Love, Self

Never, EVER Live On A Man's Dime, Trust Me (It's A HUGE Mistake)

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For the eight years my ex-husband and I were together, I was financially dependent on him like many women who are financial dependent on their men. But this wasn't by choice exactly.

When we met, he was working but I had recently gone back to college after dropping out in order to be an actress and comedienne. I had many professional gigs and successes, but decided it was important for me to finish my degree.

This meant that once I finally graduated, I was 32 and going out into the work field. I found an entry-level job a few months after graduating.

Since we were already in our 30s, we wanted to have a baby. We didn't think this would keep me from working, but it did. I miscarried our first pregnancy and then again with our second pregnancy.

I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which landed me in the hospital and on temporary disability for the rest of the pregnancy. By the time the baby was born, we decided to have me stay home during the day and teach part-time and write at night, at least for the first year.

But then, when we decided to try for a sibling for our child, I had to leave my part-time work because I was sick with Hyperemesis again, and I ended up losing the baby. At that point, my daughter was 15 months old and my husband was in dire need for me to get back to work for some much-needed financial relief.

I struggled to find work that would cover day care expenses, as well as my student loan payments. My partner was understandably frustrated and having a hard time seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

And me? I was depressed, too. I was a smart woman and knew I had much to offer if only the right person would give me a chance. But that wasn't the worst part.

The worst part was being invisible and powerless because of my inability to earn a decent paycheck. Time and again, as my husband and I fought, he would remind me: "I pay the bills. It's my house."

It didn't matter that I was taking care of the house and our child. It didn't matter that I was making a full-force effort to find a good job (applying for jobs, seeking recruiters, utilizing my alumni connections and resources). In the meantime I worked part-time until I found something.

It was his house. I guess I was just merely a guest. 

There were many times I thanked him for working so hard while I got to bond with our child. But there were also times when I didn't appreciate what he was going through for our family, and for that I'm sorry. I felt as if there was a constant reminder that because I wasn't working, I meant zilch. I felt as if what I did as a mother didn't mean anything.

He didn't come home and say, "Thank you for keeping our house so immaculate. Thank you for keeping our daughter so engaged and happy." It's possible he thought it inside his mind because he's a quiet guy, but I rarely heard praise or anything positive about me, his wife.

I understood his stress, but not as much as I understand now as an almost-divorced mom dealing with my own finances. 

When my husband and I separated, I landed an amazing job. I say amazing because my work is family-friendly, stable, and supportive of mothers.

I'm not making bank but I, Laura Lifshitz, am bringing home some bacon again.

I'm broke and struggling, but damnit, I have my two cents and I love it.

I'm no longer a guest in my home; I'm an equal partner in my child's financial needs and future, and even supply her with health insurance. The woman who felt two inches tall is now standing her "fullest" at 5 feet, 1 and a half inches.

For Valentine's Day, I'm seeing a mediator as my ex-husband and I go through our last few mediation sessions. It's not the most romantic way to celebrate, but it marks the start of a new and happier life for me, my ex-husband, and our child.

At the end of the day, I want us to both be financially stable and happy. My daughter needs that. He's a great dad; we have a 60 percent (me) and 40 percent (him) custody split and have to work together. It's hard co-parenting at times, but it's mostly smooth.

Unfortunately, I'm in a predicament many Americans are in: I make too much to qualify for mostly everything, yet with a divorce, student loan debt, childcare, and more, I haven't quite figured out how I will pay rent once the marital home is sold or foreclosed.

I simply try to live day-by-day and plan as best as I can for the future.

After the financial stress of a divorce and feeling powerless in my marriage, I've come to the conclusion that if I fall in love again, all I care about is that the man can take care of himself, not me.

I never want to rely on someone else's dime again — not for my self-esteem and not for my sanity. I want to handle my own money and make my own decisions.

I have a small daughter watching me, so I need to teach her to be independent. And if I'm not, what kind of lesson is that?

This article was originally published at The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.