Marriage has many benefits only some of which are financial. Shared housing, splitting pension income and shared resources are just a few of the financial advantages to being married. If you are in it for the long haul being married also comes with compromise. It’s not always possible to follow both sets of dreams when one person’s dreams take them in a very clear direction.
How is it possible to navigate a life with two separate sets of dreams and goals? What if I picture my retirement living peacefully by the ocean and he pictures his dropping dead at the blackboard in the middle of a lecture. What if her once-in-a-lifetime job is in a city you don’t want to move to?
It wasn’t that long ago that it was a woman’s role to support her husband in his career. It was really only after the second world war that it became a viable option for women whose husbands worked full time to have a career of their own. The choice isn’t always about who makes the best income. It sometimes comes down to whose career is more flexible.
Here are some tips for navigating deep financial waters when it comes to aligning your dreams as a couple.
Talk About It
Most of us talked about our hopes and dreams before we married. We mapped out how many kids we wanted, what kind of house we wanted to buy, how we wanted to decorate, what some of our hopes and dreams for the future were. What we may have left out were the details. What age to you hope to retire? Where do you see yourself living in retirement? How do we plan on saving for the future? Will be both work full time?
Consider a Flexible Career
In an ideal world, one of you will have a flexible career. In our case, that’s me. My husband has a specialty. We’re going to have to end up in the city where he gets hired. Fortunately, my career is flexible. I don’t relish the thought of getting a new job but I know it’s possible. Had I had a specialty, one of us would have had to made huge compromises unless we could both find our dream jobs in the same town.
Be Careful about Compromising Too Much
There is nothing worse than a martyr in the disguise of a fully supportive spouse. If you compromise too much, you’ll begin to resent your spouse. Resentment and bitterness can make for a very unhappy life for you both. It’s ok to be fully supportive of your spouse. Just make sure you’re truly supportive and not just trying to be or resentment will fester quickly.
Find Some Balance
I’m all for families making their own choices for what is best for their situation. If you or your spouse want to stay at home with the kids, great. If you both want to work full time, fabulous. I’ve always wanted to work outside the home. I place no judgment on those who don’t.
I know a couple who are both teachers and have arranged a situation where one works for two years and then takes a leave for two years while the other one works. One parent is always working and the other is at home with the kids. I know another couple who both wanted so desperately for one spouse to stay at home full time, that the other spouse worked two jobs. What matters is that you’re both happy with the situation, regardless of the choices you make for your family.
Plan and Re-evaluate Continually
Life doesn’t always turn out as planned. It is constantly changing and with that change it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. What you planned and agreed on 5 years ago is very different from where life is today. Keep date nights, even if it means paying a baby-sitter and going out for dinner. Keep dreaming with your spouse so your dreams are going in the same direction.
Life is not about waiting for retirement to live fully. It’s about creating the life you want now while saving for the future. It’s not worth the sacrifice of your marriage if it means spending your retirement years alone.
What are some ways you’ve had to align your dreams with your spouse?
Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.