How buying a new car with my partner triggered cold feet

March 12 | Guest post by Vegancupcake

Vegancupcake wrote a wonderfully honest post touting pre-marital counseling, and now she's unleashing more wonderful honesty about the freaky experience of joining finances.

Photo by Used under Creative Commons license.

I never would have expected that my first bout of chilly feet would be triggered by a beautiful new car. I know cold feet can mean many things, and has an alarming sound to it. So let me define my version of it.

Lately I have been looking at my fiancee and seeing him as if I just met him — less in a cute, romantic way and more like he's suddenly an alien. I have been feeling cooped up in our apartment at times that would normally be relaxing and cuddly. I have been craving time with girlfriends and feeling claustrophobic when my guy wants to join us.

I have had thoughts like "How do people do this?" I have been aware of his faults. I have felt self-conscious and overly accountable about mine. I have wondered what life would be like if we weren't getting married this year. I have wondered where I might move if I wasn't in a relationship. For the first time ever, I have hoped we can just hang out in silence and won't have to talk.

Let me back up to before this set in.

Between Christmas and New Years, my fiancee and I took a few days to deal with business. We opened a joint bank account and bought a car! I have only ever owned hand-me-down cars from family members that were almost ten years old, so I have never owned a brand new car. Let me tell you, I have never felt so sentimental about a vehicle: I have a huge, sloppy, shmoopy crush on our car. We put no money down and will be paying off our car loan for years, but we both feel great about it.

The opening of a joint bank account and the negotiating of our own financial independence has been such an unsexy part of this pre-marriage time.

And we are splitting it.

The original plan wasn't to split it. Somewhere along the way, I guess since we were simultaneously considering the fusion of our finances into one bank account, we decided to co-own the car.

When we drove the car home, we were giddy. But I was also… stunned. Completely overwhelmed. I have never put no money down on something. And I'm pretty sure I was only able to do this because of his help and willingness to take part in financing it. I now feel more accountable, not just for my personality quirks, but for the way I spend and save my money.

By the time we got home, I was no longer giddy. I wrapped up in a blanket, opened our window (it was frigid out but I just needed AIR), and cried… hard. I'm sure my fiancee was totally alarmed at my fast switch from celebratory to crushed, but I have never been one to postpone waves of unexpected tumultuous feelings.

I am no longer at the window crying, but I still feel strung out, big-eyed, and disoriented. Of course, it helps to sort out that being daunted in the face of a huge turning point is different than being ambivalent about my partner.

But, the opening of a joint bank account and the negotiating of how much to retain our own financial independence on the side has been such an unsexy part of this pre-marriage time. How do you stop tallying who bought what and who owes more? How do you deal with the self-consciousness of someone else getting such a front row seat while you grow up?

  1. My husband and I joined finances after a year together. It was actually really important to me, because having separate accounts felt like a division. For me, I felt that we were a team, a family, and the idea of "his" money and "my" money just made me uncomfortable. My husband was resistant at first, because as a drummer he has had tines where he will live on ramen to afford a cymbal, but I assured him I was on board. It just felt completely natural. Four and half years and a marriage later, it still feels right. And we are both trying to be moreresponsible financially but really like that we are trying to become adults together.

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  2. I have found the following books to be very helpful and/or eye-opening: 'Your Money and Your Man' by great personal financial columnist Michelle Singletary and 'The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Too Much Up?' by Leslie Bennetts. Both pose very cut-and-dry, hard-stuff-head-on questions about combining finances. They're likely available at your local library (or were at mine at least! ;-)

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  3. my fiancé and i rented an apt together for a while first, and there we kept everything even-steven. it was just the way to do it, and now i look back and feel like it was definitely because of the whole 'roommate mentality'. i gave him half of whatever was due, or he'd give me half of whatever was due. he earns pretty well, and i am self employed and my work is somewhat seasonal so it was challenging for me at times to 'keep up', but i always prided myself on 'matching' everything that needed to be paid out.
    Since we got engaged, and bought a house together we've had that talk of a joint bank account and just dumping everything in. he would talk of 'our money' etc, and to be completely honest i first saw it as me forking over all my hard earned money because since he earned more i felt like it was easier for him, and i also didn't like the idea of getting an 'allowance'. we are both super independent people and i didn't want to feel like we were being managed or more importantly he was paying more, or like i couldn't keep up my end of things (see: stubborn). it's not even like i'm a big spender either, i don't really buy anything.

    the joint account hasn't happened yet, mostly because we sort of naturally fell into a pattern that seems to work for us i guess? i have money that goes into my work that is pretty budgeted each month (hst, supplies, etc) so i just keep that separate when i make it, and he keeps his old account but i can deposit into it (for bills). we pay what we can. we don't keep track anymore and it finally dawned on me that we don't have to meet directly in the middle at all times, because we'd drive ourselves crazy! we still split our mortgage right down the middle, but other then that we do what we can. like others mentioned, if my work is slow i'll contribute how i can monetarily or not. if that's $100 towards a large bill then that's what it is. if it's making supper and doing dishes all week long then that's what it is. if it's me paying a smaller bill in full then i'll gladly do that. when my work is going good i'll gladly pay out more for the bills or fill up our gas tanks, or randomly come home with a bunch of groceries. we both like the feeling of getting to contribute, and we're both very appreciative and thankful. and i never thought i'd be one to feel like it was ok getting taken care of, or being ok with not handing over 'enough' money for some bills. but i guess we're becoming grown ups or something. who knows. hopefully couples will find a natural balance that works for them. that's the point of being together, not trying to force things the way people think they should be.

    P.S. the one funny thing that struck a chord with me here is the car buying. we bought a second car for 'me' and did it jointly and this was after buying the house which was no big deal apparently. i should add that we bought the car on my 30th birthday so there was probably more going on in my own breakdown anyway! ha. but that's when it really seemed to hit me that we were making purchases and big life decisions, and this was all the real deal. he was really great about me freaking out, because he knows me really well. wedding is next haha we'll see if there are any more freak outs!

    sorry about the book here

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  4. When my hubby and I first got married, we plunged straight to the joint bank account. The first year of marriage was especially rocky, and often with finger pointing about money. I moved halfway across the country after our wedding with no job. After 3 months of job searching, it looked like I was going to be incredibly dependent on my husband for money. I couldn't stand feeling like I was owing him anything, but fortunately for me I have a wonderful husband with some awesome perspective. One day he told me that it's not his money. It's OURS. He doesn't plan on our marriage ending anytime in the future, so why take tabs on who spends what on what. In the end, it's all ours. From the desktop computer he bought to the hair cut I got. While he might not appreciate the fancy hair-do as much as I do, it makes him happy to see me happy.

    That being said, there have been times that we've had to put the other in check. When Christmas time comes around, video games start popping out like nobodies business and my husband must have them all. If I see we've got a pretty good cushion in our bank account, I will go spend more than I meant to on fabric and home decor. In the end, we have a good relationship of "checks and balances" (as my husband would say). So long as we have enough to pay the bills and put into savings we are a happy couple.

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  5. I think finances really tend to do that to people. My fiance and I bought a house in October and everything was great. But the pressure of all of the new bills, plus his (lack of substantial) income has seriously put stress on us and our relationship and I find myself wondering everytime we have a breakdown over money "Is this really what I want?"

    It comes and goes for me, but I do know that ultimately yes, this is what I want. And I'm hoping that since he is still young (21) that time/maturity will work itself out and he'll gain experience and education, therefore be able to be more of a monetary cushion for me.

    Bottom line: money is the root of all evil.

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  6. I really needed to read this, and the comments especially, right now. My partner and I operate an online business together, and he also works a full time job. I have an antique business that is just getting off the ground and when we first started dating I had a very stressful but rewarding and somewhat lucrative job managing a bookstore, which I lost three years ago due to some underhanded fuckery. He and I live together and lately I have been feeling like a mooching loser because I make very little money compared to him. He is pretty adamant that I stay home, focus on my business and our business, and not attempt to rejoin the rat race. I do most of the household stuff, which I don't mind at all, and the online aspects of our business fall completely to me because he's a total luddite. He is wonderful about reminding me that 1, were it not for me he would be a starving bachelor living in filth, and 2, that were it not for me he would not be able to have his online bookstore, which is his dream. He is supportive and wonderful and tells me all the time that what we have is a true partnership where we support one another in many ways. However, the other day, I wanted to go grocery shopping and had to ask him for the cash, and it made me feel so bad and useless, as a 35 year old woman who has been working and paying bills since she was 16. It's hard sometimes to come to terms with the idea of blended finances, especially when you are used to having to do everything on your own. However, I have to remind myself (and this discussion helped) that having someone who you share all aspects of life (including finances) with is a blessing, how it's supposed to be. I am not a failure because I've stepped back from the corporate world to have my own business and follow my own dream, and I'm lucky to have a partner who supports it and helps me make it happen. We don't fight about money, and all the bad feelings that I have of 'not contributing' come from my own head, not him. Anyhow, sorry to ramble, but articles like this are why I love this site so much. Thanks.

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  7. I didn't read everything, but it seems most comments imply either having separate accounts or a joint account. What about having the best of both worlds? We each keep our separate accounts (current and savings) and have a joint account. We pay common expenses (groceries, mortgage, travels and common leisure) with the joint account and keep the right to have different spending habits with our own accounts (why would he pay for my books, why would I pay for his video games?). This works great for us.

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  8. I feel ya 100%. I still have my own bank account, but my boyfriend and I live together, pay bills together, share all of our money, and we both contribute what we can, when we can. At first it was terrifying, and I was afraid we couldn't handle it, but we talked about it openly and honestly, and now it's reassuring knowing we take care of each other in every sense, including financially.

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  9. When those of you who don't tally every purchase, and read the comments about the tally on groceries and who owes what at the end of each month: Do you get reminded of that scene in the Joy Luck Club about the Engineering husband with the crappy table he made, that could only support a vase of lilacs? Because I do.

    If it works for you that way, great! Good for you! I just couldn't do it, but for that image alone. :(

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  10. This is definitely resonating with me right now: "…it helps to sort out that being daunted in the face of a huge turning point is different than being ambivalent about my partner" – the trouble is that it is hard to know if that feeling of panic, that anxiety, is being caused by the idea of getting married (I mean, it's HUGE) or of getting married to THIS person (who suddenly irritates me to no end – that's not how I used to feel about him, but I do now, so that's not a good sign, right?). My working theory in these last few months before the Day is that my anxiety is being caused by my anxiety: i.e., that I panic about getting married, so I evaluate him for reassurance that it is right, and find all these characteristics and habits that seem less than perfect, and am suddenly convinced I am making a mistake because I don't feel "right," or as I think I should feel. And that I am doing all this in a microsecond, so I am not aware of the thought process. These posts/articles about fear, anxiety and uncertainty are very reassuring and are helping me make space for happiness, even if for only another microsecond – please keep them coming!

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