I recently came across this article I wrote a couple years ago for Retail Me Not: “Cashless in Splitsville: 5 women share the money lessons they learned from divorce.” Whether it’s about maintaining your career, ensuring both parties’ names are on all investments, debt and utilities, and fighting for a decent living standard post-marriage, the takeaway is the same: Conduct life as a wife as if you are prepared to be an ex-wife. This is the same message I preach, too. The numbers alone are compelling enough. As I wrote in that article:
When it comes to divorce, women have historically gotten the short end of the financial stick. Historically, wives have earned less than husbands, taken on more unpaid childcare duties and are less involved with household finances—all of which is exacerbated in divorce. A recent U.S. Census report found that 23 percent of women who divorced in the past 12 months were more likely to receive public assistance, compared with just 15 percent of divorced men. The report also showed that 27 percent of recently divorced women made less than $25,000 per year, compared with 17 percent of men.
But the more I study long-term marriage and happy relationships I realize that emotional vulnerability is a key component. You must allow yourself to truly, unabashedly open up to the other person in order to connect with them a way that is both deeply meaningful and sustainable. Writes therapist Terry Gaspard in the HuffingtonPost:
Vulnerability just might be the glue that holds a relationship together. It can help you navigate day-to-day life with a partner and allow you to feel comfortable letting your hair down with them at the end of the day. Likewise, it may be the lack of emotional attunement that comes from not showing vulnerability that can lead many couples down the path to divorce. If you are afraid of showing weakness or exposing yourself to your partner, you might not be aware that your fear is preventing you from being totally engaged in the relationship. You might be freezing out the opportunity to love because you are afraid to let your authentic self shine and to share your innermost thoughts, feelings, and wishes.
That resonates with me, as I have been thinking about vulnerability a lot lately. It’s very hard for me to be vulnerable. It’s difficult to let people really see who I am. What if they do catch a glimpse at the very, very real essence of me — and then reject it?
Yet the past few years have brought a lot of opportunity to work through that fears — my ex-husband’s accident, after which I came to rely on a lot of help from others — more than any other time in my life; becoming a mom, which broke open my heart in new and painfully important ways; and some experiences with men in which I have found myself raw in ways that were until then foreign to me. I have also chosen to start this blog and write so very personally – being vulnerable in an extreme and public way. Clearly it is time for me to tackle this big issue. I see that it is necessary if I am to find a true love, be the best mom I can, or do my best work as a writer. It is hard. So scary. I am doing it.
But how do you reconcile the need to be vulnerable in a relationship with the need for financial protection in the event the relationship ends? How do you put your energy into a romance with emotional abandon while also constantly taking steps to protect your and your kids’ financial stability? Can you have a really truly awesome love while forever keeping an eye on your financial ball for the event of a breakup?