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I am tired of feeling shame for financially relying on my partner

I know I’m in a privileged position, but it’s hard to feel like I don’t fit into the Wonder Woman template.

I am tired of feeling shame for financially relying on my partner
[Photo: NeONBRAND/Unsplash; NeONBRAND/Unsplash]
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It all started in 2018. I was fresh out of graduate school and utterly confused about what I wanted to do with my life. Until then, I had walked a seemingly well thought out career path as a human rights lawyer, graduating from an Ivy League institution and building an impressive professional network. Yet, I wanted to do something different. I wanted independence and creativity to dictate my professional destiny. I wanted to become a writer, which, I would soon learn, meant abandoning the steady fountain of self-confidence my successful career had been, and more pragmatically, forgoing the security of a salary. 

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To follow my dreams, I was able to rely on my partner, who generously offered his unconditional financial support. As of right now, he pays for most of our household expenses, and this is a reality that often triggers feelings of shame. 

As a self-proclaimed feminist who’s dedicated her career to writing about women’s issues, I sometimes worry that perhaps I’m not practicing what I preach. The older women in my life also worry about me, as they frequently and unabashedly express. They’re concerned I’ll fall down the slippery slope of comfort and end up trapped in a problematic situation of dependence, similar to their own. 

The shame is exacerbated when I see my peers thriving and making big money at law firms or hotshot public service jobs. At least once a month, like every single independent professional I know, I wonder if I should stop kidding myself and just get a “normal job,” for the love of god. 

To be clear, I know I’m in a privileged situation, and in writing this, I am afraid of sounding like my diamond shoes are too tight. I know very few people can say they can comfortably pursue their life’s dreams thanks to their partner’s financial support. I also know my privilege is exacerbated by not having children and the prestigious education I could fall back on if I wanted to. 

Yet, recognizing my privilege doesn’t drown out the shame. 

I’ve reflected extensively on the causes behind my mortification. Undoubtedly, the main reason is the patriarchal, capitalist belief that our worth is only as large as the number on our paychecks. For ages, we’ve been socialized to believe that our contributions to humanity can only be measured monetarily. No wonder I find myself comparing my husband’s income to my own. Never mind the fact that he’s nine years my senior or a high-level professional in a lucrative industry. When I’m spiraling, all I see is a number that dictates my lovability. 

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According to this narrow, predominantly white, Girl Boss version of feminism, relentless hustling and meaty paychecks are the premiere paths to equality.

Frankly, I also dwell on the judgments that come from within feminist circles. I’ve come across many power feminists who believe women can only find liberation in the hallways of corporations or hierarchy-obsessed institutions. According to this narrow, predominantly white, Girl Boss version of feminism, relentless hustling and meaty paychecks are the premiere paths to equality. Those who cannot or will not replicate these individualistic models of success are judged for not having what it takes to get to “the top.” These so-called feminists wouldn’t dare question our financial dependency on corporate America, but are more than ready to repudiate it when it shows up in romantic partnerships. 

As women, we are so socialized to give, sacrifice, and serve others, that it feels wrong or reckless even, to receive. 

Moreover, we’re socialized to feel shame about everything. Inadequacy seems to be a common side effect of living in a patriarchal society, no matter how you choose to live your life. Though I feel shame about not taking on enough expenses, it wouldn’t be hard to find a woman who pays for everything but feels shame about not spending enough time with her family or not having a male partner who fulfills the provider’s role. Working mother shame, for example, which is also produced by not living up to insane expectations, is an enduring matter for too many women. The truth is shame will remain ever-present as long as we continue to measure ourselves with arbitrary standards of sufficiency. 

I wish there were more transparency about the many possible paths toward success. I’m sure it would be easier to joyfully receive support from my partner if we normalized this as something other independent professionals happily do to get to where they are. But in our eternally individualistic society, help is still portrayed as a sign of weakness. And when women are on the receiving end of it, it’s still depicted as an emblem of failure. 

Inadequacy seems to be a common side effect of living in a patriarchal society, no matter how you choose to live your life.

I don’t know if and when I’ll find myself in a different situation. But dwelling on the reasons behind my discomfort has provided a much-needed reminder that I’m not inadequate or failing at life, as it so often seems. I’m still figuring out how to grapple with these feelings, and some days are better than others because shame is a stubborn emotion. It’s also a feeling that easily takes root when it’s not discussed, and in writing this, I hope to ignite a conversation and provide a sense of relief for myself and others who’ve felt alone or insufficient when living outside of the wildly unreasonable Wonder Woman template. 


Salomé Gómez-Upegui is a Colombian-American writer based in Miami, FL. Her work focuses mainly on feminism and social justice. Find her on Twitter as @SalomeGomezU.

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