Money Matters


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Sandra A. Doron LCSW

Dear Sandra:

My husband and I have many disagreements when it comes to money. He does not like to spend money on the same things that I do. He is more than willing to purchase “practical” items, like kitchen appliances, cameras, cars, but does not like to spend money on vacations, gifts, eating in restaurants, or other forms of entertainment. He seems to be fine with the way things are, but as our marriage progresses, I am becoming more and more frustrated and disillusioned.    Money Matters

Dear Money Matters:

Yes, indeed, money does matter. However, money, more than any other subject, is the most common cause of marital discord. Most couples disagree about money because money brings out many deep-seated needs, such as power, control, security, freedom, and love. It sounds like you and your husband may relate to the world in very different ways. Your husband may value money because money represents security and feeling in control of his life. Perhaps your husband is primarily future-oriented, while you may place more value on the present, as well as on freedom and pleasure. You may be more open and communicate your feelings more readily. If your husband likes to spend money on tangible possessions, and you on the more intangible, talking about your differences, your anxieties, and your life goals may help to bridge your differences so that ultimately you can find a satisfactory solution. You may want to think in terms of three stages to resolve your differences:

1. The Talking Stage:

Ask your husband to disclose what money meant when he was a child, how his family spent or didn’t spend money, whether his parents argued about money, what his parents’ priorities were when spending money, and how spending patterns differed between parents. You may want to discuss spending patterns of siblings as well. As your spouse was growing up, during his adolescent years, and then as a young adult before you met each other, what were his spending patterns like? Share your childhood and family experiences with your husband as well. Did you or your spouse have a problem with money before you married each other?

While you are talking, it is important to acknowledge the positive qualities of your spouse’s spending patterns; for example, tell him how much you admire his ability to save so that you can feel secure in your marriage. It is important also to let your spouse know what your needs are, clearly and unambiguously. Each spouse then needs to share resentments, fears, and anxieties about money that continue to linger into the present. Talk about your short and long-term goals/plans/ hopes and dreams.

This stage should ideally take several meetings, where your objective is to gain as much new information about your spouse as possible. It is important not to judge or evaluate-- only listen and learn.

2. The Decision-Making Stage: This stage occurs when you decide whether you both want to work together to find a compatible way to resolve the money issue, and if yes, an agreement as to when, what time, and how often you will meet to specifically discuss this topic. It is doubtful that you will not come to agreement, if you have carried through the first stage successfully.

3. The Implementation Stage: This is the time for you and your husband to develop a spending plan. You may need to devote several “money matter” talks to this stage. If your husband feels good when he saves, then a plan to begin to save or to continue to save needs to be in place. If you are willing to consider his needs, then it will be considerably easier for him to plan for a special week-end, or save money for the purpose of spending it on a mutually agreed-upon vacation. Since your husband appears to have your welfare and best interests in mind, and may respond favorably to more planned spending, such a plan may well work. He may even enjoy the idea of solving this problem by sitting down with a calculator, check book, credit card/ bank statements, bills, W-2’s, and other documents that will help the two of you decide how much you can spend on the purchases he wants, and for the activities that are important to you. This stage may not be as difficult as you thought it would be, if you have worked through stage one and grown in your appreciation and understanding of each other’s feelings, rational and irrational attitudes, and core beliefs.

If you successfully complete these three stages, money issues will no longer damage your relationship, nor cause you so much frustration, anxiety, and disillusionment. Talking about money will become easier, and will evolve into a life-long discussion, one that will bring you closer in your marriage and ultimately more mutual fulfillment and pleasure.


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This site was last updated 02/03/06