move out of our one-bedroom basement apartment? Will our baby boy ever have his own backyard and bedroom? Or do I have to forgo my creative career pursuits and get a regular 9-5 so I can secure a better life for my family? All valid questions for a working woman and mother. You know what’s also valid? That I love what I do. That my career as a freelance writer gives me the flexibility to work anywhere at anytime. That I can work from home and don’t have to pay $15K for daycare. I also have to admit, I am fulfilled professionally. This often trumps the financial struggles and lack of security.
So what I need is balance. As I hold my baby boy with one arm and type with the other, I vow not to abandon my dreams for convention sake, if only to teach him he can do what he loves. I’ve decided to look for a full-time job at a multimedia digital company that embraces creativity and creates editorial and video content, a temporary move that will allow me to be creative, while giving me some security. I also realize that I need to value myself so much more. Once I do, I won’t accept just any financial offer from my future job. I will negotiate and advocate for myself. Ultimately, bettering myself will lead to an improved relationship with money and, in turn, a healthier relationship with Dan. I won’t avoid financial discussions. I won’t fear disclosing my income. I will be able to plan for our future as an equal partner and will even have enough money to stock the fridge.