Marriage & Money - Part II
I'm glad to have my wife back to share the "normal" person's perspective. It's real, funny, and slightly embarrassing. Enjoy...
Money: How can something that brings so much pleasure also bring so much pain? Money buys some pretty awesome stuff, but many couples experience pain and stress because of it. My husband and I have learned so many things over the years that have changed the way we deal with money and each other. If you want to stop fighting about money, or just get to the place of real financial harmony, read on. First, we’ll look at what changed in our thinking and then the “rules” we implemented to keep ourselves in check.
Our Perspectives Shifted:
1. Affirm our view that we are one. In the words of our wise friends, when we got married, we stopped being a “me” and became a “we.” If either one of us approached financial conversations with an aim to get their own way at the expense of the other, one person wins and the other loses. But if we are ONE, we win together or we lose together. There is no half-win when you’re married. A short-term “half win” ends up being a long-term loss for the whole.
2. Place high value on each other. Following the logic of #1, we had to give our spouse’s perspective as much value as we gave our own. To do anything less, would be de-valuing our own selves… remember, we just affirmed that we are ONE.
Here's a personal real-life example: When we were first married, I quickly formed the opinion that I pretty much did everything around the house and my husband pretty much did nothing. (I know.. you're so impressed with my maturity, right?) Similarly, Mr. Advisor believed he did everything and that I pretty much did nothing. We were each so convinced of our own correctness that we decided to swap duties for a week so that we could prove ourselves right to the other.
Well, as you might suspect, our little experiment didn’t go well. I learned that I really didn’t like taking out the trash or doing the dishes, and I especially didn’t like eating the food hubby cooked. The breaking point for me was when my dear husband cooked Taco Pasta Hamburger Helper. Now you might think that’s a typo, because pasta and tacos…? Y’all. Now I love tacos and I love pasta, but not together. Nevertheless, the combination apparently appealed to my husband and he actually cooked it. More shocking, we actually ate it. While he chowed down on this “gourmet” food as only a young man can, I fought the gag reflex.
So, although we'd planned to swap household duties for a week, we only lasted a few days. What we came to realize was that we were both better off valuing what each of us brought to the table. (Figuratively. Not literally. Because I will never value Taco Macaroni Hamburger Helper.)
3. Ask “How can I make this happen for him/her?” This goes beyond #2. When you love someone, what’s important to them becomes important to you. Rather than wonder how you can get your spouse to give up their nerdy or free spirited ways, whichever the case may be, start asking yourself, “How can I give my spouse what they are asking for?”
If both of you approach your finances this way, this conciliatory framework will help you both get what you want. Please note that asking this question has no bearing on whether you agree with what they are asking for or not! For example, my husband thinks I can buy too much stuff on Amazon (I mean, that 2-day shipping thing deserves a Nobel Prize!) and I think he can cause us to spend too much money eating out. Our goals are not to change that about one another, but to find ways to give us both what we want where possible.
Rules of Engagement
1. Drop the assumptions. There’s a tendency for some to think that the Free Spirit is irresponsible when it comes to money, so in money disagreements, they might assume the Free Spirit is wrong and the Nerd is right. I can assure you that Mr. Advisor helps just as many Nerds with money. Sometimes the Free Spirit is even more aware of their own limitations, making them more likely to seek help. Whether you as a couple seek help or not, you must be willing to challenge your own assumptions and see your situation with fresh eyes, starting with your spouse’s.
2. Stop being so judgmental! Some of us came into our marriages with some financial “baggage,” whether that was in the form of student loans, credit card debt, lack of savings, or general money mismanagement. One of the things that I always appreciated so much about my amazing Nerd was that he never made me feel bad about the irresponsible decisions I had made. His approach was always that of encourager, helping me see solutions rather than berating me for the trouble I’d caused. Please remember that you are in this together and it requires both of you supporting one another to reach financial harmony.
3. Take a break! If you and your spouse are talking about money, and you notice your voice getting louder or your spouse’s face turning red while beads of sweat break out on their forehead, call a timeout. Just say, “I think we need to pause this conversation and take a look at the perspective shifts again.” You don’t want to fight over money; you want to fight FOR each other. And if all else fails, my husband likes to recommend that you both get naked… it’s really hard to argue when you’re naked. Just make sure the kids are in bed or things could get really weird, really fast.
Going forward we’ll take it a step further and look specifically at practical implementations for both Nerds and Free Spirits. In the meantime, share this blog with your spouse if you want to join us on the journey to financial harmony.
P.S. I love real-life examples from real couples, so if you have a story or suggestion you want to share, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.