Written By: Page Rutledge
Q: My partner and I fight about money and never get anywhere with it. He wants me to tell him about every penny I spend, and I just can’t keep that close of track of it all. He has always been in charge of our bills, and I don’t mind that, but when he questions me for buying a new outfit when I work a full-time job too, it really angers me. He thinks nothing of getting a few drinks with his golf buddies, spending his money the way he wants, so I really don’t see what the big deal is. It’s not like we don’t make enough money between our two jobs. Why does he demand to know exactly what I spend? I don’t ask him what he spends. BTW, you should know we love each other, it’s just these money fights that get really annoying.
A: Well now, there are about a half dozen issues in there we could pull apart. But since you asked, let’s just talk about the idea that you argue and never get anywhere. Taking personal responsibility for each of your parts in these interactions is step one. Realizing you are not going to change a thing if you keep going in circles with the same tired argument is number two. And at the heart of the matter is the fact that the two of you are truly emotionally available to each other. Check that box first.
Change your response from whining about not remembering. Many simple solutions exist to this record keeping issue.
- Use a charge card for your purchases. All transactions will be documented on the statement.
- Establish one location for all of your receipts (a basket on your dresser perhaps).
- If you collect receipts, set aside one time/week to turn them over and answer any questions about them your partner might have—without being defensive.
For him, since he appears to like having control over the finances, knowing you will do this is very reassuring. Obviously you have to follow through. When you make this promise, he should then agree to let up on trying to pin you down with every little purchase. You can smile and tease him in a friendly way to let him know you aren’t counting his cocktails, so he can let these worries go.
If this is the end of the disagreement, great. You have each approached the problem with new responses, changing your behaviors in a way that provides a simple solution. However, if the problem is deeper, and you are genuinely having trouble with your differing views on money and what it means to each of you, that is a different discussion altogether. Income equity may be in play. Or perhaps your partner feels the need to plan and save for retirement, or a specific large purchase. Maybe your view is more short term, and money for you is a way to enjoy your career success now. We always bring our “money baggage” to a relationship.
So when you argue, you are really struggling with basic differences in how you each meet your security needs? Nothing will send someone’s anxiety up like feeling their financial security is being threatened. Discussions about serious issues like this need to occur early and throughout a relationship to make both partners aware of the other’s needs. You both deserve to have your needs met, and there are ways to compromise and put systems in place that do so. Strengthen your emotional connection by working through this when you are both calm and focused on finding healthy compromise.