Roseville Therapist Gives Advice on Managing Marriage and Money
Don’t let money matters be the demise of your relationship. Read on for advice about overcoming the dollars-and-cents battle from this month’s relationship expert.
Q: My partner and I fight constantly about money. Recently, he made a “fun purchase.” We can afford it, but I want to spend money other ways. He says he’s the primary wage earner and is allowed to make whatever purchases he wants. His rationale infuriates me, and I’m getting tired of the “breadwinner” thing. How can we solve this?
A: You’re in good company! Money is a common source of fights; in fact, more than half of the couples in my office name it as a major source of tension in their relationship.
Rather than discussing a particular purchase, however, let’s address the bigger picture with these two questions: How should you handle discretionary spending for your family? and What is each person’s role in the decision? The answers form a baseline of how you and your partner interact with the finances, and make subsequent money issues more easily solved.
The approach I typically use with my couples—when it comes to discretionary spending—is pretty clear-cut: The money is treated as the property of both partners. This is more than fair; it’s also wise, as a respected partner will work harder to contribute to the overall success of the plan. Denying a partner financial freedom or input will lead to a stalemate.
For some, this means the decision is best made jointly. Couples might enjoy the process of dreaming together and narrowing down their lists. This can even be fun and turn into a bonding experience. Studies have shown that the process of anticipation is as enjoyable as the splurge itself.
In the case of different interests, this joint-decision approach might not work. Instead, consider splitting the money evenly where each partner gets an “allowance” of fun money to spend how he or she wishes. The benefit and disadvantage is the same: Each person has total autonomy. Once the pot has been split, save vetoes for matters of conscience only.
A third option is a family vote, which can be a great learning experience for children. To help simplify the process, provide a list of options such as household upgrades, family vacations or new toy splurges. Depending on your kids’ ages, their involvement will vary but may include helping to create budgets, researching alternatives or making family presentations before the vote. This provides ample opportunities for learning and a sense of communal investment.
In all cases, the theme is clear—the money is not any one person’s. Spending money against the other’s wishes is a breeding ground for resentment. Once the money is gone, it takes a great deal of repair work to heal the relationship. Each one of you is a valuable and contributing member to the success you’re enjoying, so the solution should be found the same way your success was found: together.
Krysta Dancy is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Roseville and a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. For more information, visit dancytherapy.com.