A woman who appeared on my cable show not long ago revealed, when I announced that fifty percent of all American women will live with or marry a man with children, the following (familiar, alas) story.
She’s close to retirement and has been saving for years. Her adult son doesn’t need money, so her small stash supports the household she shares with her boyfriend of five years, a twice-divorced man whose money mostly goes to his two young children by his second wife. My guest agreed to this arrangement, feeling strongly that his children should be his first priority, and that they could manage their household expenses together.. BUT, she says, “in this protracted downturn, none of his money goes to our household; it all goes to his (second) ex-wife’s. I’m wondering where to draw the line. He does, after all, live here. He did, after all, make a financial commitment, albeit a small one, to our life together.”
Before you jump in to judge, remember that the number if women marrying men with children, from both first and second wives, is growing. And the economy isn’t.
Doesn’t it give you new appreciation for pre-nups? I remember thinking, once upon a time, that they were odious reminders to women not only of death and divorce, but that the new brides themselves were disposable and that, moreover, once disposed of, they’d surely be headed for poverty. But I now think prenups are a blessing for everyone. Particularly women.
Here’s the bitter truth for my guest: Money siphoned off from her joint household expenses that now goes to the household of his ex is his concern. But the deal hes breaking with his live-in lover is hers. It galls her that he now even wants more from her—that she support their household, but also that she contribute to paying off his growing debt, on the theory that “they” shouldn’t go more into debt.
No, that won’t fly. First off, they’re not married. Second, her lover’s debts and obligations may morally trump his obligations to her, but her own child (who may one day need money, too), her own home, and her own retirement money trump those obligations. They trump HIM, unless he figures out how to be in this dilemma with her (meaning that HER concerns and obligations be as important as his own).. She now needs to get out of the now0defunct deal and focus on her dwindling assets. He may call her heartless, cold, selfish (more on THAT in another blog). But who, exactly, will be grateful if she gives everything away to this family she doesn’t know? The ex-wife? Oh, sure. The children? Uh-uh. She will end up, in her retirement, both resentful and poor because of a man who never should have begun living with her in the first place, and a family in whose lives she is not even a remote consideration..