I’ve been married for 10 years. We share two young kids and I have two stepchildren. We had full custody of his two children during our marriage with no financial support from their mother.
He and I basically paid equally for all our expenses as we had a joint checking for our paychecks. Truthfully I always felt I shouldn’t be paying for my step kids.
We started having money issues a few years ago. When they got very bad my husband opened a new bank account, and deposited his checks there with me having no access.
He makes $150,000 a year and I make about $45,000. He paid all the bills for several months. He asked me to pay $900 a month toward our $3,000 rent.
Is this fair? I bring home $2,400 per month. I feel slighted. I guess I also feel bitter because I never felt comfortable paying for his kids. What do you think?
Wife, Mother & Stepmother
Dear Wife, Mother & Stepmother,
It’s hard to be a stepmother and help raise your husband’s children without contributing to their lives financially. As their stepmother, you are their guardian and hopefully their friend. They are — or were — part of your household, after all. If you were to divide your expenses and they became aware of that, it would have made them feel like strangers in their own home. Make peace with the fact that you made the right decision to pool your resources.
It’s always better to have potentially tricky financial conversations before you move into together. Of course, it’s never easy to become accustomed to a certain way of doing things, and suddenly have it change. You have contributed equally to expenses on a salary that is roughly one-third of your husband’s salary, while he paid all of your rent. I understand that it must come as a shock to be asked to pay 10 years down the line. Still, changes happen.
Given the disparity in your salaries, it’s hard to argue that you should not contribute one-third of the rent. You are a smaller household with fewer expenses, and it’s on a parity with your respective salaries. You can think of the money you paid toward his two children as your share of the rent, if it helps sweeten that bitter taste. But expressing your displeasure with those contributions now would be a fruitless task, and only lead to ill will.
That does not mean you can’t have a larger discussion about why your husband moved to a a separate checking account when you previously pooled your resources. What has changed in your financial lives, and your husband’s sense of financial security? Asking questions and expressing how you feel are more productive ways to explore what, if anything, these changes mean. They’re important conversations to have.
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