The Marriage Penalty: The Rant

Something I’m just fully coming to understand now: there is a marriage tax penalty for many high earning individuals. 

Most people do not care about this because most people do not make enough money for it to matter. But for those of us who plan and hope to be affluent, and have incomes that are basically equal to their partners, we’re getting screwed. 

E.g. If you and your partner both make $200,000 a year, as a couple you will pay an additional $9,200 in taxes every year than you would if you had not been married. Really, you’re paying this penalty because you and your partner are equal earners. Under American law, you’d be much better off if one partner made $400,000 and the other made 0. In this case, by being married you actually save $12,000 a year. 

So what is it? Is the federal government trying to encourage wealthy stay-at-home moms? Do they not like the idea of my spouse and I both doing well? Is it bad for the kids if we’re both working enough to make $200,000 (which is not that much money when, as a couple, you spent the previous 10 years working your butts off and slowly whittling away $200,000 in student loan debt and living in the most expensive metro area in the nation). 

I’ve read that I can get his social security benefits if we’re married. But the vast majority of our retirement income will come from individually funded 401ks.

Maybe I’ll thank the government for the perks of marriage when he dies and I don’t have to pay taxes on his inheritance. Or, more likely, it’s a wash after all those years of higher tax payments. And at that point my husband is dead so…I’ll probably still be pretty pissed.

So, can anyone tell me, in this unique scenario outlined above, will a couple like us realize any material benefits from being married? Or is marriage becoming an outdated institution for the upper middle class as couples become more equal?

Ultimately, the marriage tax is not an issue for us now. Our tax burden will increase just a couple hundred dollars this year when we file jointly for the first time. But you can be damn sure I’m going to be thinking about this bull shit every time I get a raise and every time he gets a raise. Or maybe we’ll just pretend to get married 😬

America, be better. The tax code is a nightmare.

Anger Management

It’s really hard to completely stop anger. Anger arises from fear or sadness or a combination of both. And if you grew up in a family that commonly expressed these emotions with anger it may be an incredibly commonplace feeling for you. It also may be that anger makes you feel like you have some power over these negative emotions of fear and sadness. 

True, the best option would be to root out the fear and sadness that are leading to your anger. But dear god, I think that’s probably going to take many years and a lot more time with an overpriced therapist that I currently don’t have the time or money to see. While I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to be a fearless person who can openly embrace the sadness of the world, in the short term I think I may be starting to understand the things that fuel my anger and allow it to turn into a destructive force.
1. Alcohol. Definitely. I’ve been really good about this over the last six months. I rarely have more than three drinks in a day/night. But still, having even a few drinks leaves me more likely to fly off the handle. 

2. Being tired: the older I get the more I realize that being tired or (even slightly) hungover or both affects my mood significantly. When I’m tired, I’m much more likely to get set-off by a simple comment or occurrence and more likely to not be able to let it go. 

FH and I had another fight the other night. A solid three hour fight, that vacillated between anger and sadness and back again.  It ended in incredible life giving make up sex but I still felt terribly sorry about it the next morning. It’s almost like I am drunk in those moments— even though I’m sober. I get carried away on this great tide of irrational emotion and every thing he says just adds water to the ocean I’m already feeling. 

3. Feeling insecure: I’m much more likely to pick a fight when I’m feeling insecure. That night there were a number of factors at play. The most important being that I had been stalking that girl on Instagram that I’m not supposed to stalk. Every time I do this I get riled up. And why I thought I wouldn’t take it out on him this time is just insane. I told myself it wasn’t bothering me and I could handle it. I lie to myself on a regular basis, apparently. I also had eaten like shit that day and hadn’t exercised like I wanted to. These tiny failures fuel my insecurity.

There are only 61 days until our wedding. The plan is to avoid a fight such as this one for this time frame. I usually can summon at least a fight a month (I know this is terrible) so starting with a 61 day goal seems like a real one. If we can get through this then maybe next time we can up it to 90 days. Four massive fights a year is probably a healthy amount. So the plan:

  • Sleep: Get 7 hours or more of sleep a night. This will be difficult but I need to be better about putting my foot down and going to sleep even if FH wants to stay up for another half hour to watch Silicon Valley. I need to remember that watching TV does not give me energy. Sex does give me energy. The sooner we go to bed, the more likely we are to have sex and the more likely I am to get a good night’s sleep. The more likely I am to get a good night’s sleep the more likely I am to have productive:
  • Exercise: Workout 5 days a week. For at least 30 minutes at a time. 
  • Alcohol: if I drink on a Friday night, I cannot drink again until Sunday. Drinking day after day, even only in smaller quantities, dehydrates me and compounds my irritability.
  • Instagram: Never open the app more than once a day. In fact, delete it from your phone,which will force you to view it on a computer or in the browser. NEVER stalk the girl you’re not supposed to stalk or any ex-boyfriends, ex-boyfriends’ ex/current girlfriends or anyone else for that matter. Stalking on instagram is essentially synonymous with jealousy. I need to work on controlling that jealousy and envy. If I’m feeling insecure I should (1) call a friend to chat and remember that I’m loved (2) do something productive: write, cook, take some photos, go for a run, read that book on language evolution that I’ve wanted to read for months now.
  • Read: read this every day until the wedding. Reminders are important.

Wish me luck.

NYC and the Space Conundrum

In 2010, not too long after I graduated from college, I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years (no I shouldn’t have dated someone all through college, that was dumb) and moved into my grandmother’s house. She had moved to an assisted living facility and so, kindly, offered her home to me so I could save some money and not have to live with my parents.

It was the first time I lived alone. Being newly single, it was an especially incredible experience. (1) No one told me what to do. (2) No one saw me wander around the house naked. (3) No one was there to ask me why I was just sitting on the back porch doing apparently nothing (I’m high and thinking, leave me alone). (4) No one could give me shit for putting half and half in my cereal when I ran out of milk. 

It was a beautiful time.

But it was short lived. In law school I had two roommates, and when I moved to Brooklyn I had three roommates and then two room mates and then one roommate (future husband). Let’s call him FH. When FH and I moved in together in October, we picked a cozy 500 sf alcove studio in Brooklyn. (What could go wrong!? We’ll save money!)

A lot can and did go wrong. Because as I’ve suspected for a long time, since those golden days of 2010…I need space. I just hadn’t realized how much I needed it until I was sharing three rooms with a partner. 

We lived in that little hovel in Brooklyn for 8 months. It was hot in there and it was hard and we were more stressed than we knew.

 And then we saw an apartment in a beautiful little town in NJ, 15 miles outside of the city (yes, to my surprise there are beautiful parts of New Jersey). And without much thinking or planning we pulled the trigger. We moved in a month ago. It’s the best decision we’ve made, aside from choosing each other maybe. We were in the car the other day (we have a car now which is also incredible) and FH looked at me and said, “this past month has been the best month of my life.”
For me too. And we have space to thank at least in part for that. We have our second bedroom to thank, our front and back porch to thank. Space is my savior. I had no idea how much I needed this lovely goddess of airiness and light.

You probably need space too. Especially if you are what I hope you are: an independent, thoughtful person who enjoys spending time with him/herself. When you make the incredibly overwhelmingly important decision to marry another person, there will probably be a lot of feelings. There will probably be fights, while you and your beloved navigate what it means to share your lives.

You might want to revisit your relationship with space. You might need space to vent. Space to sit in silence. Space to retreat to, space to do your weird exercises in, space for weeping, space for thinking. I think better when FH is not in the room because FH takes all my thoughts when we’re together: he is utterly captivating. Which is wonderful for me and our relationship, but sometimes you need a room to yourself. No, you don’t have to write a novel in there. You do whatever you want in there. In fact, even if you’re not using it, just knowing it exists will make your day-to-day more spacious.

And ultimately, all this a roundabout way to say, we no longer live in Brooklyn. I love Brooklyn but she is an expensive mess. And we are not rich people and we could not have the things we very much needed and have Brooklyn too. So to the suburbs we have trekked…so far, so spacey, so good.

Using Jealousy

Some days I just can’t summon the strength to not stalk that woman I stalk on Instagram when I’m feeling insecure. I’ve told myself it’s off limits a million times. It is a bad thing. You are a petty and jealous person. You shouldn’t care about her.
It’s like this quasi-forbidden thing because no one’s actually forbidden my looking at her page but me.  So, unfortunately, it now gets me excited to think about looking at her page. Like I’m doing something truly naughty. (Just to be clear she has a public Instagram page. There is decidedly nothing inherently wrong with this behavior.) Regardless, afterward I feel guilty and sheepish. And altogether worse about myself.
But then again, this also happens: I start thinking about all the things I could do to be better. Bitch, I’ll be better than you in every way some day.
….Of course I won’t be better than her if I continue to have a gross and vindictive attitude. But maybe sometimes the ends do justify the means. Maybe it’s not so bad to stalk her. She does light a real fire…
Because the next day I woke up and went for a three mile run. Without the (future) husband. He’s usually good about getting up with me but he was leaving for a work trip and there was no way he was getting up at 5:45 to go on that run. I usually stay in bed if he’s not going to come with me and I can usually tell when he’s going to stay in bed, just intuitively. And then I yield to his sleepiness, wrap my legs around him and fall back into sleep. There is nothing better than drifting back into sleep on a sunny summer morning.
But I didn’t that day. I got up and ran and then after work I went to yoga. Overall, it was a suprisingly healthy day.
So maybe if this woman gets me running and writing and meditating and (maybe) kick starts every good habit there is until I’m sitting on an enlightened throne somewhere in the multiverse… maybe in the end my past sins of stalking her and feeling sorry for myself will pale in comparison to the vast glory of my perfection. Maybe my fascination with her will fall away at some point on this journey. Maybe I just need her right now.