Originally written 21 September 2003.
The number one cause of trouble/arguments in marriage is money. Money. Money. Let me say that again, in case you missed it. Money/cash flow/budget/spending is the number one source of discord in marriages in the US today.
There's a reason for that. Our lives revolve around money. Work to make money to buy the stuff you want. Work to make money to pay the bills for the stuff you bought that you wanted but couldn't afford so you put on credit. Then eventually you're working full time on old bills and feeling like you're strapped. Because you are.
I was raised in a “cash or nothing” household. My husband felt that as long as you could make the minimum payments you were fine. Obviously money was a main source of irritation. If I talked about the money and his spending I was “acting like his father.” If I didn't talk about the money, that must mean I was okay with what was happening.
After 15 years of marriage, and fifteen years of debt, we are trying, both of us, to get rid of our debt and actually have some cash flow that we can use for what we want today.
Even that is causing trouble.
He made a budget. (I would have fainted, if I were the swooning kind. This is like winning the lottery on a ticket you found on the street.)
The problem with the budget was it wouldn't work. I looked at the numbers and I couldn't tell him where it was wrong, except eating out, which he ignored, but I could tell him it wasn't going to work. I gave him examples from past months of how that budget wouldn't have worked. But because I didn't give him the areas his budget was low, he didn't believe me. After a while of saying the same thing in different ways, I just give up. I figure he doesn't want to listen to me and it doesn't matter what I say. (Which I still think is true.)
Two or three weeks later it was today. He's talking about spending his “spending money” that he has in the budget. After he just spent $250 on fun stuff in the last two weeks. I quit talking.
He says that he won't talk about it because I am obviously getting upset.
I say it's because that money isn't there, no matter how much he wants it to be, and if he spends it, it not only won't be there, but we won't have it for something else. And yes, I will be mad when I don't feel like I can spend $3.72 on burritos for the boys and I for lunch, because he got a new gizmo/gadget.
He says it's in the budget. Once again I say that it might be nice to have a budget, but it ought to be realistic and the one he made up isn't, because it's not the way we're spending money. Then he says, “Why didn't you tell me that?” (See above for THAT discussion.)
We ended up shelving the discussion till we could get home to the laptops (his and the one I've permanently borrowed from my mother) and Quicken.
An hour after beginning, my behind is sore from sitting on a folding chair behind him in his office and I'm not sure we have made any progress except that he has found two areas he way underbudgeted: groceries and eating out. (Surprise.) Then I begin writing this blog…
Imagine my amazement that we really are making some headway. It's just not as much as I would have liked. (Miracles are only available on Mondays, I guess.)
Fifteen years into it isn't too late to be successful at talking about money. I hope we can keep it up.