A conversation I had with a friend of mine the other day has me thinking about unity; specifically: the unity of a married couple where one partner disagrees with the other on a matter of moral responsibility.
Specifically: my marriage, in which my husband and I disagree on the manner in which we should spend our money.
I started this blog to track my efforts to do more for the poor in my everyday life, but I haven't been posting so much about the main struggle that I'm encountering. My husband is a good man, highly ethical, supportive and a good provider. We make a perfect match, actually, because he is pragmatic while I am idealistic. As I told him the other day "Together you and I make a good person." Without him, we would be in fantastical debt. Our bills might not be paid. Our children's future would be entirely unsecured. We certainly wouldn't have a house without his responsible stewardship of our credit rating.
But he does not think we can afford to give anything to charity at the moment. In the past, when I've come to him with a certain cause I want to contribute to, he has agreed on the condition that we cut back on something we're currently paying for. My Netflix subscription, for example, was canceled so we would have money to give the Archdiocese of Chicago for their annual campaign.
In general, I think his method is both morally and financially sound. I don't need a Netflix subscription (good bye, dear historical romances.) I feel much better about giving money to my church than spending it on entertainment. But as of right now, there's nothing more we can chip away at to find extra money. We're living frugally and responsibly. So if we want to give to charity (which I do) we have to start giving up the things we need to share with others.
The paint is an example. I want to give equal the amount we've just spent on painting our house to refugees from the Darfur conflict. So I suggested that instead of painting the rest of the walls this weekend, which we had planned to do, we wait another month so we have money to give to Darfur. To put it simply, I was met with resistance.
And this is my quandary. I don't have any money of my own. Neither does my husband. The money he makes at his job, we share. The money I've made, we share. We are a unit, a partnership, and neither of us can act unilaterally.
Yet what to do when my conscience urges me to spend in a way that he disagrees with? How much say should one partner have over the other's spending habits, especially in a marriage where we trust each other to make responsible financial decisions for the general good of our family?
As a Catholic, I know that my marriage is a vocation. It is through it that I am called to serve God. Subsuming my own desires for the sake of my marriage is absolutely necessary, even when those desires aren't directed for my own benefit. My mother has counseled me numerous times to simply leave the issue alone, to serve the poor in non-monetary ways. For the most part, I try to do this. But I am called so strongly to do something for the poorest of the poor, particularly in Africa where my heart has always been drawn.
Moreover, I know that we DO have money to give to charity. It is important for me to decorate our house and create a welcoming place for us to live, just like it is important for me to send my son to Montessori, to give him the best start possible in his education. Yet when it comes right down to it, neither of these things are so necessary that if my husband were to lose his job tomorrow, we wouldn't immediately stop spending money on them. There is money in our budget for Darfur, if we are creative and willing to sacrifice.
Yet if one partner is not willing to make that sacrifice, then what?
I'm attempting something this week which can be characterized as courageous or deceitful, depending on how you look at it. My hope is that it's courageous, and when I share my experiment with my husband, I hope he'll see it that way, too. I ask for your prayers as we work through this division, and for our future together. If anyone wishes to share their insight on unity in a marriage, believe me, I'm all ears!