MARRIAGE MONEY CONFLICTS, REAL TALK, AND THE JOURNEY FORWARD

Kate’s right.

This is what I'm thinking as I flip the Element’s turn signal switch up, turning left onto the dirt road entrance to Bartram Forest—the dog’s 2000-acre off-leash playground.

Kate and I just ended a phone conversation. A minute or two before hang-up, she said she bought EllieRoo a vest from Target. She said it’s soooo cute. It matches the vintage bright puffer vest Kate received a few days earlier for her birthday. Undoubtedly anticipating skepticism or disapproval, she said: How often can a mother match her daughter?

Oh brother, I think, shaking my head in the car. Outside the window, the blur of bare January trees becomes the blur of clothes gifted to EllieRoo in the last few months. Hundreds of particles of come-from-China clothing. Cute sure. But the quantity of these soon-to-be-outgrown outfits is symptomatic of a consumer spending epidemic. And it’s totally buyer centric. Like Ellie doesn’t give a damn what she’s wearing. We could dress her in the same thing every day. Hell as long as she’s warm, she’d probably get equal enjoyment out of nudity. This is the inner brain blur I witness.

And I’m an authentic cheapass.

When Kate tells me about the $6 matching vest she got from Target and then adds in the fact that I shouldn’t worry because she bought it with Target gift card money left over from the baby shower, the visions of erupting landfills and leaky bank accounts don’t subside. I answer flatly, “Oh that’s good.” But it’s all tone, and couples can read tone like blind to braille. I mumble how I accept that she’s into fashion and I respect her for who she is but I just feel differently and therefore it’s hard for me to get excited about grossly excessive clothing consumption, especially given the implications on our fragile financial situation—not to mention the shit-wage workers in 3rd world countries. I end with a sentence of two on minimalism and my lifestyle preferences and more mumble-talking like Eor.

Then Kate objects. You’re not a minimalist! You’re a minimalist when it comes to ME and MY spending. But when you want something, it’s totally fine.

Which is true.

And as she says it, I acknowledge it in my head. And then I laugh and say: you’re right. I want you to be a minimalist, but the few things I want are totally fine. But of course this isn’t funny, because between two people, humor is when both parties laugh. I think I inherited this single-man-laughing-syndrome from my dad.

I think my hypocrisy is really, really interesting. Like, Kate’s spot on. When I want to spend money, I instantly self-justify. I make a cost-benefit analysis that works out in my favor: yes, I can buy what I want. But I overwhelmingly tend to see Kate’s purchases as frivolous and irresponsible. Why is this?

I am hypocritical. Even as I delivered the anti-$6-baby-vest-from-Target rant, a black, $30, vintage Firebird hoodie was on my eBay Watch List. Screaming hypocrisy.

So why the hypocrisy? I’m sure this is the question Kate would like an answer to— so I can lay off, chill out, cool down. But I’m also genuinely curious and perplexed. I pride myself on being a very rational and cerebrally collected individual. And I think this is (part of) the problem. Pride cometh before a fall, you know. The pride becomes a blind spot. Like, if I had a little more skepticism of my inner mind’s logic, I may see the errors. And this may slow or even halt my Haterade.

Yesterday someone going through a divorce told me that the problem is what happens in a marriage stays in a marriage—until you get divorced.

Why? I think it’s 107% reputational cost. Culturally, marriage is the beginning of quote “love”—which I’ll point out is a very psychologically unhelpful term because ut it’s so vague, soo vague that we employ the term, but since we don’t know what it means, we can never map our actions/feelings onto it’s definition, and thus we always feel like we’re falling short. Equally unhelpful is the cultural conception that marriage is at-every-moment satisfying and eternally celestial. People may roll their eyes at this. And say nobody thinks that. And that may be. But there’s certainly an overflowing-gyro-sandwich worth of a stigma and a ton of taboo when it comes to talking about marital PROCESS and conflict and messy communication and learning and challenge and disagreement and working through.

You know what I mean?

In the comment section, tag your lover, partner, sister, mother. Whoever you love. Go ahead. Did you know your brain can’t distinguish between thoughts, tags, speech? To the upstairs computer (and therefore to the endorphins system) it’s all just activity on the neural love highway. You tag your lover, blaze those synapse torches and I’ll work on being less of a cheap hypocritical jackass.

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