Spending Money Under the Influence of Marriage

By Brian Murray and Christine Hammond

Saturday morning drinking coffee and eating breakfast together.

Her. [Ok so I need to go get a new pair of shoes today but if I tell him what I’m up to he will start in on me about spending too much money again.  But I need these shoes so I think I’ll find out when he is leaving and then I’ll escape and buy them before he gets back.  He’ll never know the difference cause he can’t even tell when I get a new haircut.]  “So honey, what are you doing today?  Do you have any plans?”

Him. [Here she goes with that leading question again; she’s going to force me to go for the bait.  I wonder what she wants now.]  “I’m not sure, what’s on your mind?”

Her.  [Darn, I was hoping for an easy out.  Why can’t he just go play golf with his buddies like all the other husbands?  Now what am I going to say that will get me out of the house without him suspecting anything is up?  Could he put more cream cheese on that bagel?  You can’t even tell there is a bagel underneath it, it looks like thick frosting.  Gross.]  “Well, I have to go to the grocery store and I know how much you hate to do that so I was trying to plan around your day.”

Him. [Just get to the damn point.]  “I really don’t have any plans, I’ll go with you.”

Her. [Ugh!  I’m like Lucy trying to pull the football from Charlie Brown and instead he is coming up behind me.  Great, now I’m not going to get those shoes that were so perfect for my outfit on Sunday night.  He’ll never let me spend the money now. I know, maybe I can get him to go to Bass Pro Shop and then he will be more willing to let me get the shoes.  Hmm, that might work.]  “Yea, I’m so glad that you can come maybe we can stop by a couple of stores on the way.  The Bass Pro Shop is on the way.”

Him. [On the way to where.]  “Sounds like you want to go somewhere else so why don’t we hit that on the way back.  Now where are we going?”

Her. [Good time to shove some bagel in my mouth that will give a minute to think about what I’m going to say now.  If I tell him about the shoes, he’ll say no.  If I try to go later, he’ll catch me cause he has his full guard up now.  If I don’t tell him something, he’ll say I’m lying.  Either way I’m stuck.  The only thing that will fix this is sex but I’m not really interested now.  Great, I’ll just tell him what is going on.]  “Remember that cute little outfit I got for Sunday night?  Well there were these great shoes on sale for today only and I wanted to stop by and pick them up really quickly.”

Him.  [I’m never going to get to buy a boat.]  “You’ve already spent $200 on this outfit, how much more is it going to take?”

Her. [Boy I’m glad that he thinks I’ve only spent $200 because it was much more than that but the outfit is so perfect and I really wanted it.  Let’s see, if I say the sale price is $50 then I can spend the other $20 on something else.] “It’s only $50.

Him. [This woman must think that I’m a walking ATM machine.]  “You always spend money on your clothes, when do I get to spend money on my stuff?”

Where is this going? Often in a marriage there are two perspectives in a situation and coming to an understanding of the other person’s point of view can be a challenging process especially when what is thought is often not what is said.  It’s kind of like shooting at a moving target, just when you think have your aim, the target moves.  Let’s explore how each spouse could have better handled the situation before, during and after.

Before.  It’s not about the shoes or the boat.  It’s about financial wants and needs not getting met or in this case not even properly communicated.  Long before the outfit or boat is purchased, the couple needs to sit down and discuss their preferences.  It is natural for one person to be a spender and the other person to be a saver and while both have their place in a marriage both need to tolerate the other person’s desires.

During.  When a conversation is treated like a game of chess, it amounts to nothing more than a game of manipulation and control in your marriage.  Trying to checkmate your spouse and back them into a corner will cause them to come out fighting.  Instead, be honest in your awareness of their avoidance and address it honestly. 

After.  Create a financial plan where each person feels they are getting their needs met along with some of their wants without feeling as if they are being left out.  Communicate any changes in the plan as your priorities are likely to change over time.  If necessary, create separate spending accounts for each person.


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