Category Archives: Married Life

Marriage Is the Worst Financial Decision of My Life – And I Don’t Regret It

The marriage tax penalty is real and it is painful if you live and work in a region of the country that tops the “highest cost of living” lists. While you can make the argument that this is a “choice” and that incomes tend to be higher in that region versus the rest of the country (if you work in a high-paying field), it still doesn’t balance out. I’m glad that I knew going into marriage it was the worst financial decision of my life (my husband says the wedding was, but actually the cost of the wedding was pennies versus what I’ll personally lose over my lifetime, financially speaking.)

There are numerous benefits to marriage, and above all else I’m a sap who believes in love and cares more about stability and security than wealth. I’m happy to be married. Happier than I thought I’d be (at least a month in) as it shockingly feels very different from being single. I didn’t expect it to feel different at all, especially after dating over a decade and co-habiting for the last two years. The only difference, I thought, would be that I can’t just walk out the door without repercussions, and neither could he.

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Keeping Married Finances Separate – Is it Possible?

We’re married, now what?

Against the wiser half of my brain, Mr. HECC and I did not go through a formal financial planner before we got married. We didn’t get a prenup (he’s opposed to them and even though I think it would protect me I find them terribly unromantic and I wasn’t going into a marriage with any easy out of divorce, since I think the point of marriage is that you shouldn’t get divorced.) I hope I won’t link back to this article later filled with regret, but I’m feeling good about that decision at the moment.

When it comes to finances, many married couples merge their finances by default. In the case of a divorce (at least in California) the money gets split anyway, so why keep it separate while married?

We’re both very fortunate that we bring no debt to the table. While he has been less proactive in his career and has saved significantly less than I have, we both are financially stable compared to most newlyweds. I believe together we have about $450k in savings – not bad for “just starting out.” However, I’m still unsure on how to handle finances going forward. Right now we’re both working and fairly independent so it’s easy – we split major household costs — food and rent — and then everything else we pay for out of our own budgets and earnings/savings. What I don’t want to happen for either of us is that we don’t strive to earn more income because the other is making up for it. Neither of us LOVE working so it would be unfair to the other person. If I end up taking a job that makes less money, I should just focus on spending less on myself. If we cannot afford to live in this area, then we need to move.

In this WSJ article from 2014 financial planners/writers argue for and against merging accounts as a married couple. One says keeping accounts separate is the secret to a peaceful, happy marriage – and the other says merging accounts builds trust. The commenters tend to think having separate accounts is bad, one of them writing “it’s nothing more than an exit strategy.” I disagree.

I don’t think we have to merge accounts to talk about finances and plan together as a team. I also feel very passionate about having my own money. If my husband were to get sick and need help, or even if he were to want to go to school and not be able to afford it, I’d put the money down then he’d “pay me back” over the years. I’ve borrowed money from him as well because he keeps his savings more liquid and mine is tied up in investments. In the end during retirement we’ll split what we have.

He knows I’m much better about financial planning than he is, sans my shopping addictions, so he generally trusts me to manage our money within reason. I like him keeping his own separate because then he never feels a lack of independence or ability to buy his own shit (i.e. he can back as many Kickstarters as he likes even if I think it’s a waste of money, and I can go splurge at Nordstrom Rack even though that’s probably a bad idea too.)

When we have kids I think things will change. Kids are expensive and to be fair to them we’re going to have to marge a chunk of our finances to cover their lives which will be a lot of our income. If we buy a house, things might change as most of our savings will go into that together. But I really don’t see what’s so wrong with keeping our accounts separate. Yes, it makes it easier to split our finances should we ever get divorced (not that I’m planning on it) – but it also is good for us to know who is really pulling the financial weight in the marriage and who has to contribute more to the household if their earnings aren’t as high. Luckily Mr. HECC is awesome with kids and will be a great part-time stay-at-home dad should we decide that makes sense one day.

In any case, a part of me thinks it would be nice to have totally merged finances, but I don’t see the point. Half the internet has me thinking I’m a horrible person here, but wiser financial savvy people (esp women) don’t want to merge their bank accounts.

We are probably going to keep doing what we’ve been doing… separate accounts but he pays the rent check and I pay him back (eventually) for what I owe — I pay for all food on our 2% cash back card and then I deduct half of that from what I owe him. I’m thinking now that we’re married we might want to merge our travel and healthcare costs – but even that seems unnecessary at this point. Ie for healthcare he currently pays $400 a month as he doesn’t get it through his work. My work will cover him at 50% with better insurance, so if he goes on my health plan (which he might) I think he should pay the full amount he is responsible for, and I’ll pay my piece which is less because my work covers more of my amount. It is his choice to not get a job with health insurance therefore I don’t think I should have to subsidize that. I believe people need a little kick in the ass (husband’s included) to improve their careers and nothing sabotages that more than just paying for their inability to seek better employment.

Now, if we have a kid, and one of us decides to stay at home to take care of them, or if someone goes to school for their master’s, that’s different – but I don’t consider opting to not look for a better job a reason for me to pay more for him, and he agrees.

It might not be romantic, but marriage is a business as much as it is about love. To us it’s more about love and less about business. I hope I can inspire him to save more towards retirement over the years, and also to either take on a job that pays more or become a teacher which will pay about the same but provide more flexibility for taking care of children and also likely more happiness in his life. I just don’t think merging finances is really something we need to do. I know he doesn’t want to do it.

According to a 2010 report, keeping money separate is a leading factor in couples breaking up. But it’s hard to really claim that to be true because it would consider couples keeping money separate and not sharing any information about how they spend the money with each other and couples that just keep separate accounts but who are transparent about their spending.

The argument that sharing forces you to commit is a silly one. We wouldn’t have gotten married if we weren’t ready to commit. Yes it’s harder to disentangle yourself if your merge your finances, but I find that an immature reason to merge your money.

Another argument is that separate money undermines the financial stability of marriage. I guess that could be true, but as long as you remain responsible for your own money and having enough to cover your own emergencies, why create shared accounts? I still want my own financial security, and my focus is on helping Mr. HECC achieve his. He wants to, and I think he can – he’s much more frugal than I am, so it is easier for him.

Instead of feeling like you have to lie if you want to splurge a bit, keeping money separate allows you to know what you have and keep living like an independent adult. I’m glad we agree on keeping finances separate, and I hope we continue to be able to do this successfully and still be happily married.

 

Wedded Bliss and Chaos and Thank God It’s Done

I’m back. From my wedding, that is. My ridiculously expensive, I now wish I could go back and revise my budget (and stick to my original budget) wedding where in the grand scheme of things I’m over the moon to be married despite it not really changing much of anything in my 10-year relationship. After a very short mini-moon we just returned home and things are back to normal, except I have a ring on my finger and he has one on his desk because it’s too tight and he needs to get it stretched. And, in the eyes of the government, we’re legit family now. If I die he gets my savings. I guess I should watch my back. 😉

So I have a lot to say about the wedding, but I’ve spent my last week spinning in circles on what went right and mostly what went wrong, and I’m not sure how much I can get out right now without going off a deep end. The wedding itself was lovely. People had fun – some told me it was the best wedding they’ve been to with such passion I actually believe them. The food was great (so I’m told, I didn’t get to eat much of it – damn missing cocktail hour for family pictures) and my band rocked (despite more than half of the guests spending most of the wedding outside on the beautiful balcony overlooking the lake and missing the entertainment.) I’m trying to look on the bright side of things because a lot went right at the wedding. The ceremony was magical and just perfect – his uncle officiated and we spent a lot of time revising the script so it really reflected us and wasn’t a standard boring wedding. It was super hot and I’m shocked none of the black-tux wearing groomsmen passed out, but other than that the ceremony was a success. Ok,  than the fact that my florist sucked and put the cheapest wrinkliest possible fabric on the previously beautiful birch-wood arch causing it look crappy and the violin-cello duet chose to play “Yesterday” right before my groom walked down the aisle (which, is a beautiful song, but “yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away now it it looks as though they’re here to stay” is not what you want to hear the second before you are to meet your wife at the alter, even if no actual lyrics were involved in the playing of the song at that point.) I’ll give the ceremony a 9/10. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure came close.

I’m such a perfectionist, of course, I’d never be fully satisfied with my own wedding – especially after spending – between my parents and myself – upwards of $70k or even more on one day. I haven’t added everything up yet, but I’m pretty sure we are at least at $70,000 total for a Sunday night wedding in June. I really wanted to stay under $40k and the original budget was $50k so… I failed. After the wedding, I worried I’d feel a huge letdown and be so ashamed to have spent that much money on one day and, while I do think it’s ridiculous, I felt that one day was so full of richness that it was more than just 24 hours. Or, as I tell my now-husband, I want to talk about the wedding every day for the next year at least and ensure it provides some entertainment to our lives so we can amortize the cost of it over the next 365 days. 🙂 But, really, while I know I’m very fortunate to be able to spend that much on a wedding – and equally aware that weddings that cost $5k or less can be just as memorable and wonderful – for me, and for my guests, it was the right wedding to throw. Looking back, I could have saved at least $10k by not splurging in places that didn’t matter (*cough*flowers*cough*) but mostly I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Except my florist and my dress.

My florist was an unfortunate mistake. She meant well -and the flowers weren’t awful by any means – but spending $4500 on flowers was something I was against from the beginning and by two months before my wedding I had gone off the deep end and gave into the wedding industry. My father was paying for the flowers and my parents kept telling me they wanted wedding flowers, nothing tacky (which means nothing cheap looking) and so – after my initial $2k florist flaked on getting me a contract – I was stuck with no florist and went with the best of what was still available, or so I thought. She was a lovely, passionate woman who tried really hard but in the end there’s a certain thing called talent and also something called skill and I think she lacked in both departments – maybe skill more-so than talent, but for $4500 I expect … more than what we got. Well, we got a lot of flowers, for sure, and they were fine – just not flow-y and green like I wanted. She didn’t get the style. The only thing that really bothered me, though, was the arch in the ceremony (now mentioned twice in this post.) The flower arrangements were huge — she says she needed to make them that big to cover the foam but my florist friend assures me that isn’t true. Then she added this horrid, horrible, no-good, going to ruin all my ceremony pictures and make me cringe fabric to drape on the beautiful birch wood arch. When I showed up to the venue and saw it, I freaked, and send the women there and my florist friend (who happened to be my bridesmaid) into a flurry trying to figure out what to do. I was not in the right brain mode to make decisions at that moment so when they asked me if they should cut it down, after one side was already cut down, I said no – and then they wrapped it to the pole making it too short and look even worse. What I realized later is that the drape of fabric at the top not only looked cheap as all hell but also casted horrible shadows on our faces – especially my groom’s face. I went back to the picture I showed her of the draping (as I did ask for this) and it featured a very, very skinny transparent and not-cheap looking fabric (i.e. no wrinkles, folds or pulls) and it barely covered the wood. Her version was just tacky. Later she told me I should have called her to come back but I wasn’t thinking straight at the time. She knows it looked worse once they cut it down and tied it but I was trying to fix things and going absolutely crazy. My $4500 flowers turned my almost-perfect ceremony aesthetically into quite a disappointing picture. — Then, my sweetheart table actually never had flowers on it — she had told someone at the venue to move the special arrangement she made for it to the table after the cocktail hour but whoever she told didn’t remember so we had no flowers on the main table that was being photographed all night. That was less of an issue but just something that I look back on now and realize damn, I should have hired a wedding coordinator for the day of the wedding. I really needed a wedding coordinator.

Ok, so the one thing I didn’t spend on – that I wish, I wish, I WISH I did was a wedding planner. Wedding planners come in all shapes and sizes and costs and not all would have been helpful. A planner for a full wedding (i.e. someone to do what I did in sourcing vendors and venue et al) would cost $5k or more. But month-of planners are around $1.5k-$2.5k. Most are $2k. They help you the month of the wedding make sure you’re not forgetting anything and most importantly manage the crazy that happens the day of the wedding to ensure nothing goes wrong. I desperately needed a month-of planner and almost splurged at the end for one, but at that point I was thinking I already had everything planned and my venue was known for its awesome on-site ceremony coordinators, so why should I spent another entire laptop computer to get someone to help manage the day. Ugh. Wrong decision.

If I had a day-of coordinator…

  1. I wouldn’t have been late in the morning so we would have had an hour more for pictures, and I would have gotten the bridal portraits that I wanted from my $7500 photographer that now I’m worried will have captured no decent pictures because they were all super rushed.
  2. My dress wouldn’t have been all disheveled in all the pictures and my necklace would have been straight because I’d have someone with me at all times to help me fix my outfit and look my best – which, when you’re spending $7500 on pictures, you want to have someone there to help you out. My photographer did not do that really. (*probably picked the wrong photographer and spent too much on that too – we’ll see.)
  3. My mother who freaked out the whole day, showed up super late to the venue, ended up screaming at my flower boy and causing his entire family to storm out of the wedding, would have maybe been a little more managed and manageable with the help of someone else – not sure this would have helped, but I really needed a partner in helping manage my mother who, at numerous points throughout the day, threw a temper tantrum and made a few people really upset/cry (including myself.)
  4. The venue wouldn’t have lost our important ceremony glass (that we poured in the ceremony and were to send off to an artist to make into a sculpture.) I have no idea how they lost this, but somehow it got misplaced. They still haven’t owned up to losing it yet, but where else did it go? It was in a vase that was also ours and that is gone, along with six glasses that had held the glass before we poured it. All gone. And they threw out extra copies of our ceremony programs that are worth $3.50 each (I splurged on those but they were amazing and I figured I’d have extra to frame/keep/send to the bridal party etc but nope, they threw them all out and claim they were all used/taken which is a lie.) If I had a coordinator they would have made a list of all the items to collect back at the end of the night and made sure things weren’t lost. I COULD have done that or assigned someone else to this job, but I forgot as I was focused so much on the wedding itself I didn’t think about after it. The venue did let us keep things there overnight and packed up all our stuff for us, which is nice, but then they lost these important items… I’m still really bummed about it. The sculpture place can get new glass and remake it but it kind of defeats the sentimental purpose of the glass pouring ceremony. The venue doesn’t seem to give a shit about it. I am going to write them a review today and see if it inspires any more compassion.
  5. I failed at feeding my bridal party properly the morning of the wedding, which was a mess. My friend helped source wraps for us but there weren’t enough and a lot of the bridal party didn’t notice they existed. I didn’t realize that most of the bridesmaids hadn’t eaten the free breakfast at the hotel or the wraps (that weren’t that great but nonetheless they were there) which left me frantically trying to find local delivery services in the limo. Well, taking a step back I made the decision to get ready at the hotel because the venue charged $600 to get ready there plus $50 a person for every person over 7,  which was just silly in my mind since we also couldn’t start until 11 then and my makeup artist had to leave at 2:30. The logistics of the day were wonk and as we were an hour behind schedule everything ended up worse. The girls did finally order Panera Bread at the venue and someone went to pick it up for them, so that worked out ok, but it was probably 2pm or later before they ate – which was horrible. The did have a cheese plate at the venue at 1 so people noshed on that but it wasn’t enough. One of my biggest pet peeves as a bridesmaid is not having decent food options in the morning  (because it’s a super long day) and I managed to fail at planning this appropriately. If I had a coordinator they would have made sure this was done without me even thinking about it.
  6. A coordinator would have helped with other little things throughout the night… so many little things that I could have asked them to fix and it would have been done, or, if they were really good, they would have thought about this in advance and I wouldn’t have noticed them in the first place.

Now, granted, there are so many different coordinators out there, and not all of them are both talented at wrangling neurotic Jewish mothers while aesthetically altering venue decorations and making the call to remove cheapo fabric from the arch or recommending in advance not to put it on there in the first place and being able to run around and make sure my damn overpriced Swarovski necklace wasn’t off center in all the pictures — I didn’t believe I could find someone who was capable of all these things, so I decided not to hire anyone. I should have spend much less on the flowers at put the saving into a coordinator. That was my biggest mistake.

The dress itself was a headache from the get go and I spent too much on it and I think I looked horrible. My groom loved it and thought I looked great, and others said the same, but I can barely look at pictures of myself in this dress… it’s that bad. Now, I don’t have the world’s greatest body image but I frequently like myself in nice dresses. Not so in this dress. First off – it was strapless, which was one of the things I didn’t want in a wedding dress because only girls with rail-thin anorexic bodies look ok in strapless dresses… and I’m not one of those girls. Strapless dresses also have to fit just right to not fall down but then also not make you budge in all the wrong places. The tailor at my dress shop didn’t seem to understand this and she first made it too loose and then tightened it to the point where all you can see is my back fat. The dress itself is worthy of its own post at some point because the dress shop was a nightmare to deal with and I spent $7000 on my wedding dress which is crazy and I expected that after spending so much I’d have a good experience in alterations and finally be happy on my wedding day but not so much. I do have expensive taste (surprise) and really it’s a fucking scam the wedding dress industry as $2000 dresses are pieces of shit and to get a dress that is made nicely with good fabric you have to pay $5k plus OR find a used dress/sample. I wanted to get a used dress but then I worried that it would cause unnecessary issues so I splurged and spent $7k and – had the dress been perfect or close to it, I’d say, yea, it was worth it – but… I just look silly in it. And my chest/back/arms aren’t flattered by the shape, nor is the rest of my body. I lost 30 pounds for my wedding and I look at the pics (*not the professional pics yet – hopefully those will be better) and just see fat arms and a fat back and fat chest. Yes, they’d be there in another dress – but had it fit better / had I ordered a dress with straps and a more flattering neckline / had the tailor figured out how to fit it to me properly – maybe it would have looked less awful. I’m bummed about the dress. I hope there are a handful of pictures from the professional photographer where the angles make me look better. I worry I booked the wrong photographer because he didn’t seem to be working angles so much and I should have just booked one of the female photographers who understand how to pose women to make them look good. This photographer I hired is very talented but he typically works with thin NY brides who would look good from any angle. I’m worried I won’t have one picture that I feel good about. The pictures come back in about two weeks now… I’m a little scared at this point, because that’s the only thing we keep with us from the wedding other than our memories (and the video, which we get in six months, and that will undoubtedly feature the starring character of my fat rolls and double chin) — but it is what it is. I don’t HAVE to look at our wedding pictures or video ever. I’m just bummed because I wanted to look beautiful on our wedding day and I hate how I looked. My hair was weird and falling down and my veil was put in the wrong place and slightly off center and it all went so fast I didn’t have time to stop and adjust myself or stand better or anything.

I almost want to have another wedding to fix all these things – except, thank fucking g-d I’m never getting married again. That’s the one good thing to come of all this… it’s done, and we’re quite committed to never getting divorced, and I don’t have to ever do this again (except when my hypothetical future children get married and I hope I can use this knowledge to help ensure they actually can enjoy their weddings.)

Anyway, I’m married. I was surprised how different it felt… it really does feel like things have changed. I don’t know. They have and they haven’t. We still live together in the same apartment. We still say the same things to each other. I still have to go to work in the morning and he still works from home and wakes up late and stays up all night. So what really has changed? We’re keeping our finances separate for now (at least on paper) so nothing is majorly different. But it feels like I’m, well, married. I guess the biggest change is that we want to have kids and we always had said we’d wait until we were married and now there’s nothing really between us and the having kids phase of our lives other than actually getting pregnant (which will be challenging with my PCOS and maybe impossible – but nonetheless there’s nothing stopping us from trying now.) So maybe that is what feels different… because I’m old-ish (I’ll be 33 in November – fuck.) And, you know, baby-making years are limited. And although I am so immature I also feel ready to have a kid. And, moreso, I want two or three kids (at least two) and while I have time to have the first one, it’s going to get tough when I want to spread out having a second a little bit. I see my friend with her crazy three year old who is now pregnant with her second and I think god how hard it is to have two so close together – and that’s not even that close together, that’s really four years apart. If I manage to get pregnant when I’m 33 then I’ll have my first at 34… which means trying for my second pretty soon thereafter. I probably won’t end up having three – which is fine – I’d be happy with two (or one for that matter, but I really want two) — and… I still don’t know logically how this all works (can’t afford house here / job situation not going well / I can’t imagine working this type of job and being a mother / I think we have to leave this area to a place that’s more affordable / we’ll figure it out when we have kids I guess?) — but, anyway, what really changed is now there’s nothing between not being pregnant and being pregnant (other than getting pregnant) now that we’re married. We could have achieved that for a lot less than $70,000… and it would have come with a lot less stress and headaches and regrets… but then again, there were so many magical, unforgettable, priceless moments at my wedding that I think, in the end, it was worth it.

Life is Short and other things you already know…

When you get to your 30s, you realize that 10 years isn’t really that much time from start to finish. Somehow childhood seems so painfully long at times. The stretch between one birthday and the next can feel like a decade. Minutes felt like hours and hours felt like centuries. I remember very clearly sitting in class staring at the second hand slowly clicking its way around the clock. I wasn’t the best student in school, but I certainly was an excellent study of the glacial movements of a clock’s minute hand.

The last 10 years have been filled with plenty of ups and downs. My 20s had their fair share of crazy and now that I’m well into my 30s, I do feel that time of my life is over. And despite that probably being a good thing for my health and sanity, I still feel the need to mourn the departure of my extended youth. I don’t know how it happened so quickly, but it did. And just as the last ten years have passed by so quickly, so shall the next ten and the ten after that. It seems as if there is this cruel joke played on us by time, where all of childhood is leading up to this miraculous part of life where we are just-turned adults and free to be both adolescent and in charge of ever instant of our destiny all at the same time. Then, you’re 21, and, then, you’re 30 – a true adult with wrinkles suddenly etched into her skin, tired eyes and dull hair requiring specialized shine treatments to look half as youthful as you did just years earlier.

I’m less afraid of aging than I used to be. I’m still terrified of death, although in theory if my belief that one loses consciousness entirely and is just nothing for the rest of eternity, it should not be scary anymore than sad, and should not be sad any more than egotistical, as any sorrow for such departure is the same sorrow that should be poured onto thoughts of the world before one was ever conceived – but somehow that doesn’t seem sad at all, the infinity pre-dating our own birth.

Regardless of one’s sentiment towards our  inevitable mortality, we can likely agree that our time on earth is finite, and the years which we have in good health are even more greatly limited. We watch our parents age and part ways with the earth, which is horrible but at this age becomes part of the routine. Then there are the unexpected early departures — relatives who grow sick or lose their life in accidents that have no mental preparation. I’m fortunate to date not to have lost any loved ones, not even my father who was told seven years ago that he had no more than two years to live. But none of this luck can last forever. Life is this transient light which shines for only but an instant, and we must shine despite the lights of others dimming and, others, growing in luminosity all around us.

Nine years ago, I almost died. I don’t like to talk about the car accident I was in because every time I think of it I feel sick to my stomach, probably from minor PTSD. I was driving on a two-way highway when I was exhausted early one morning — I was returning from a work conference and hadn’t slept well the night before, and thought I was ok to drive home. I had just started driving only six or so months before, so I wasn’t the best driver yet either. My tire blew out, I had shifted to far into the curb in the center of the highway and my car skidded across the road and ended up spinning around and around in a ditch. I remember very clearly the dirt coming up so violently to the window as I spun to a stop, completely stunned. About a minute later, two cops came and knocked on my window. I was just sitting there – I was fine, somehow. I could have easily hit a car or truck in the lane next to me, or could have gone off a cliff if I had been on the other side of the highway, but somehow I didn’t hit anything as I skid down the road and into the dirt, completely unable to take control of my car.

I walked away from that accident with no damages to myself and barely any to my car. I was very, very lucky. I never told my parents or many people about it. I didn’t want to worry anyone. I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, or any close friends nearby. I told myself to forget about it, and I did, expect when I think about that day, and remember so clearly the moment when I spun around in the dirt until I finally came to a stop.

And that was nine years ago, but still it haunts me. But then, as I faced death head on, I don’t recall being very upset about the prospect of dying. I was scared, for sure, but I was extremely depressed at the time and thought to myself, in that moment when I was given a second chance, who would care if I was gone? I had never felt more alone.

The beautiful thing about being in a relationship en route to marriage is that you have this one person who cares not only whether you live or die, but who would notice should you be hurt or in need of help. And, in turn, you share that responsibility and that love. You have long left the family unit of your parents and siblings, and now you’re on your own, – and being on your own sounded great until you realize that means no one is looking out for you. When you have no family nearby, when your family barely thinks to call to ask you how your doing, and when you realize they never actually cared how you’re doing because they only value you for their narcissistic supply, you value relationships more than ever.

See, I was the girl who always thought she’d never get married. After watching my parents have violent fights since as early as I can remember, I thought marriage was a bit of a joke for most types of people, especially any with my DNA. I was hopelessly broken, unable to commit or to be worthy of being committed to. The best I could hope for was a series of heated relationships which would be entertaining, to soothe over the long periods of solitude.

But then, when I met my boyfriend, I realized that I could indeed love and be loved. We had a rocky relationship for a while – as we were both immature and scared to grow up, both coming from broken homes and lacking a solid foundation of familial stability, despite deeply longing for that sense of comfort and calm.

Now, deeply in love and on the dawn of my wedding year, I see this overpriced event as the entrance to this new phase of my life. It isn’t that much of a difference from today, but it is a commitment to a commitment. It is knowing that no matter how hard life gets, at least in our health, we have each other. And, just as one never mourns the time before she was born as she would thoughts of her future passing, it’s the worst feeling in the pit of one’s stomach to imagine one day losing your love; yet the thought of life before them is nearly impossible to recall.

When I stood beside my grandmother last year as they slowly lowered my grandfather’s casket into the ground, she shouted “wait for me, I’ll be there soon,” with tears pouring down her face. I had never witnessed such visceral grief. It was real, raw, and I understood, and I closed my eyes and could see years from now myself with the same deep sadness. I wanted to comfort her but I did not know how – how do you comfort a woman who will never again see the man she loved and battled with through that love for so many years?

And in the end, life is only worth what we’ve created and who we’ve loved. In the arms of my sweet future husband I finally know what love is. I can see living with him just about anywhere and together we’d be fine. That part of my life is great now, but I haven’t gotten to the other part – the part longing to create – to maybe make a mark on this world before I leave it. I often tell myself it’s silly to want this so badly, as in the meaninglessness of life, so too is creation pointless in our blip of existence on the infinitum of time. Is someone who is an artist, writer, musician, actor or designer any more of a successful, complete person than a person working to promote software? Anything s possible at any age, yet it gets harder as you grow older and get set in your ways. As I wait for a moment of inspiration, I know I wait for a moment that will never come.

But love did come, and with love comes the sadness of knowing one day the man I love, and I too will disappear from this earth, at least the parts of us which make us human. I try, now, to value each second together, as the clock no longer ticks on as slowly as a slug making its way across a sidewalk, lacking any noticiable forward momentum from the human eye. I watch my iPhone clock go from 6am to 6pm in what seems like an instant, and holiday seasons return in what feels like shorter than a month’s timespan (didn’t the Christmas lights just come down?)

Since there seems to be no way to slow life down, I only hope I can manage to make the most of it, to fight off this curse of depression, and to embrace my consciousness’s brief stay on this unlikely little home we call earth.

 

How to Not Get Divorced and Have a Happy Marriage

Sorry, folks. I don’t know the silver bullet to a long, happy marriage. I do know that while 50% of Americans end up in a divorce, a large chunk of those who remain married do so unhappily. While marriage isn’t a requirement of a fulfilled, happy life – for many of us, having a lifelong partner is a key factor in our emotional and even financial stability. I used to be opposed to marriage as an old-fashioned idea steeped in religion and generally designed to make women a property of a man. Today, engaged to be married, I’m looking forward to that next stage of commitment. After nearly 10 years of dating, it’s time to lock this in forever.

Unfortunately, for MANY people, marriage isn’t forever. I spent last week “hanging out” with my 50-years young aunt and her either unhappily married or divorced besties. These women, all in their late 40s/early 50s, were all uniquely depressed, and the conversation reminded me why, if I have anything to do about it, I won’t be alone at that age (knock on wood.) It intrigues me how everyone is selfish by nature, and that happy marriages are largely the result of two people willing to be aware of their selfish tendencies and to compromise around many things that, in single life, would not be acceptable. Furthermore, the stress on a marriage that having kids brings is immense, and if the parents do not see eye-to-eye about this, they may be doomed to crumble – as no one wants to think about an intimate evening post fighting about their child’s behavior and what to do about it.

I grew up in a very unhappy, abusive household. My parents, now in their 60s, are still married – but rarely go a day without my father telling my mother, in a not-so-nice tone, that she’s a, and I quote, “fucking idiot.” They are not the spitting image of a good marriage or even a decent one. And both of my mother’s sisters are divorced and not remarried. This tells me a lot about the mentality in that side of the family – one which lacks empathy for others. It makes sense since the three sisters grew up with a very narcissistic mother and each of them have pretty much ended up with narcissists because it’s the only relationship dynamic which feels comfortable to them – the youngest, dating a man who is infinity self-absorbed and incapable of commitment; the middle sister, committed, not married to a man who is not exactly the warm and fuzzy type in terms of being open to people who do not fit his limited view on an acceptable human being (but maybe that’s just because he’s French); and my mother, of course, with my “can do no wrong” father who blames the world for all the problems but never can blame himself for anything.

Without self awareness, I don’t know if it’s possible for people like this to have a sustainable happy marriage. What we’re attracted to is not always best for such arduous happiness. Marriage is work, they say, and it’s true. I see some young couples I worry are headed in the wrong direction. I look at friends who do not seem to be able to talk about serious matters to each other. Friends who are married to men who are mama’s boys and who are worried that when their child is born they will be left alone to do all the housework along with childcare and returning to work. I worry about my friends who don’t talk about their finances, where one partner is stressed about work and the other is firmly committed to not worry about money or how it is spent. I worry about a couple who fight all the time with two young children present, who no longer find time to love each other, who maybe will never be fully happy, at least due to the presence of each other.

And then I look at my own relationship — nine-and-a-half  years is almost like marriage in its own right. We live together and split some of our bills, so it definitely feels like more than just dating despite nothing legally tying us together just yet. And I love him more than anything and we get into little tiffs every now and again but generally we can have open conversations about important things and we get along pretty well as long as I don’t focus too much on the serious all the time and we can enjoy musing on absurdities of the world together. I know that for my own marriage to work, it will be a lot of work. I have to change my ways – the many things I don’t like about myself to begin with, so I’m ok with that. First, I need to keep my household clean, and uncluttered. Second, I need to find a job where I can not constantly worry about getting fired and be super depressed all the time (he isn’t so much worried about the loss of the income as he is my constant bad mood about 5-6 months into any new job.) And I need to focus on trying to feel like a woman who can be desirable instead of sabotaging myself with my very low self esteem and body image. If I could do all three of these things and not chew so loudly (he is very sensitive to food noises) and be ready on time when we’re going out instead of always 10-15 minutes late, I think he’ll be very happy with me in our marriage. That’s really ALL I have to focus on doing. The rest comes naturally. Being aware of these things doesn’t mean they  are easy to do, but I know they are flaws in my character and things I need to work on anyway.

But marriages can fall apart when one person is aware of the things that upset the other person and feels they are putting an effort in to resolving these things, when the other person doesn’t make an effort or a strong enough effort to show the other person they are doing the same. This pain point in marriages can be exacerbated by the fact that so married couples just don’t talk about things. Sure, it’s easy to ask someone to clean the house, but it’s less easy for a working parent to share with a stay-at-home parent that they are too stressed out in their job and want to move into a position with less pay and less expectations. Or – things as silly as I miss when we used to get dressed up and go on dates, and now I only see you in your crappy clothes that don’t fit well at home because you’re tired all the time and quite frankly so am I. This is why marriages fall apart. People stop putting in the effort. They start becoming passive aggressive to each other on purpose or accident. That once-novel romance story has turned into a nightmare. And so many men and women get past the point of no return. They can no longer look at each other and understand how they were attracted to the other person in the first place. They long to move on to something new, something where the weight of all the years of passive aggression, poof, disappears, and they can start fresh. They can look at another person and see them not as the man who forgot to take the garbage out or the woman who was too tired from her job to be the exciting, passionate woman she once was. Starting fresh is easier than mending a wounded relationship, in theory, at least.

Divorcees are usually not happy either. Few people can manage being happy and being alone, especially after being in a committed relationship for many years. In spending time with these 40-year-old and 50-year-old divorced or unhappily married women, I wonder if there is any piece of the failings of their marriage that they see as their own faults, or if all the blame is on their former partners, or both. The common thread of conversation is that “he’s awful,” “he’s lazy,” “he’s unhelpful around the house,” et al. Or maybe there were just huge fights about how to raise the children that were unexpected which led to two people who couldn’t manage to love each other let alone spend time together. There’s a musical with a song that asks “When was Dividing Day” that is about divorce. No one goes into marriage wanting to or expecting to get a divorce, or to fall out of love. I wonder if it’s possible for two people to be so aware of their own flaws and especially the ones that rub the other person the wrong way, and to just hyperfocus on changing these behaviors as to always show the other person that you care to be the best person you can be for them. And, the second part of that is for the other person to do the same, all while being verbally appreciative of those changes in behavior, not just accepting them as part of the status quo, when the other person is still working very hard to be a better man/woman for the other person. If two people can do that, I think that a happy marriage is possible. But it requires us to go from our selfish, childish ways to becoming real adults — giving up our wants for the better of someone else, as long as that someone else is doing the very same for us. It won’t always be perfect, but as long as expectations are reasonable and two people really love each other, I want to believe it’s possible, and I want to try. I want to be the old couple that celebrates their 50th wedding anniversary with the same sparkle in our eyes that we have now when we look at each other, and see the man who I fell in love with, and who I’ll always love.

Eloping Sounds Really Good Right About Now

I seriously underestimated the amount of stress a wedding would churn up. It’s an excuse to throw an awesome party for my friends and family, I thought, unaware of the guilt and guilt trips I’d experience from those friends and family alike, as well as myself. At this point, eloping is looking like a pretty darned good option.

The challenge with a Jewish east coast wedding is that you pretty much go big or go home (well, go home meaning you have your wedding at home, like in your backyard, and unless you’re going to decorate the entire property in gold and diamonds, people will think you’re cheap and your family will never live that down.)

…For example, I’ve been seriously pondering a Sunday night wedding which would be by no means cheap, but which would bring down the minimums of the guest counts and the price per person a bit. I’ve estimated with 150 people it would save about $10k on the food/venue (at some venues a bit more at others less, but averages out to that at most of the nicer venues where on a Sat night you’re spending $35k+ on this basic cost alone before getting to everything else.) But an aunt of mine made a comment about how she doesn’t like Sunday night weddings because then people can’t drink and have fun – they have to go to work the next morning. While I’d like to just say/think – so what? It’s my wedding and I don’t care if people leave early or don’t have that much fun… but, I mean, if we’re throwing a party that costs more than $5,000 I’d like people to have some fun — more than $30k and I hope I can create an entertaining occasion.

That gets me back to wondering when weddings became about entertaining guests with the fancy venues and amazing food. I’m admittedly caught up in the nice venues (not ballrooms but really elegant, modern or rustic, historic places) and wanting to have amazing food that everyone is taking about and an incredible DJ with the perfect color scheme and yadayada. It’s fucking ridiculous. I’m not 12. I’m not working with a party planner to create my lavish Bat Mitzvah centerpieces and custom t-shirts. Why do I feel like my wedding has to be some big, impressive affair? Well, I’ll tell you why.

My parents care more about what other people think (about them) than what I want. And who the fork knows what I want right now anyway. Ms. Devil says “just throw an amazing, relatively expensive ($45,000) wedding and if you need to chip in more of your own money to make it even better. Yes, it’s one night but it’s THE night. YOUR night. If you don’t have some big wedding now you’ll regret it later. I’m not taking 200 people but even 100 people can seem big and be pricey.

But I think I’ve also gotten too carried away, looking at venues designed for people with parents who are multi-millionaires, not just $1.something millionaires. For people who have parents that don’t need to worry about their money one day running out due to a father’s illness or a mother’s penchant for television shopping networks and clothing salespeople’s oh-so-sage advice. The reality is most people, especially people who grew up near me, didn’t have super lavish saturday night weddings. They maybe had saturday or sunday afternoon weddings – which, even at nicer venues, can significantly reduce the cost.

My mother, of course, says no afternoon weddings – she doesn’t wake up before 10am and she needs a lot of time to get ready. She pretty much will boycott my wedding if it’s in the afternoon. I also don’t love afternoon weddings because people really don’t celebrate in the same way they do in the evening. I’ve been to a wedding that had a lovely ceremony at a historic mission followed by a brunch – no music or anything, and then there was an after party at the beach at night. It was nice and good thing it wasn’t that expensive because two years later and the couple is divorced – but, still, given the expectations of my family, doing something like that would actually embarrass my father. He might be ok with the earlier wedding time but he still wants a band and a party. AND GOD FORBID I HAVE A WEDDING IN THE WINTER “OFF PEAK.”

Meanwhile I’m having fantasies about getting married at our favorite spot in Yosemite. They apparently do ceremonies for up to 50 people and you can have a picnic lunch afterwards. At this point my dream wedding would be all my good friends and family flying to Yosemite, being there for the ceremony, and then staying with us to camp for a few days and bond. It’s a fantasy because it could never happen. I just think we’d feel more comfortable with a small ceremony that is meaningful versus something big that is more of a theatrical production than exchanging of a lifelong commitment. I used to be a complete attention whore but now I don’t really want all eyes on me anyway. My s/o and my relationship is quite, ahem, special — and by that I mean odd — and by that I mean I don’t really know how to share that relationship publicly with people who aren’t close friends and family… and even that, well, it’s kind of terrifying, when I think about it.

And… I can’t help but feel like the entire wedding experience is completely lopsided. Not that I really care how much my engagement ring was worth — but it is one of those wedding costs that comes out of the groom’s budget. When my family is facing a $45k bill for the wedding itself, having an engagement ring worth <$500, even though I don’t care how much the ring cost and I like my ring, seems off kilter. I mean, the average cost of an engagement ring in the US is $4000 and some people spend $10k or more. So then you can say ok, the groom’s side is paying for the $10k engagement ring + rehearsal dinner ($2k) + honeymoon ($3k) and so the groom is paying for $15k and then the bride’s side is paying $25k+ for the wedding itself, but at least the costs come out a little more evenly. Not that anyone splits things this way anymore, but with a $500 ring I feel like having a wedding over $10k makes absolutely no sense. At least you wear the ring for the rest of your life and can pass it down to your children! (*note, I tend to misplace jewelry and other items so my fiancé didn’t want to get me anything too expensive that I might lose, which is understandable.)

Lately I’ve been browsing local hotels and their wedding package prices… they seem to be on the lower cost side. It’s so frustrating trying to talk wedding budget with my parents because my mother is always clueless when it comes to money (I can’t help but tell her that it’s a bad idea for her to spend $45,000 of the money she will likely need as she gets older) and my father, well, he starts to throw a temper tantrum whenever I mention hat I’d like to find some place that is more “cost effective.” He certainly doesn’t know the difference between a wedding venue that I’d like ($30k-$40k price range for venue/food) and a $20k-$30k venue at a hotel or country club, and he’d consider both nice (as long as the food was good enough and there was nothing super tacky about the place.) But, really, $20k is STILL too much to spend on a venue/food for a one-night event. And this would be the somewhat lower cost venues that I’ve looked at so far. I can find cheaper ones still — even airport hotels host weddings(!) — but then I start thinking if the wedding is going to be at a crappy hotel in some god-awful conference-style ballroom then why bother doing that at all?

I do feel rather alone in all this, which is silly but still sucks. I can’t have a rational conversation with mom and dad about the wedding and my fiancé is in the mindset that our wedding should cost no more than $10k, but he’s fine if my parents want to throw a bigger affair than that – he just won’t chip in more than $5k of the whole thing. And the frugal, personal finance blogger side of me can’t even make the argument that he should be putting more of his savings into this wedding, because really he shouldn’t. No one family or person or two families should be spending this much for 5.5 hours. But still in me is that little girl who loved disney fairytales and dreamed of her wedding day… the same girl who is pinning a bunch of wedding stuff on pinterest (and has been long before she was engaged) and who now knows enough about wedding venues and dresses to start her own wedding planning business.

Anyway, this is all just super stressful.

When a Woman Requests a Prenup…

So I’ve spent my 20s acquiring a decent sum of savings. I’m not a millionaire (yet) but I have managed to save $350,000 – not immense wealth, but not pocket change either. I have no idea where my career will take me over the course of my life, but I admit as a person who thinks a lot about finances the idea of merging my financial future with another person – irregardless of how much I love him – terrifies me more than, say, jumping out of a plane without a parachute. Or my dress ripping apart in the middle of my wedding leaving me in my birthday suit.

When doing some preliminary prenup research on Google the links are all the same — dudes who are trying to figure out how to convince their fiancees to sign a prenup without completely destroying their relationship. I haven’t found one link (at least in the top few pages) where a woman is the one who wants the prenup. And do I really want a prenup? I don’t know. It just seems wise, especially with the 50% divorce rate, even though I don’t have any remote intention of ever getting divorced.

The reality is that my hubs-to-be is unlikely to save or earn as much as I do. He also is very adamant about us keeping separate accounts as we do today, though maybe splitting a bit more of our costs beyond just our rent (which I already pay more for) and our food (which we split 50/50.) I don’t know — I always come back to the fact that marriage is a business contract. It’s MORE a business contract than some lovey-dovey festival of forever commitment. You can commit without a marriage license. But if you plan to have kids in the near-term future then marriage does make sense. It at least provides some stability – theoretically.

I admit I’m worried about financial issues going into marriage. Luckily we both have no debt and if anyone’s got a spending habit it’s me. If anything I’m probably better off without a prenup as over time I may end up in a looney bin and should he decide not to be wed to a loon at the time, I’ll need the alimony to survive. Worst case scenario, of course, but it could happen.

Why does it feel so cringe-inducing to even bring up a prenuptial agreement? When I did, he quickly changed the subject, and I could tell he was very hurt at the suggestion. He wasn’t surprised that I asked, but he certainly wouldn’t give the request any serious consideration. And that leaves me with basically two choices — get married without a prenup, or don’t get married.

They say prenups are much more important in second marriages where kids are involved, et al, but if you have a sizable sum of money going into a marriage or expect an inheritance then they may be useful in the first. It just seems like this whole marriage thing is VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS and I’m not equipped with the necessary advice to enter into such a legal agreement. I wish the government made premarital and financial counseling a requirement before getting a marriage license, because at least then it would force us to address these issues like mature adults. But I guess that’s too much to ask in my relationship. And if I were in his shoes, I’m sure I’d feel a tinge of betrayal as well if I were asked to sign a prenup, so I can’t blame him for being so upset at my initial ask. I just wish we could have an adult conversation about it and make a rational decision — but how rational can a decision be if it’s based around the “what if we get divorced” question before we’re even married?

Introducing: Bridezilla

Reading articles about batshit brides who enamored over every detail of a wedding led me to pronouncing I would never, EVER earn the title “bridezilla.” And, yet, shortly thereafter my official engagement I’ve been called this at least two times – not yet once from my finance who surely has thought the term silently while watching me create a google spreadsheet of 20+ local venues to visit in order to find – THE ONE.

As a personal finance blogger, and someone who tends to toy around with compound interest calculators as a means to destress after a challenging day, weddings – as in, the modern American wedding with an average cost of $25k ($31k-$51k in my region) – are absolutely ridiculous.

$50,000 — over a 30 year period growing at 5% — amounts to $216k. Sure, that’s not enough to get one through retirement, but it’s an awful lot to spend on one 6-hour party. When down-payments for a starter home are $200k or more, spending any money on a wedding, no matter how high your income is (unless you already are financially independent) seems incredibly frivolous.

So far, we’ve done well to combat the frivolity of this phenomenon known as nuptials. I was verklempt when my man got down on one knee and, after going through a series of romantic gestures, asked me to marry him. When I noticed he had picked the $300 ring off my Pinterest, I took pride in being the type of future bride who didn’t buy into the “Three Months Salary” bullshit propagated by jewelry marketers – likely ones related to the same person who came up with “A Diamond is Forever.” The average cost of an engagement ring these days is $4000 — which is a lot considering most of America is in debt.

There was this little voice in the back of my mind, the little girl who dreamed of a fancier ring (not necessarily a diamond, but still, something above and beyond what I might purchase for myself) — and then I stopped that voice, told it to shut the fuck up, because the ring — beautiful, simple and unique — was perfect. And I wouldn’t want to be walking around with a $4000 sentimental target on my back for anyone who wanted to rob me. Ultimately, I’d rather have a house than a ring, so this was the right choice.

That doesn’t change the fact that the minute you tell people you are engaged the reflex of most Americans – male or female – is something along the lines of “let me see the rock.” Well, it’s a rock alright — a low-cost gemstone that may or may not be the one that we think it is. It was supposed to be peach but it’s actually clear which only bothers Bridezilla me because I feel like everyone “just knows” that it’s a fake diamond (which it wasn’t meant to be) and then I get nervous that others will look at it and think, oh god, does she not know it’s a fake? I was perfectly fine with a sapphire or alexandrite or something that didn’t look like a diamond, but when it almost looks like a diamond showing off your ring gets uncomfortable, so says Ms. Bridezilla.

The ring, however, is the least of the costs that go into having a wedding. Every ounce of my rational self is screaming ELOPE YOU DUMB IDIOT YOU! I’m definitely the type of girl that dreamed of having a large, fairytale wedding – but now that i’m nearly 32, I’m largely over that dream and much more practical. If I was paying for the entire thing myself, I’d be a whole lot of more practical – but with my parents wanting to foot the bill, I’m torn.

My dad – who worked his entire life in a job that he didn’t exactly love – was told eight years ago that he had two years to live from a very respectable doctor at Sloan Kettering in NYC. His late-stage prostate cancer had metastasized and while there were a number of treatments and trials to prolong his life, there was no cure. And, already dealing with numerous health issues, such as diabetes and morbid obesity, his prognosis wasn’t so optimistic.

Dad – as stubborn as he is – has lived much longer and is still kicking, knock on wood. Him and my mother purchased a condo in Boca which he’s now spending his days determining how to decorate – despite years of nagging me about getting married, he doesn’t seem to care too much about the wedding now. His response when I called to tell them I was engaged was “about time.”

My father has clearly stated, many times, that he has money put away for this shindig and that he’d cover the event. The budget, which was $30k, grew into $50k once I made a list of how much everything would cost (and this is with cutting out all of the items that would go into a dream wedding with a pricetag of about $100k.) He said $50k is fine.

I know he’s looking forward to his dream wedding. My mom’s mother made their wedding horrible, because she’s crazy. She wouldn’t let him invite most of his friends to the event because they needed to invite all of the Israeli relatives, and then not surprisingly those Israeli relatives didn’t show up leaving a lot of empty seats. If my finance had a large extended network of family and friends I’d almost  be ok with a large wedding, but it just doesn’t feel right to have a wedding with 30 people from his side and 150 from mine. That isn’t a wedding.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure someone like me where I am today in understanding finances can spend $50,000 on 5 hours – even if it’s not my money. To put perspective on that figure, for the last 5 years of my life I’ve been aiming to save $50,000 A YEAR after taxes, including interest from investments. It’s a lot of money, no matter how you slice it, and whose money it is.

Some of my friends say if your parents want to pay for the wedding, let them. But I’m almost ashamed of it. When I was 12 years old I had a lavish Bat Mitzvah which included custom-made t-shirts which I designed, musicians which included a band AND a dj, and a number of other items which led for one expensive coming of age ceremony. Back then I didn’t understand money at all. The party was fun and all, but it was ridiculous at the same time. How can a grown-ass woman rationally spend anywhere near $30k-$50k on one day? Well, this grown-ass woman might — but she’s still not sure.

I’m absolutely torn. The options seem to be accepting my parent’s gift and a world of compromise for throwing a party for 200 guests including many family friends/relatives who I don’t know that well, OR, paying for an event on our own which would be a lot smaller and cheaper. If we do an event on our own, most of the people I want to attend wouldn’t come, because it would be a smaller, less lavish affair. Maybe that’s not a terrible thing – but I feel like if you’re going to have a wedding to begin with, the point is introducing both families to each other – and with that, I would like to encourage a decent turnout from both of our sides. We have families across the country so a wine country venue with the promise of incredible dining and entertainment would do more to encourage an annual vacation vs a picnic in a park.

Yes, they say that whatever you do for a wedding, the people who want to be there will be. Those people don’t have tri-state area expectations. I definitely grew up in a culture where these fancy weddings are the norm. And, as privileged as I am to even be able to ponder what to do with a $30k+ budget, I should also just embrace the fact that my parents want to pay for this event – which will likely be a night that my finance and I will remember for the rest of our lives. So let’s just do this.

Even with a $50k budget (which is, again, ridiculous) there are still lots of cuts to be made. So a dream dress might be $10k. I looked on pre-owned wedding dress sites, where they sell one-night-worn dresses for 30% to 50% off. Well, buying a dress site-unseen for $5000 – even if it was a $10k dress – seems like a bad idea. Buying a used dress does intrigue me, however, since spending even $3000 on a dress to be worn one night is nuts, but spending $1500 on that same dress that was worn once makes a lot more sense (especially if you can resell it again, say, for $1000.)

At the moment, our decision du jour is the venue itself. Picking a venue and a date will make this a whole lot more real. My finance and I have similar ideas about what makes the perfect venue, but they aren’t always 100% aligned. We visited one venue yesterday that he adored – but it’s too expensive and honestly it was just not quite what I had in mind (paying $50k for a wedding which features fancy port-o-potties is not going to fly with my parents, and is also not on my preferred logistics list.) While we both love the idea of getting married outside in nature, I prefer a venue at the top of a hill with a view, he prefers one nestled in a valley. We both are hoping for some sort of water features — a lake, a stream, or ocean with dramatic cliffs. I prefer a venue where we are able to come set up in the morning, early, and he prefers one which enables late-night after partying well into the next day. We’re coming up empty handed.

All of this added stress should be fun, but planning a wedding is a lot of work. Yes, you can hire a planner (and I probably will) but that doesn’t solve everything – it doesn’t solve the issue of managing my parent’s expectations. If they are footing the bill, that will be another giant job on top of the FT job I already have, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to plan this shindig to begin with.

And I come back to thinking – isn’t this supposed to be a day about the joining of two people who are going to spend the rest of their lives together? Why should that cost $50,000?

 

 

That Time When You Realize You’re Almost 32…

Shit. I’m less than 6 months to 32. That’s not quite old but it certainly not young. And while I’ve saved up a decently sizable portfolio of investments over the course of my 31 and a half years, every day I freak out more regarding how I’m quickly watching the opportunity to have children disappear before my eyes. Yes, women can have kids later and later these days, but with my PCOS-crapified ovaries I know getting and staying pregnant is going to be a total bitch and damn expensive if not impossible.

There is no way in hell that I could work in a job like the one I have now and deal with getting pregnant. At least when you have kids they’re these physical creatures you can talk about with others and offer as a reason to work from home on occasion in order to deal with the whole biological needs of being a mother with infants. When you’re trying to get pregnant and not having any organic luck, then you have to deal with tons of doctors appointments and the crazy of hormone injections and such that mess with your mind. Yes, people do this all the time but I’m sure working for a startup makes it a heck of a lot harder. And I don’t think I’d ever see an occasion where I’d feel comfortable explaining to my current boss that I need to take some time during the day to go to a series of doctors appointments in order to get knocked up. That’s personal, and I would want it to stay personal.

While I’m not looking to get pregnant today, the reality is that I DO want to be married by next June (12 months) and very shortly thereafter want to begin the process of trying to have kids. I’ll be 32-and-a-half (holy shit) and in order to have my first kid by 34, well, that doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of time. Mr. HECC needs to hurry up and propose to me (hoping that’s happening in next 30 days because now we’re at the 9 year mark and we’ve generally both agreed on the get-married-and-have-kids timeline) and we just need to move on with our lives. I’m perplexed at how I can be 31 with a job making over $150k a year and a networth approaching $350k and I still feel so terribly lost and behind. I have a job, not a career, no matter what it looks like from the outside – and a boyfriend who might as well be my husband but who isn’t – because I’ve been so preoccupied with not being like those girls who just get married in their 20s because that’s what they think they ought to do.

And on top of all this, I am seriously considering grad school now more than ever – because this whole situation of just taking jobs that I can get versus jobs that I’m actually capable of being good at is absolutely draining every ounce of my being. I’m learning a shit ton and there are many aspects of my role that I like too, but it’s just not for me over the long term. I’m so grateful that the few people I have on my team are rockstars and helping me stay somewhat sane, but nonetheless that isn’t a career I can maintain even for a few more years. I need to make changes and I need to make changes fast in order to at least make a significant attempt at having a family, which at the end of the day is way more important to me than becoming a millionaire in my 40s.

So now that I have that straight, it definitely changes my priorities and plans. What kind of career can I have where I can – instead of being at the office 10 hours a day not including commute – spend time at home and be able to be a part of my potential future children’s lives? What job can I do where I can live a somewhat standard middle class life and be able to afford a house with a porch and a backyard… one that I can watch my children run around in? If my 20s were the years where I just wandered blindly and tried my best to save and save some more, my 30s are a time to open my eyes and just accept that being in the upper middle class, like I was as a child, isn’t necessarily the only option or a real route to happiness. So what if I’m squarely in the middle class? Did endless trips to the suburban shopping malls actually make me a happier person? Did my parents putting me through a private college for four years set me up for more success then I would have had if I went to a state school on scholarship and loans? Yes, it made it possible for me to take more risks then I might have if I didn’t have the cushion, but maybe those risks were bad ones to begin with. Maybe those risks are the ones that got me to almost 32, unwed and looking at a likely barren future.

Of all the things I freak out about, having kids and being able to have kids is something that I think I have a right to worry about. There is a such thing as a biological clock and time is FLYING by. I’m grateful to at least have the man who I see being the father to my children in my life, and for that to be an extremely stable relationship – but who cares if I’m going to be a 33-year-old newly wed and facing years of expensive, painful, and otherwise inconvenient infertility treatments? Being a woman IS different than being a guy – especially one in their late 20s / early 30s. Guys don’t have to rush into having kids – and guys don’t have to stab themselves with hormones in order to attempt to get pregnant, going to the doctor for many appointments in order to conceive and then engage in an entirely new series of doctors visits for ensuring the baby is born healthy and all… not to mention all that stuff that comes with being a mother once you give birth. And if you want more than one kid — well, so long to career progression in your 30s.

But do I really care? I don’t exactly have my heart set on becoming CMO – and what that entails. Is the American Dream working so hard until the day you retire that you don’t see your kids grow up, or have time to enjoy any hobbies or other moments in life that don’t involve soothing client worries or generating more business? I hate admitting that part of me wishes I were born at a time when these choices were made for me. What a terrible feminist. But it’s hard to be everything. Well, it’s not possible to be everything. And I am really, honestly, over dramatically and extremely terrified of believing time wouldn’t progress quite so rapidly if I chose to ignore it – and that my own ability to be a functioning woman wouldn’t be sidetracked by attempting to get ahead in a career where I’m yet another broken cog in an otherwise malfunctioning machine that will spin on and on and on whether or not I happen to be there to fill my little place in it.

 

 

The Emotional Reprecussions of Narcissistic Parents

No one has perfect parents, and by 30-something you’re supposed to be well adjusted enough to forgive and forget any of their misgivings. I don’t know why I’m still holding out for the day my parents learn how to care about anyone other than themselves, yet that faith consistently proves futile.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and told he had one to two years to live, I spent an evening collapsed on the floor with my friend holding my hand and praying to Jesus for me – which despite my being an atheist Jew was somewhat comforting. Despite growing up as the child of narcissists, and despite being quite self absorbed myself, somehow I’ve managed to learn how to care about others. I’m not very good at expressing this, and I certainly don’t know how to manage these feelings within the context of my family, but I’m learning.

Dad is still alive and kicking. While I had hoped that somehow the stars would align for him to both kick the terminal disease and for having a terminal illness to turn him into a man far less self-centered, I’ve realized this will never happen. The more amount of time I spend away from my parents, the more I can observe their great narcissism. To be fair, they financially took care of me throughout my childhood and then some, and I had a very comfortable childhood, at least on paper.

But that comfortable childhood was spent listening to hours upon hours of my father telling my mother she’s an idiot, throwing curse words at her, screaming and berating her, while my mother nagged about one thing or another, setting him off over and over again. My parents, in many ways, are perfect for each other. There is no satisfying their narcissistic supply, and it would surely drain anyone who actually cared to please the other when such pleasing was impossible.

I may be the type to over dramatize a lot of things in my life, but my parent’s crazy is not one of them. The definition of narcissistic personality disorder defines my father perfectly. My friend from childhood came to visit today and said she was not looking forward to coming over to the house because of my father, as he was never kind to her. She was a bit of a troublemaker as a child, but that was due to her parents both working and leaving her home alone from a young age, alongside her father’s alcoholism and abuse (which I did not know about at the time.) We both had crazy situations at home which is why we bonded, but my father always made it very clear that he looked down on her and her family. Today when she came over, he didn’t greet her in anyway. Yet, when my boyfriend comes over and doesn’t say hi to him, it’s the absolute worst possible disrespect. In short, my father is a great hypocrite, proven time and again, as he constantly cuts others down for faults that if he’d only look in a mirror for once he’d see so clearly in himself.

My father is the more violent type of crazy. He’s what I’d call a bad person. He has no care about how his actions make others feel. It is true that my mother has no care about how her actions make others feel, but typically his actions make others feel unsafe while hers are just annoying or embarrassing at worst. Wouldn’t it be nice for my father to, at least for the short time I’m home to visit, make an effort to make the household hospitable? No, in just 24 hours I’ve listened to him spurt more variations of “Fuck you” and “You’re an Idiot” at my mother than I’d care to count.

Thank goodness my mother has no heart inside of her to care. It’s just same old, same old with her. He seems to no longer physically shove her or grab her anymore, largely due to her calling the cops on him finally years back. Of course, after the police came to pick him up and take him to the station she had to go down and pick him up once he was released. That was the day I was terrified my father might actually kill my mother. She’s always been petite and weak, he’s always been obese and strong – which is a bad combination with a man who has no ability to control his temper and a woman who has no ability to realize she ought to not nag – or suggest any of her own ideas – in order to keep peace in the household.

My mother is no angel. She doesn’t have an ounce of mothering spirit in her body. A friend of hers came over tonight, a woman who was my Hebrew School teacher long ago, and as she asked how I’m doing I explained to her my concerns about having a child and maintaining a high-powered executive job, she briefly stroked my hair in a very motherly sort of way — this was completely off-putting to me, but the motherly-ness of it was kind of nice. She does call my mother out at her self-centeredness from time to time, not that my mother actually internalizes any of this feedback, but sometimes it’s nice to have a third party’s opinion organically in the mix. Makes me feel a bit less crazy.

Then there’s my sister, who, just graduated from college, is thank goodness a good person, yet broken as much as I am from growing up in an abusive household. While my seventeen jarring years at home pushed me towards my bipolar medley, she has also sought help for her depression. She has also been, just recently, leading quite the promiscuous life, because she has no sense of what a healthy relationship is, or how to respect herself or her body. And I feel horrible as her bigger sister not being able to provide any guidance to teach her that she deserves to be loved, and what that means. The fact is both of us have been formally diagnosed with depression, and I’m confident that the root cause of this was more nurture than nature. Who can come out of a household filled with so much selfishness and hatred and lead a healthy, normal, successful life – at least without being heavily medicated?

The Beatles said it best – all you need is love – and for the first 20 years of my life I had no such thing. During my 20s I struggled to learn how to love with a very patient, mild mannered, soothing boyfriend who came from his own broken background. His neglect and my physical and emotional abuse seemed to create two fractured creatures made somewhat whole together. There are days when I look around at other people in society who are perhaps more “normal” or socially able and I wonder what it would be like to be a person who can go out to events and socialize, but then I have to remind myself how completely awkward and abnormal I am, and why we’re the perfect fit for each other, till death do us part. And I remind myself that the only thing I really need to be happy is the love I never had as a child, the forgiving, relentless, eternal love that manages to find equal parts beauty and annoyance in even my many faults.

When I began my career, I had no one. I had never experienced love, I never valued myself enough to be in a healthy relationship with another person I fully respected or who respected me. Sure, I had a few relationships, but these were short lived – a girlfriend who, despite being kind and giving, was far too simpleminded to be a long-term match; a boyfriend who, a risk-loving midwestern guy with a horde of giant dogs and bad jokes and no emotional depth, was no fit for my sensitive side; and another boyfriend, a professional who, despite at the time earning a hundred thousand dollars more than my intern salary, and having been dating for nearly two years, made it clear that I would be paying for everything on every date, down to a $7 movie ticket, and then I’d be sleeping on the living room two-person couch for the night. I was so hungry for love and looking for it in all the wrong places because I had absolutely no respect for myself. I didn’t know how to be loved, or how to be worth being loved.

This is why I threw myself into my career. I wasn’t great at everything I did at work, but I had nothing else to focus on, even when my relationship with my current boyfriend begun, as I was unable to let him in. I found myself, typical as a child of abuse, trying to start fights at every turn, not feeling comfortable just existing in love. I needed the chaos, the ups and downs, the rush of the pain I was so used to. I pushed him away harder than one should be able to push a man and yet he stayed. He stuck he out. He knew I was hurting and lost and we both knew we were perfect for each other even though I tried so hard to break us apart.

Now I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve grown up a bit. I still have a lot of aging to do with wisdom to gain. But now all I need to find happiness is to be hugged tightly in his arms. I don’t need money or a fancy house or nice clothes or a new car or even to travel the world (though I enjoy traveling) because I could spend the rest of my life in a room with him and it would be ok. Suddenly, all of my motivation to focus on my career at the cost of avoiding my broken self shifted to my desire to be able to create a healthy, positive family with him. The years began to fly by and suddenly I was in my late 20s and then 30s. We didn’t get married or have kids, we just kept on watching the years go by, having fun together, but making little progress in terms of starting that family I began to see clearer and clearer.

I know having children is going to be a massive challenge due to my PCOS, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage to maintain my job and go through infertility treatments when the time comes. I’m going to have to make a lot of sacrifices and I will have to be strong enough to do this, not on my own, but as a team of two, us against the world. I’m quite frankly terrified because I don’t want to have kids and be a bad mother – I know I can be a horrible boss sometimes and while that’s not good either, at least with work you don’t always have the same employees throughout your career. One wrong move as a parent and it haunts you and your child for the rest of your life.

My teen self never dreamt of becoming a mother. Now, there’s nothing else in my life that seems more desirable or real. I’m afraid of what happens when I have children and introduce them to my parents, especially to my father’s rage, and how to explain to them that he thinks he’s right all the time even though he isn’t. Then I remember that chances are he won’t even be around when they’re born, or old enough to understand anything. Then I get sad over that, because I do want them to meet their grandfather, even with all of his volcanic anger constantly erupting. And I want them to meet my mother, as she far better plays the role of crazy grandmother than mother, taking pictures of her grandchildren and buying them presents to later be photographed with as well.

I can’t believe how fast time is flying — I’m nearly 32 and I’m not even married yet. I don’t feel behind mentally yet I know biologically the door to have a family is rapidly closing. Between that and the challenge and cost of going through the procedures needed to even children while also maintaining my high-pressure job is frightening. I’ll need to make some big choices about giving up massive savings potential in order to have a family. But at the end of the day, what is the point of saving if you never have a family to share that with (if that’s what you want to do, that is.)