Men loving men has its own challenges and no place is this more evident than the realm of financial responsibility.
Like many of our straight male counterparts, we often enter relationships with many severely limited and unproductive views regarding earning and managing money. More often than not, we equate a man's earnings and or earning potential with his character and ability to effectively contribute within a relationship.
Without a proper understanding of money that comes from understanding its limits and power, we limit our ability to effectively wield its power and utilize it to improve our lives.
Money to some people is love and security and freedom.
Money to others is frivolity. Its only purpose being purchasing things. In our relationships we typically have different styles with money and this is not discovered until we are very much emotionally involved.
If we are in the process of developing our emotional commitments, the one who has the money (the one who makes more) many times feels as if they are in the position to make all the decisions. While this is not always the case, I have heard men both gay and straight joke about being in charge because they have all the money and in return get to "call the shots." As any comic will tell you, there is a great deal of truth in comedy.
In other words, while this may provide a hardy chuckle to all involved parties, it does very little to move a relationship forward or provide interesting and provocative results.
Recently, two very seemingly unrelated but pivotal things occurred within hours of each other. I had a very upsetting conversation regarding money, creativity and my current relationship. In the same twenty four hour period, it was pointed out to me what the universe requires of us if we are to move our lives forward.
The two things most needed to make our relationships with each other and money work are the twin pinnacles of awareness and experience.
Within the black community, financial matters are rarely discussed. I know of couples who hide money from each other, lie about what they owe and to whom, and would rather be waterboarded than tell you how much the interest rate is on their credit card, their overpriced mortgage, or the fifty dollars they have in their savings account until payday which is a staggering twelve days away.
Manliness and machismo is often determined by the size of our paychecks. This is great as long as you are earning a paycheck.
To break this deadly and relationship killing pattern we need to add a healthy dose of both awareness and experience. With awareness, we all can have a healthy, honest, nonjudgmental look at our patterns, what we do and why and then decide if this is still the best way to proceed.
Let me cite my own personal attempts to do this.
When I was single, living in NYC in my late 20's and early 30's, I was solely responsible for me. I could eat what I wanted when I wanted and never had to consult or think about what anybody else wanted or needed financially.
As my perfect comedic timing dad used to say repeatedly, "When you eat your whole family eats." This worked swimmingly well for a number of years.
Surviving on pizza, bagels and hummus is great when it is just you. If you get hitched and decide to invite someone else in to your life, unless they enjoy living on the edge with you there might be a need to readjust what you're doing.
If the dynamic has changed and if this is not recognized, and this is what awareness will do, then you are asking for a heap of trouble and an inordinate amount of strain on your relationship.
How is this prevented? Awareness.
If I am unaware of my own tendencies, which in my case was survival mode, then I can not make another decision. I will simply recreate the same drama - just with a new cast member. Being aware allows for an incredible amount of humility as well.
I can now retire the man-cape, admit my humanity and ask for help in creating and establishing new and more productive, inclusive ways of being.
In gay male culture, we are not encouraged to be self aware. Instead, we are supported to live in a fantasy world where everything fabulous and lovely is our birthright and the thing to be most longed for.
There is a reward in stepping back, taking a look at a given situation and deciding what is the best course of action given our current situation, past choices and future desires. Being aware forces everyone involved to consistently create fresh approaches to old situations.
We are allowed the opportunity to tackle and take on things that have previously menaced us.