Monday, October 21, 2013

x and money -- let's talk about the second thing

There are two salacious relationship topics that I can’t get enough of: x and money.  (If you want to solve for x, here’s the following math problem: x + money = prostitution.)  Let’s talk about money, which oddly enough is the more taboo of the two topics.  We're all protective of our intimate relationships, and how we split (or don't) our money is frankly nobody's business.  So, remembering that everyone makes different choices in this regard, let's jump right in.

One of my first moments of 'wow, might want this to be a relationship that never ends' with Sebastien happened when we were flying back from winter break in Florida.  My flight, on the day before spring semester started, was routed to go through Atlanta to Pittsburgh.  The flight to Atlanta was on as scheduled, but everything from Atlanta was cancelled and expected to be for the next few days due to a storm. Basically, I was going to be stranded in Atlanta (where I knew nobody) for several days, while missing the FIRST DAYS OF CLASS.  It was terrible and stressful and the airline wasn't being helpful and wanted me to just fly to Atlanta and deal.  I was basically standing in lots of lines and crying.

Sebastien talked to a few airlines to see if anyone had direct flights to Pittsburgh, or flights from Atlanta that weren't scheduled.  He eventually found out the cost of buying a ticket for his flight to NJ, from where he would be driving to school and could take me with him, so I would only miss one day of class and avoid being stranded.  He offered to pay for my ticket, which I declined, so he took my card, bought the ticket for me, and made sure I made it to NJ and then to school safely.

Basically, it's amazing to have someone that takes care of you when/if you're not doing a good job of taking care of yourself.  One of my favorite things about being in a relationship is that there's someone else who's completely on your team.  And it's awesome to have someone else whose happiness and success in life is your priority and your happiness too.  But, for me, being taken care of financially is not part of the whole relationship deal.  Unequal relationships make me uncomfortable.  But this concept of 'equality' is also quite complicated for me, as I suspect it is for others.

Was it right of Sebastien to offer to pay for my ticket?  For sure (I think).  Would I take him up on it?  Never.  But, did I pay for most of our fancy dinners out when Sebastien lived with me while waiting for his job security clearance?  Yes.  Did Sebastien pay for lots of things when I lived with him between employment and grad school?  Oh yeah.  Do we occasionally treat the other? Yes, and we don't keep tabs on who pays for what, as long as it seems reasonably divided.

If I may reference game theory (& this urge to use game theory as a tool for describing my life has been happening way too frequently as of late), my happy relationship involves both people being willing to do almost anything monetarily or emotionally for the other person, with the equilibrium involving both individuals taking care of themselves and not needing to take the other up on any extravagant offers.  And maybe we wouldn't be able to take of ourselves as well without the love and support of our partner -- we know they'd go to great lengths for us and make sure they don't have to.

I've rarely had money conflicts in my relationship, though our discussion of what retirement will look like did get pretty heated at one point.  (Yeah, I made us have that conversation … multiple times.  I used to watch a lot of House Hunters - 'nuff said.)  What can get uncomfortable is when your value differences or interests clash -- he/she's willing or dying to pay lots of money for activity x or trip y, and you're all "frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn".  My philosophy is that I want to do everything that makes my fiance happy, but I don't change who I am.  I'd rather enjoy our mutual independence than suffer through an activity I find pointless.  (Like, ahem, video games.)  Do your thing, but if you want me there it'll require some effort or compromise.  Time apart?  I know we'll both enjoy it.  Time together - makes me happy too.  That arrangement works for us - I might pick up the tab to go to the symphony, he'll pay for the gas to visit family.  And when I want to shell out for a bottomless brunch, I go with my girlfriends.  And if Sebastien decides to travel to Asia?  Probably not with me.

What kind of financial arrangements work for you and your partner?  How did you get to your happy financial place?  Or if not, what's been hard to navigate?  Any tips or advice for others?


  1. Hey Dinka,
    I'm now motivated to finish my e-mail to you that I started in April :)

    However back to above: financial arrangements - I agree with "equilibrium involving both individuals taking care of themselves and not needing to take the other up on any extravagant offers." - as long as we (as in in my relationship) talk about limits for certain things and come to a mutual agreement about patterns of spending, it's OK because in the long run, even if the spending is skewed heavily even over a couple of months-years, it'll balance out eventually - be it in absolute numbers or in other ways (details in my e-mail - tell me what you think!).

    I also agree "equality" is a very complicated subject. I'd never do anything financially that'd make my boyfriend uncomfortable - buying an expensive car just because and being in debt....

    keep posting!

    1. Thanks for the comment (just saw it now) -- and I loved the email :)

  2. A financial arrangement is a very rigid term, when it is basically just the understanding of: who is the person I am with? It is obvious that how someone deals with is also how they deal with their own wants and needs. In your example Sebastian was looking for the best solution to the problem, he is an engineer after all, and the most efficient and logical solution was the right one for the person that he cared about as long as it falls into a reasonable expense.

    It is very easy to identify if you know a person based on their spending and the resulting outcomes. For example, if a person gets gifts for a bunch of people you may consider them very giving and willing to spend money on the ones that they love but it could be because of deep seeded wanting to be wanted or like by the people around them. The reason is just as important as the action in this case.

    Anyways back to the point, a financial happy place? I do not think there is one, how people spend their money could be very variable depending on how their personality changes and if you are with someone who stays exactly the same for a long period of time, they I guess you could assume their spending would be the same, but hopefully life brings more excitement!

    I’d say the best policy is to spend money on the other person and not expect them to "pay you back", if you with a person you should be with them because you trust their judgment, or just you trust them. If you want a one sided relationship so be it if you have a problem with that then talk it through, to each their own, I don't think there is a right way to approach this. As I said before spending money is just an extension of ones wants and desires, there is no wrong personality.

    Sara and I just pay for whatever, no real thought or regard, it’s just how we are and it is mirrored by our spending. Isn't much to extrapolate from that.

    Side note: Video games are far from pointless.

    Many games such as Real-Time Strategy games, DOTA, and history based strategy games offer large amount of benefits just to name a few. Personally I believe any game offers some value to the player.

    - From an entertainment standpoint, it offers so much more of an immersed experience.

    - From an education standpoint, it make it so interactive and fun that you forget that you are actually learning something, it make it so natural.

    - From a social standpoint there isn't any other kind of experience out there where you can just be put together with random people which have different personalities and you have to do a group activity for a common goal.

    - From a problem solving standpoint, getting a group of random people together and meeting an objective is very hard, lots of collaboration and communication skills needed.

    - From a skill standpoint, you must master the game and add benefits to your team and when you are unskilled it shows you in real-time and you can make adjustments and learn from your mistakes and if you master the game you now know what steps to take to master something else in life.

    - From a leadership standpoint, in a team everyone needs a leader, you can take the role and understand what is needed for the team and make it happen you get to learn in real-time what to do in hard times and easy times and how critical decisions can cause failure.

    There are so many more…

    Basically I can only respond to that comment as saying, it is very ignorant.

    Gaming is the way of the future and it is here to stay, from entertainment to military it is widely used and growing each year. The military uses 'games' to train their solders and pilots which save their lives from accidents. South Korea’s official sport is a video game, e-sports grow each year and it will one day, probably near the end of our lifetime, be just as popular as any sports you see on the tele today.

    If you don't like it that’s another story, and it totally chill to have a negative view of video games but you should understand it enough to see the merit and sophistication of it.

    1. Hmm, I like your take on spending money on your partner and not keeping score -- I think what I've found is the best things you can give are not monetary (time, attention, love, assurance) but I definitely think the right attitude is where you focus on how happy you are to give, rather than keeping score and pursuing some twisted version of 'equality'.

      As far as video games are concerned, you make some great points. I hope you can see that what I'm saying is that I think video games are (to me) a waste of time, not that I think people who play them are stupid. And for me, reading books is the equivalent of Sebastien's video games (ie, something entertaining to do to de-stress, alone time) so I view the benefits of video games relative to reading as net negative, because that's what I'd be doing instead, and I think reading is a better use of my time than playing video games. Obviously that's not true for others -- which is why I made it a personal statement. I think it's fair to say that I dislike video games -- but I'm not trying to keep anyone from playing the, either -- they don't take up enough space in my head to merit more extreme feelings. So I hope what I said didn't offend you, in addition to sounding very ignorant ;)

  3. Just because I responded to something and said you were ignorant doesn't mean I am offended, not everyone can agree with every statement on this blog =P. You still do not explain why you find video games a waste of time. You have zero defense for your statement and no rebuttal as to why you dislike them. I am not asking for an extreme feeling I am asking for an explanation and just because you don’t like them is a very poor one. I read and I play videogames extensively, so I can have an educated opinion on both of them. I can tell you there are plenty of benefits video games offer over reading and visa versa.
    Let me maybe use terms you can understand, you know how you should diversify your investments? You should also diversify how you receive inputs of information. Reading is one way, watching television is another, and videos games are also another option. Not giving videogames a chance is only hurting your knowledge investments. I’d still love to hear your reasoning if you are willing to explain ;).