Frustrations with your Honey about Money
You’ve often heard the expression, “Money can’t buy happiness.” What it can bring, however, is trouble in a marriage. Money is perhaps the most argued-about topic between a two people. Is your relationship plagued by money issues?
Let’s take a look at situations that you might relate to:
- “My partner’s attitude toward money is driving me crazy!”How many of you have thought that? I certainly have. Nearly all conflicts start because we completely different perspectives about the value of a dollar, about whether or not it should be spent, and what it should be spent on.
- I can remember the times when I would propose buying something. Can you guess my husband’s first words? I can guarantee you, that question, “How much does it cost?” would immediately put me on the defensive. Raised by a dad who held very tightly to the purse strings, I was often reluctant to ask him for money.
• My dad had many wonderful qualities, and in the end he has left my mom well-situated for the rest of her life. But even though he helped send shuttles to outer space, it never occurred to him to educate me about financial matters. The one and only money management lesson he drilled home was to save money! As was the norm for his generation, he was extremely tight-lipped about financial matters. It wasn’t until he was 74, well into Stage 2 of Alzheimer’s Disease, that dad finally had to let me take over his personal finances.
- Back to my husband and me: talking to any adult male, including my husband, about money, I automatically felt in a one-down position. When he would raise that question, I’d suddenly feel anxious and fearful. I’d have to persuade him that what I wanted or needed was “worth it.” But what if he didn’t buy it?
- His question triggered that fear, passed on inadvertently by my mom, that there just isn’t enough to go around. That fear was a gloomy cloud shrouding my dad’s thinking and behavior, and spilling over on to my mom, who had her own issues with scarcity. Having lived through the terrifying horrors of World War II as a teenager in Holland, she knew about famine and poverty. She’d witnessed her father , a postal carrier smuggle cheese, bread, sausage and other necessities from the farmlands into Amsterdam, tucked under the mail in the big postal sacks. These life-saving acts could have easily cost him his, had the Germans discovered.
- This helped to explain my mom’s need to fill our cupboards and refrigerator to the gills. It would be better to have to throw away some food later that had gone bad, than to ever risk running out. And her closets and drawers clothes that are 30, and 40 years old. If it’s still good enough to wear, then you keep it. Never mind that you haven’t worn it in 30 years!
- This history has seeped into me. I dislike feeling like I have to justify spending money, especially since I contribute too. Sometimes I still feel guilty asking for things. Maybe I worried that I’d get a “No” or “Not now.” Those feelings would show up in my reactions to my husband. I’d mimic his question in a mocking voice, or I’d say something demeaning like, “Since when did stinginess become such a virtue?” None of which gave a real answer to that question, or scored me any points.
- I was reacting, and so was he. I felt angry, and anxious because I felt like I was still having to ask for permission. In turn, he wanted to make sure that we were getting the most for our money. His upbringing was full of scarcity: a father who as a civil engineer, worked in other countries for months on end ; a mother who had to make ends meet with the paychecks he’d send home. She fell into depression when left to care for two youngsters on her own. His parents maintained little contact with extended family. There were no “play dates” or “sleepovers”, or birthday parties since his family didn’t celebrate those. There was no anticipation of gifts at Christmas time, since his dad didn’t believe in it.
- How did we learn these things about each other? In the safety of the Couples Dialogue, as we took turns “crossing the bridge” to the other’s world. As we took turns, time after time, hearing the other describe beliefs, attitudes, and experiences, he and I became more compassionate for each other. There have been tears, anger, and hurt, but also laughter, healing and freedom as we have discovered the other’s hot buttons, as well as the other’s deepest needs.
- Now, when Theo asks, “How much does it cost?” more and more, I can look at him with a trusting smile and say, “$59.95, and if you can find a better deal, I’m all for it.” More and more often, he doesn’t ask. He trusts me.