Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The challenges of marrying outside your class

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Interesting article by Jessi Streib in the Washington Post:

Jessi Streib, an assistant professor of sociology at Duke University, is the author of “The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriages.”

Madison didn’t have an easy childhood. As a kid, her house was always in disrepair. Her parents couldn’t consistently afford electricity or indoor plumbing, never mind fancy appliances and wall hangings. Madison’s classmates made fun of her shabby surroundings. Some refused to play with her.

Even after graduating from college, marrying and settling into a middle-class life, Madison couldn’t shake her insecurity about her home. She read design magazines and blogs obsessively, poring over the latest trends in closet organization and wall colors. She redecorated frequently and was rarely confident in her choices. When she redid her kitchen, she considered more than 200 faucets.

Her husband, Evan, hated how much Madison (their names, like all names in this piece, have been changed as a condition for my interviews) spent on furniture and gadgets they didn’t need. He couldn’t understand her fixation. Why would he? Evan grew up with middle-class parents, in the kind of house Madison was so desperate to re-create.

Studies show that couples argue more about money than about sex, chores or spending time together. For partners who marry across class lines, however, money isn’t just something to fight about. In researching my book about inter-class couples, I found that the financial stability of the spouses’ childhoods shaped their marriages in many ways, contributing to clashes about leisure time, home maintenance and even how to talk through their feelings. These pairs were middle class by the time I met them, but their different backgrounds still caused problems.

For example, Danielle grew up in a working-class family. She dropped out of high school and left her home town, marrying a man she’d later call a lunatic. Over the next six years, she moved 17 times, stood in countless welfare lines and even thought about stealing toilet paper. To cope with this crushing poverty, she “just pretended like [money] didn’t exist,” she told me. “I would just spend what I needed to and never think about it. I was afraid to face the realities of it, which is that it’s limited.”

Then she met her second husband, Jim, whose boss joked that he had grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth. It was true — Jim was raised in a mansion and attended a prestigious university. Though Jim and Danielle have been married for almost 30 years, they still treat money very differently. Danielle, like many of the spouses who grew up working class, didn’t like to budget or develop a long-term savings plan.

Jim, who’d grown up with a financial safety net, wanted the same for his family. He managed his money carefully, always aware of how much was being spent on what. He would pore over coupons and spend hours researching purchases; Danielle would get annoyed with his constant drive to “save 11 cents.” Jim so routinely returned items Danielle bought that she once deliberately spilled soda on their couch so he couldn’t take it back. Another time, she lied and told him stores would not accept returned cologne.

I saw this divide — between planning and going with the flow — flare up in other ways, too. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2015 at 2:22 pm

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