Some unsolicited advice to men in relationships!

I got a call from a childhood friend last evening. We are particularly close and talk often, especially when we need to share something that we hesitate to even tell our own selves.

She asked me a strange question; in fact, it was a strange conversation:

Her: “Is it ok for me to borrow money from my parents or my brother?”

Me: “What do you need the money for?”

Her: “Just like that, I want to keep it with me. I have no savings.”

My friend is married, with two children. Her younger one will start school soon. She is a trained nursery school teacher and immensely talent with children. She used to teach, but has given up her career for the last three years to bring up her children.

Me: “I would not borrow unless I needed the money for something specific. And how will you pay it back?”

Her: “I don’t know. I don’t have a job right now. When I start working, I will repay I suppose.”

Me: “Would your parents not get worried if you ask them for money just like that? Is everything well at home? Did you have a fight with <husband’s name>?”

Her: “No, no. Nothing like that. But yea, I need money for myself, for small expenses. I have been spending from my savings from when I was teaching and now I have run out of money. I am not used to not having anything in my bank account.”

By now, she is sounding really distraught and confused. We talk things through and then agree that it would be best to talk this out with her parents when she visits them next and just ask them for some money to tide her over instead of taking a loan.

I also ended up urging her to look more aggressively for work and not feel guilty about leaving her young ones at home or in daycare. I reminded her that the decision to have a second baby was a joint one and that her husband is also responsible for her decision to be a home maker till the children grow up a little.

I was upset that she hesitated to ask him for expense money. That she felt guilty about wanting little pleasures in life. That she was so conflicted between her duties as a mother to her children and her need to be financially independent.

So many of us women are in this boat. Why do we accept the taunts and jeers, seemingly harmless but actually potent, that our husbands and others dish out to us, about decisions that are perfectly rational- like not going to work for a few years OR choosing to remain working even when our children are small? An individual has her own reasons to take these decisions. There is no formula here. Everyone is entitled to do what makes her a happy and satisfied person. And it is binding on a woman’s partner to support her just as he would expect his wife to stand behind him through the trials of life.

Marriages, relationships are so complex and intertwined, and so so fragile. Communication (especially about aspirations) and financial transparency are key pillars that both partners need to work on together. This is what I would say to the men of this world: If your partner’s happiness is not important to you, if seeing her smiling and confident does not make you proud, if you find yourself unable to respect what she wants and expect her to always pay heed to your needs over hers, then you are not cut out to have a woman in your life! Let her go and let her lead her own life. Whatever that life may be, it will be better than wasting her talents and love and energy with you!

A bit radical, but that is what I really think! I know the black and white options do not work in reality. Many of us struggle desperately to make things work against many odds. And whether to hang in there or make a clean break is also, in the end, an individual decision that we must respect.

Related blog post, also interesting!

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on February 19, 2013, in Politics & Citizenship and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. That’s not at all radical, that’s a minimum. It’s unfathomable to me that any marriage can be so one-sided that something as important as money is not decided jointly.

    Me and my wife put all the income in one joint account. We both have access to this account, and we both withdraw money from it whenever we need to. We also have a family-budget that we decided *together* that we both try to follow. If either of us wants to buy something expensive that’s not in the budget, we discuss it with the other before doing it.

    We also have a small amount of “pocket-money” for each of us to spend on whatever we want. This is not for family-things, but for personal pleasures. (we set aside 10% of our income for such, thus each of us gets 5% of our shared income for such purposes)

    If the wife is at home, it must be because the couple considers the work at home important, as such, this work should be equally rewarded with the work of the husband. So equal sharing would be fair even then. If a man says he should get the most say over money, he is also saying that his work is more important than the work of the woman, and that is both rude and wrong.

    • Am so glad to hear this. The tremendous pressure for spouses to stay in marriages that are unworkable because of basic differences in attitudes and belief systems is what prompted me to call my words ‘radical’. But in fact they are rational and merely born out of common sense! Kudos to you for working out systems that work for you and thank you for writing in!

      • It’s possible that for India, my marriage would be radical. It’s just that like it or not, money is important. What to do with your money is an important question, and the situation you describe in your blog-post, where the wife has no money, and doesn’t even feel she can clear this up with her husband is very sad. To me that sounds like two people living together under one roof, and not like a marriage at all.

        My wife and I both work full-time at the moment, but when our son was small there was one year where I was at home taking care of him, while my wife worked. Later when we got twin-girls, my wife stayed at home taking care of them for their first year, while I worked. So we’ve tried different variations.

        I think in India it’d also be rare for a father to stay at home, cook and clean and take care of the baby, while the mother works.

      • Yes, it is rare. But I see hope in a growing number of men who are beginning to realize they need to change the way they think, and act. But for that to really happen in larger numbers, women will have to stop taking things lying down, stop being meaninglessly entrenched in the roles society has cut out FOR them. It’s complicated. In my own home, we switch roles as well and it is possible if you make our own rules and stop following traditions from another time without analysing them for yourself!

      • I agree. For change to happen, everyone must contribute. Women must change. Men must change, and society must change. Men needs to take a lot more responsibility at home, and women might need to take more responsibility for working. (but they can only do that if the men do their part at home !)

        One of the main reasons Norway is as wealthy as it is, is because society is adjusted in such a way that both parents can normally easily work. This means high-quality cheap childcare. It means being able to take days off from work if your child is sick. It means a year-long parental-leave when a new baby is born, it means a hundred big and small adjustments like that.

      • Yes, Indian society has very low standards for what constitutes a workable marriage. For most Indians, a marriage is successful if both spouses stay under the same roof, have children and can tolerate being in the same room with each other.

        My neighbours have been married for 25 years and have a 21-year old son. They live in the same house, yet there are days when they don’t speak to each other. The wife does her best to avoid her husband because of his snide and hurtful barbs.

        They spend their time in different rooms, sleep in different rooms and only meet during mealtimes. Yet in the eyes of Indian society, this is a working marriage.

        One reason of course, is that Indian men have a huge sense of entitlement. For them, a marriage is a happy one if THEY are happy and have their needs met. Very few Indian men genuinely care for their wife’s well-being enough to ask her what she needs from the marriage.

        As long as there is food, regular sex and the children are cared for, the man assumes that the wife is happy.

      • Absolutely. This huge sense of entitlement has got to change. I am appalled by how many educated, talented women I know who are in bad marriages because their husbands cannot handle their independent thinking or possibility of success. We need to urgently redefine the meaning if a workable marriage. I struggle to think of solutions but support groups can be a beginning.

  2. Another interesting comment I got from Alok Kumar on Linked in: “why brand this instance as advice to men……the section which you have written in italic should be for the spouse and not only for men….In marriage, financial stability of family is important rather than financial independence of women. And when the thought making women itself financially secured comes up, that is clear sign that marriage is not secured.”
    And my response
    “Agreed. I wrote this in the context of many women I know facing this issue. If men feel the same, then it is equally applicable I agree. But I disagree that the independence of women is less important than the financial stability of the marriage. If the women wishes to have a degree of independence, she should e supported rather than asked to sacrifice her independence on the altar of marriage. I am assuming that the couple wants to be in this relationship, of course!”

  3. This I truly believe in. In my marriage I have all the control over the money and the budget. It isn’t because I am a control freak.. my husband just has no interest. If he wants to know something, I show him and I remain completely transparent about the state of our finances.

    BUT we do have a little play money. We each get a bit every week that I pull out in cash. I do this so he feels like I am not micromanaging his expenses and it keeps us on target by not overspending on personal indulgences.

    Basically, teamwork and transparency are important. Finances can be a tricky thing but I try to keep them as fair to both of us as possible.

  4. When I was a young wife, I used to feel wonder about my financial status. I was putting in enormous hours in child-rearing and housework but at the end of the day I didn’t have any money to call my own. I wondered if my work had no monetary value! I also wondered what my financial status would be if I happened to decide to walk out of marriage. These questions have remained unanswered.

  5. Well I am of the opinion that the home minister has to be the finance minister too and then only the household prospers. Irrespective of whether the wife is earning or not, a family remains happy when there is financial transparency between the husband and wife. Even our elders have believed that money prospers in the hands of the lady. But, don’t take my word for it … ask Sonia when you meet her next 🙂

  6. This really touched a chord somewhere- have no issues at all with money, spend freely from my hubbys income, still have my own savings in the bank…. Have voluntarily chosen to stay home and look after my child ……But still the thought that i havent been earning my “own” money for the last 2 years makes me insecure and nervous….. Why is that?
    Habit?
    A notion brought on by social norms that ‘value’ can only be measured in terms of money?
    The feeling that people are judging me as ‘non-productive’ because im ‘just’ looking after home and child?
    Is it just in my head or is there a subtle pressure on women to stretch themselves and balance both- work outside and within the home even if they don’t want to multi-task?
    Do we, as a society, ascribe too much importance to money?
    Sigh…. All these questions…. I think I need some retail therapy (with the hubbys credit card) 😉

    • Ha! Best last line. But yes. All of what you say is true and works on our psyche, twists our minds. It takes a lot of support to get clarity. Glad you wrote in supermom glamdoll Sadia! I will always think of you as the coolest chick in our batch!

  7. I’ve been a homemaker for the last 6 years, but have never felt like this, probably because we have joint accounts, assets in both our names, and both of us spend what we want to, without the other questioning. I think such insecurities come up when the earning spouse is of the mentality that talks of ‘my money’. Even if a spouse is the non earning member, if there is financial equality, I think such insecurities vanish. I find it sad and tellign that she finds it easier to ask her parents or brother for money, just the fact that she needs to do any asking…

  8. Very valid thoughts and indeed sad too. I have seen all sides, a fiercely independent single woman, a stay at home mom and now a mother who works because she just loves the credit in her bank account at the end of each month 🙂
    It is upto each of us to decide what exactly is it that we want , we will have to give some and take some more , yes, you would have some conflicts, some pain and maybe some fights as well. In the end as you rightly said, the man doesn’t deserve the woman if he cannot accept and encourage what she wants to do.

  9. I think she has to discuss the matter with her husband and decide where their marriage is heading.If she requires to go to her brother/parents for money,there is something seriously wrong in the relationship.

  10. Reblogged this on Dreamz Forever and commented:
    Reblogging this from “Rambling in the city”..
    “If your partner’s happiness is not important to you, if seeing her smiling and confident does not make you proud, if you find yourself unable to respect what she wants and expect her to always pay heed to your needs over hers, then you are not cut out to have a woman in your life! Let her go and let her lead her own life. Whatever that life may be, it will be better than wasting her talents and love and energy with you!”
    And I would want to add, leave other women alone too.

    • Well said! Women do not need men unless on equal terms. But that’s idealistic. Unfortunately humans are full of failings! Thanks for reblogging!

      • Idealistic or not, if it’s wrong it’s wrong. The problem with most Indians is that they expect the woman to be the great sacrificer and the great adjuster, while the man can go and do whatever he like inside or outside the house. In fact, especially when there are kids involved, women are expected to sacrifice their lives for the good of kids.

  11. In all ways a woman and a man are equal in an institution of marriage.
    both have different roles to play form looking after financial security to looking after home..
    the roles can keep changing also..women need to be financially independent.if in the role she is dependent on her husband for money she has to claim her share legitamately for the role she is performing.

  12. Why do women feel insecure: that shows the kind of marriage.

    How in the world is looking after a home and children less worthy than working in an office. The stupidest thing is our society has evolved to pay very little monetarily to the most valuable services and since money rules, we look down upon any job that does not pay financially.

    not sure how but I think, even housewives must be paid a salary for cooking, cleaning, looking after kids. If everything were quantified, and paid, women would have more confidence.

    It is ridiculous house wives are scared of asking money from their spouses. She should feel the job she does is nothing less in terms of services which are paid heavily outside home.

  13. This is a recurring theme that I see in many marriages all around me, so I am surprised that people are surprised. Its not easy for women to walk out of marriages with kids and social pressures, especially if they are not even earning. And the trouble is that somewhere along the line, most of the women I talk to, who are in this situation actually love the man who treats her like a slave. They tell me that they put up with this because its their ‘own’. I ask them ‘ why does their ‘own’ not respect their needs?’. Its difficult to ask these questions without seeming like criticising their husbands/ partners and wives clam up, when they start thinking that may be I dont look up to their husband any more (well I dont) because of the way they treat their wives.

    Its sad that money seems to be only way to evaluate a person’s worth, when the fact that a graduate, highly educated intelligent woman is actually taking upon herself to cook food for you, and bring up your children with all the intelligence and acumen (not to mention love) at her disposal should be a quotient far higher than any monetary value you can put on the ‘daal’ she cooks or the clothes she irons, or the lessons she helps her child through. But till that value is understood, unfortunately financial independence seems to be the first steps towards emancipation, a step we cannot do without. And women need to think many times before they give up that right, no matter what people around them tell them, no matter how rosy the first days of marriage/ motherhood seem.

    • Could not agree more! My friend, for instance, is not thinking of walking out of this marriage at all, in fact she is completely intertwined in the situation and is actually as much a part of the problem as her husband or the rest of their extended family. The thing is- there has to be some clarity on what the couple and each individual wants from their life. But mutual respect, a degree of trust and financial freedom must be integral to a marriage. Btw, her husband is a really nice guy. I don’t think he is actively denying her anything, but she is unable to bring this subject on the table and negotiate a better situation. That is the ultimate tragedy. That women assume their voice is not worth it!

  14. I’ve seen this in more Indian marriages than I can count on my fingers.

    Most often, it is not that the husband actually rations the money and disallows extra expenditure – rather, subtle actions and gestures from him suffice to make women like your friend feel too guilty and insecure to ask for it.

    In larger Indian society society, the work of a homemaker is often seen as trivial and unworthy of notice. In fact, such work is tremendously important, and in households with only one earning member, it is in the non-earning member’s lap that most of this work tends to fall. The complete disacknowledgement of the efforts that go into carrying out ‘routine’ tasks within a household is perhaps the worst of the many injustices that many Indian homemakers face every day.

    And tangible factors aside, the moral and emotional support that one receives from a spouse (whether or not they work outside the home) is absolutely invaluable. It is something that no amount of money can purchase – it is literally priceless.

    In my view, therefore, homemakers have every right to demand their fair share of their partners’ income.

    On a personal note, I confess that more than any considerations of equality, tax-efficiency has been a defining factor in the resource split in our marriage. Practically all of our tangible assets (money, property, equity, savings, commodities and so on) are distributed to produce the minimum tax exposure possible, without all that much regard for what was purchased by whose money.

    Of course, mutual trust is a precondition to this kind of split; I consider myself eternally fortunate to be able to share the deep, abiding trust that I do, with my wife.

    I could not agree more with your concluding lines; Caring about your partner is completely vital to any healthy, sustainable relationship. Personally, the years have not dulled the pleasure I derive from seeing my wife smile, and for this, I am thankful. Money is important, but when compared to the joy of having a warm shoulder to lean on in a bitterly cold world, it seems a very hollow pleasure indeed. An overly romantic philosophy, perhaps, but one that I find true nonetheless. Humans starve, not just for food, but also for emotional fulfillment, and filling that need is far, far harder than simply scrounging for a few crumbs of bread.

  15. Why radical? I think what you’ve concluded should be the foundation of all relationships. If you are not able to respect and expect from each other what are you living or bonding together for?

  16. I was catching up with your blog yesterday when I read this post. And my head was flooded with many-many thoughts, all of them wanting to be written.. phew!
    Radical post, I would say, not the advice (applies to both partners, yes); because despite this being a recurring theme like Mono says, so many of us won’t talk about it or even acknowledge the imbalance. No matter the education or intelligence. Kudos to you for writing about it in a very balanced way!!

    Stimulating comments too from your new set of readers, especially agrajag (love parts of his 1st comment) & Praveen. Emotional fulfillment, yes…..
    And, women must change their thinking too along with the men, for the society to change. When did we handover men the power to change women’s lives?

    • awww, thanks !

      It’s been great fun learning more about India over these last few months. I really do believe different countries have a lot to learn from each other. For sure I’ve learnt a *lot* after starting to take an interest in Indian blogs. If anyone learns anything worthwhile from me, then so much the better. Mutual exchange is definitely the way forward.

  17. A well written post. I absolutely agree with you – all 100 percent!

    How have you been Punam?! Hope all is well at your end.

  18. Hits it! And oh boy, hits it well! 🙂
    Thanks!

  19. Really very touching and thought provoking…I think most of Indian homemakers are undergoing this…..Marriage is like a joint business venture..where transparency and honesty is must…alas few could understand that….it becomes suffocating at the end… ” If your partner’s happiness is not important to you, if seeing her smiling and confident does not make you proud, if you find yourself unable to respect what she wants and expect her to always pay heed to your needs over hers, then you are not cut out to have a woman in your life! Let her go and let her lead her own life. Whatever that life may be, it will be better than wasting her talents and love and energy with you”….these lines really touched my heart….feels like a caged bird…poor and helpless…!!!

  1. Pingback: When a newly married Indian woman gives up her career, what else does she give up? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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