Monday, December 23, 2013

My ex's relationship to money

Bryan has money issues.

And I'm blogging about them because they're stressing me out and I don't know what else to do besides think it through here with you, my gentle readers.  Thanks for listening, and for sharing your stories with me, and lending your advice and emotional support.

First: a glance at my finances.  During my marriage, I thought I was the overspender, because I did all the trips to Target and Costco and the grocery store, I bought the school supplies and the items for the science project and the birthday presents and I filled the car with gas and took Katherine for haircuts.  Bryan told me, repeatedly, that I needed to cut back.  I tried.  I grew increasingly frugal, spending less and less on myself, trying to make our budget work.

Even though Bryan made a good salary with great benefits.

I always thought it was my fault that we were short, that we had to put the item on the credit card, that we were struggling.

Enter: divorce, and separate finances.

I had no idea what an incredible financial relief divorce could be.  I thought, because my combined income (salary and child support) was less than our joint married income, and we struggled during marriage, that I would struggle IMMENSELY after divorce, especially because I'd bought into the line that I was the over-spender.

Au contraire.

I was so afraid of running out of money that I managed it well.  I acquired a small savings.  I paid all my bills, on time.  I didn't use credit (though, at the advice of friends, I did get my own credit card).  I saved enough to do our Disneyland trip in cash.  When I got laid off, I had a small savings and an empty credit card, a house full of groceries, etc.

Bryan was laid off (fired?) recently.  I knew already that he'd acquired a great deal of debt since our divorce, that he was living close to the edge....even though he makes more than I do (did).

Three things are going on right now that make me think about this, and they all put a knot into my stomach.

1)  Bryan told me not to send Katherine over until after dinner because he didn't have groceries or money to buy them.
2)  I am uncertain as to whether I'm ever going to receive another child support payment again.
3)  Bryan had a bit of a fit today because he wants Katherine's college fund information, and said, "I need to have access to that!  It's a lot of money!"

It's that last one that has me spinning.  I think that desperate times call for desperate measures, and I think that Bryan is planning on making some withdrawals from Katherine's meager college savings.  Let it be known: most of that savings comes from grandparents' gifts, only a small portion comes from Bryan and I.  It is Katherine's money, not ours, and she is on track to go to college, and there is probably enough money in that account to put her through one freakin' semester (I hope I'm kidding but I'm not sure that I am) and under NO circumstances do I want to see that money shrink.

Seen from a distance, I feel so sorry for Bryan.  I have no idea what he's doing with his life, if he has any goals, if he ever even dreams of being happy or stable any more.  He's a disaster, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and fiscally.  It's hard to watch: he used to have so much potential, he used to live such a different life, he used to have so much success.  Now I wonder how he'll ever get it together enough to survive, and it's so scary.  He is Katherine's father, and no matter how imperfect (ha!) he is, she needs him.

I bought him a grocery gift card.  I've invited him for a couple of meals with Katherine.  He should get unemployment soon, and that will help him.

I am working HARD at getting a job that will support Katherine and I without his assistance.  Right now, I'm talking to five organizations that are interested in me, and I feel really good about my prospects.  One of those organizations makes my heart flutter because it sounds like such a good fit...and one of those organizations is going to hire me.  Soon, I will be working for a world class organization with great benefits and a good salary, and I will take care of Katherine and I, regardless of what a train wreck Bryan is.  I'm going to be okay.  I will build my savings back up, I will do what it takes to create a beautiful, glorious life.

Bryan, the man who doesn't have enough money to buy groceries, hangs out at his favorite coffee shop daily.  He buys $5-$10 worth of coffee and treats there every single day - it's his favorite place.  At breakfast when he came by to pick up Katherine (and I offered to feed him...sigh) he told her all about how he goes to the local steak house a lot and how much he loves their potato pancakes.  I haven't been to a steak house in....I don't know how long.  I can't afford it, you see.  (I did go to the steak house near my old office for happy hour, actually.  For $6, I could get tenderloin sliders to die for, and enjoy the atmosphere, and a $6 glass of house red, with a friend as my "big night out".  But I stopped ordering the filet mignon with all the sides many years ago.  Bryan believes he "deserves" the filet mignon, so he keeps ordering it, and believes that it's a compromise when he orders the smaller size, which only costs $30, and you can bet that he has several glasses of wine to go along with it.  Frequently.)

I don't know what the point of telling my blog all of this is, except that I couldn't carry it inside me, because inside me it hurts, and I want it out of me.

I need to practice deep compassion for the human being who is my ex-husband and the father of my child.  I hand out protein bars to homeless people on street corners, I have helped out with a homeless shelter, I donate to food banks.  I can help out my ex to make sure that he's not hungry, and that Katherine doesn't feel how hard things are for him right now (because that would hurt her).  I will try to do the right thing, to be compassionate, to be kind.

But I also need to practice boundaries.  If he doesn't pay child support, I'm going to have to take loans from my parents, and that makes me mad.  (I don't see a paycheck coming until Feb. 1 at absolute earliest, and things are getting closer and more pinched.  Still okay, but I count on that child support to make ends meet.)  I am not just going to roll over and let him kick me; I am not going to let him walk away with a free pass from his responsibilities.

I am not letting him take Katherine's college money.  That is HER future.  It's also mine - I don't think he'll ever give any more money to her college fund, and I am not going to let that stop her from going to college.  I will do what it takes for her to go to college, to help her in any ways I can, and that is important to me....and also means that whatever he takes now, I have to pay for later.  I am NOT okay with that.

Something else I'm not going to do - I'm not going to let him move back in my house.

There is a guest room here.  I think he will ask to move into it, and he can not.  I would lose my mind, and the compassion I strive so hard for would absolutely go out the window.  He is inconsiderate and rude to me, forgetful about his responsibilities, and a total slob.  He's short tempered and impatient and judgmental (and vocal about it) to me.  I can not afford to invite that in my life ever again.  I can put up with a certain amount when he is my dinner guest....but no way could I put up with it if I came home to it every day. 

Boundaries.  I have to figure out where my boundaries are, and where the line between compassion and common sense lies.

Please wish me luck.

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