taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Friday, May 23, 2003

Our household economy is run something like Enron--my husband and I have many off-the-book deals that allow us to live in financial marital harmony. For instance, he has this whole eBay business--the spare bedroom is filled with boxes and little styrofoam popcorns. From the proceeds he buys all the things I won't let him buy with "our" money (speakers, weird electronic gear). And I have my own little sub rosa economy. It works like this--I get reimbursed for mileage I put on my car, but I don't put the reimbursement in the joint account--I buy shoes with it.

It's so hard when your money becomes part of a collective--you've got to come up with a workaraound, some way to justify the days you spend toiling at your job, some reward. He knows I need shoes and little baskets from Target, and I know he needs speakers and CD racks, but neither of us really wants to acknowledge those desires with cold hard cash.

Some couples, early in their marriage, decide to keep everything separate from the beginning, but we went quite the other way--we had nothing, absolutely nothing when we got married, so separating money was a non-issue. Why separate two dollars? Nowadays it's different, but what... we should split the gas bill, the mortgage, half and half? It just doesn't make sense. But with a joint account, and two people working, how can you allow for selfish purchases?

The household-Enron model works well in these situations. The right hand doesn't always need to know what the left hand is doing, so long as everyone's happy and well-fed.

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