I’ve watched romantic comedies all my life. The lies they told got me through living with a bad boyfriend in an apartment below a drug dealer whose doorbell didn’t work for far longer than I should have.
I was waiting for that third act with all the love and things fitting into place and the heroine getting everything she wanted.
But romantic comedies don’t show you the true nature of a codependent relationship. And they don’t show you the depressing pre-nup appointment at the lawyer’s office that surely happened after Richard Gere drove up to Julia Robert’s place in that limo.
Different Perspectives, Same Heart
Luckily, in 2004 I no longer thought that life should be like a movie. I was a “townie” in a college town and met my husband, who was a student at the local Ivy League school. He was a sweet, intelligent, attractive and kind man. In the first few weeks we were together, I heard him tell a friend, “You can’t have a job and go to school full time!” This was in response to her having expressed an interest in taking on a regular babysitting gig for one of her professors. When we met, I was taking classes and working two jobs. We literally met while I was waiting on his table. It was then that I saw that we were operating with very different perspectives.
Six months into our relationship, I moved five hours away for school (where I worked while studying) and we decided to try long distance. This wouldn’t have been possible without his money for tickets to visit one another. Up to this point I hadn’t been comfortable with the idea of him buying me dinner.
While we were apart, we would read the same book in order to have a communal activity in different cities. One of the books was Thomas Mann’s Budenbrooks. And while discussing it, he would draw comparisons to his own family: the wealthy great grandparents with their family money, the generation after generation frittering it away… It was through this activity that I learned that when he’d discovered what companies his trust had been invested in, he had his advisor divest it all and only invest in sustainable and fair companies (a reason why he has earned much less than his cousins over the intervening decades).
We learned a lot about “how the other half lives” early in our relationship. He had a trust fund, and I had to sign on for state health care. No health insurance company would take me on and my chronic illness was landing me in the University hospital every few months. He learned the fear and vulnerability of being a person living paycheck to paycheck, and I learned about the guilt and confusion that comes with having money that one hasn’t earned.
Not only were we brought up by parents in different tax brackets, we were also raised in different countries. When we married, I moved to his hometown of Zürich, Switzerland. This meant that I could pretend that an issue of class difference was really just a cultural difference. For example, I pretended that it’s a Swiss thing to have to invite your banker to your wedding.
Finances and Emotions
The main issues that we have had with our different backgrounds are that I still have a lot of anxiety around money and opening bills, and he wants me to take part in making financial decisions. He also forgot from time to time what he’d learned about loving a person of a different class. He would comment on the fact that we always visit my family rather then them coming here to visit. He would ignore the fact that taking holiday time off work –plus international airfare – is an impossibility for my loved ones.
Through our nine years of marriage, we’ve learned how closely money and emotions can be tied no matter the class. And we try to be mindful about that. He’s got his guilt about where his money came from, and I’ve got my guilt about now being in a different class from my family.
Through our nine years of marriage, we’ve learned how closely money and emotions can be tied no matter the class.”
Part Of Your World
Now I’m that person with money that I didn’t earn, but I have health insurance (as Swiss law demands), and have gotten to hear financial advisors tell me that if we have children, we shouldn’t let them have American passports “ever since the IRS got aggressive in 2008.” But I’m pretty sure that that’s what happens to Ariel after the end of The Little Mermaid, yeah? Grimsby would never allow for dual citizenship for those merkids, would he?