In the last column I mentioned that money and fidelity are the two issues most likely to run a ship of love into rocky shoals. Cold cash is the iceberg to deep six the most titanic love affair. Come on. Had Leo survived with Kate how long would it take her to get tired of scrounging with a starving artist? Sure, peasant dance slumming with the cutest boy on board is great on the open seas. For the long haul, though, an opulent upbringing tends to give a girl an appetite for the finer things in life. In the case of Ms. Winslett, that would appear to include rich food - sorry, I'll retract the claws, now.
Wild and carefree, spendthrift ways, sexy and exciting in a new relationship-- when your lover is spending it all on you - get tired fast when the bloom starts wilting around the edges and you're busting your hump to pay shared bills for things you never benefit from. Most couples don't suffer the Kate and Leo contrast, a staple of romance novels; but attitudes toward saving and spending often vary wildly.
Money is the physical manifestation of freedom and power. How economic influence is shared, distributed, advertised, withheld, wielded, hawked, hoarded, or given away inside any relationship is a dynamic as unique to two people as the flux of their sexual or emotional lives. In the old days, men made the money and were presumed to control family finances. Like other dirty little secrets that no one dared talk about in the suburban tract grids of post-war mentality (queers, women's sexuality, etc.), that wasn't necessarily the case.
In my family, before my mother started to work in the late '70s, my father made the cash but turned it over to Mom who paid the bills, did the shopping, and gave him back his "pocket money." I learned at a very young age the importance of "nobody's business" and the emasculating shame of this system when our next door neighbor teased Dad after hearing about his allowance from me.
One would hope we've passed the need to hold up such ridiculous façades at millennium's end. Yeah, well hope springs eternal. Power negotiations between men and women are dicier than ever. The point is my father ceded all kinds of influence to my mother because he wanted to and it worked for them as a couple. How many men to this day would be comfortable admitting that?
My partner, Tyce, and I push individual shopping baskets through the check-out because that's what works for us, even though the clerk knows we're a couple and sometimes gives us a strange look. We split pretty much everything down the middle because for us the balance sheet keeps our jigsaw pieces fitting together. Other couples can do great by joint banking. Tyce is a spender and I'm a saver. It wouldn't work for me. A lesbian couple I know has been together for decades and walks down public streets connected by a leash and spiked dog collar. For all I know the "slave" controls the purse strings but, whatever the case, it works for them.
Acknowledging how power is distributed in a relationship is a secret to longevity. Money, sex, and emotions are all facets of what is given and taken. Straight couples too often deny this and try to recreate false roles they learned from their parents even though women's power in the overall economy continues to rise. Just as many queer relationships fail for the same reason. When it comes to shared expenses, assume nothing, try everything, and discover what works. Be June and Ward Cleaver or Uncle Bill and Mr. French. Just be mindful of your choices and if you're lucky you won't end up like Rhoda and Joe.
PostscriptIf you would like advice regarding acceptance by your homo-mate's family or any other straight or gay relationship problems address your questions to Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.