Today is International Women’s Day and whilst I had an entirely different blog planned, I thought this was the one moment to really celebrate women and the progress we have made. But also, there is a word we need to celebrate and pass on to future generations of women – independence. And in particular, financial independence. But it’s just not a matter of money making the world go around, it could help women to have equality when it comes to love too.
The blog I had originally planned to publish was exploring infidelity. Recently, I have spoken to a few people who are and have been impacted by this in their lives. On many occasions, I have been told that someone knew of what was happening on the side but due to the lifestyle they were provided, did not want to admit to it openly out of fear of then having to walk away and lose the comfort and status they enjoyed. It’s as though once everything is found out and details have been aired, there is no going back. So, denial sometimes seems the better alternative.
Over the years I’ve also spoken to many women who complain that are unhappy in their unions or that their significant other is not treating them right. But they stay because they are worried about not having enough to go by, worried about where they are going to live and how they will support themselves.
Then there is the man that controls a woman. And the most common way he does it is with cash. Good behaviour is rewarded with presents. Holidays and lifestyle are chosen because it’s his accounts that are paying. Houses are purchased and suburbs picked based on the fact that it’s his name on the deed. Even restaurants get chosen because he is the one forking the bill. It might start off as an exciting glamorous life, but many eventually want to revolt against this control but don’t have the financial means to do so. Some wait till they know they might be able to get a decent settlement in a divorce, but some stay longing for a type of love no amount of money can’t buy.
Shouldn’t we be able to just choose love for love and if things don’t work out leave? Not that I’m suggesting it’s that simple and you shouldn’t work at a relationship, but finances should not be a factor in your decision. Shouldn’t we be able to understand the difference between love that is truly shown and feeling loved because someone is spending cash on us? Why is it when it comes to love, money seems to be somewhere in the mix?
I grew up in an environment where my mother was financially independent and it taught me so much about being a woman who can stand on her own feet. My father was also in support of this and wanted me to be the same. I had a job since I was 14 and was also taught the value of a dollar. I remember being a young girl and my father asking me if I wanted to marry a rich man or a poor man (I think this was his way of testing me in a fun way). I remember responding, “I’ll marry a man I love no matter if he is rich or poor cause I will make my own money.”
After working as a freelancer for a while and entering into the start-up world, I have learnt that women are often not great with money. And it’s because so many of us are not taught how to manage money but also seem to struggle with really valuing ourselves financially. One of the most empowering experiences I have had is being around women who have shared these financial insecurities with me and realising I was not alone. Whilst I was brought up to be financially independent, I still think I have issues with really valuing myself. Even writing a blog post about women and money feels a bit scary. If men get aggressive with money, asking for more, wanting to make more, they are considered strong. When women do the same, we are often seen as too ballsy or too tough and even given a hard time that we should be focusing on family as well.
But it’s our relationship with money that has the key to relationships success because it allows us to choose love for love and not anything else. Having financial independence is not easy, especially these days if you live in a place like Sydney, but focusing on the skills to get there is also the greatest asset needed. There isn’t always a set dollar amount that allows someone to be financially free, but knowing that they can rebuild, that they can manage money and focus on making it, is the thing that really brings financial independence into a woman’s life. If things are not going great in love, you can in the back of your mind know that your choice can be based on emotions not money.
What if someone is cheating or is not treating you right? Should you be basing your decision to stay or leave based on money and stability or standing up for yourself in life? And it’s the same for getting into a relationship. Should we still encourage women that a good catch also has a dollar sign involved? Or should we encourage them to follow their hearts and accept the possible obstacles that comes with love?
Sometimes it’s just that peace of mind to know that we can enter a relationship on an equal level without having to trade something. It’s not for money or stability for someone to raise a family and keep a home, but love for love, compatibility, passion and more.
We might not all have a lot in our bank accounts, but having the focus that we should keep trying and knowing that we can be good with money is all we need. It’s not about who makes the financial decisions, who controls whom, but how you both treat each other as equals. And sometimes to gain equality even when it comes to love, some form of financial independence is what women need.
Part of equality is pushing changes with the gender pay gap, but we also need to encourage a younger generation of women to not only know they can be just as good with money as men, but to stand up for themselves financially too.