What To Do When You Have Different Feelings About Money

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I'm a spender, my wife is not. I have a hobby that costs money, my wife's interests cost substantially less (close to zero). We both make more than a decent living, pay all our bills and save a lot of money, but I see my wife living in a state of fear and lack (where none exists) and I see the money I do spend on my hobby as adding to my life and bringing me a tremendous amount of joy (it's photography, so it is something I engage with and share with my family regularly). It is as though each of us is waiting for the other to change, which seems highly unlikely. What are some good solutions?

ANSWER:

Thanks for sharing your concern.  You are seeking a win-win situation and I salute you!  You are exercising honesty with your own desires but seeking to be sensitive to your dear wife.

In marriage, differing personal preferences arise.  As I say in my Love and Respect Marriage Conferences, when such differences arise, neither are wrong, just different. Yet, if two people let a conflict escalate - in this instance over money - each may feel they married Hitler's distant cousin!

What should you do in the face of a stalemate? Realize that money is not the issue.  The issue goes deeper.  The money takes back seat to another issue.  In this instance, you gave voice to it. Your wife possesses a fear about future security. Whether this fear is realistic or not, it's how you respond to her fear that becomes the focus. If you tell her she is being childish for having this fear, untrustworthy toward you, and selfish for depriving you of photography's pleasures, she will feel devalued.  She will declare, "How can you treat me this way and say that you love me?"

In turn, you will feel disrespected.  You feel disrespected because you feel she is questioning your love, money management and right to have joy.  In disbelief, you get frustrated with her accusation and tell her she is robbing you of your one pleasure.  She in turn feels devastated that you are missing her heart since she is not trying to take photography from you but longs for you to understand her insecurity about the future and her need for you to assure her of your commitment to provide for her.

You have entered what I call the Crazy Cycle: When a wife feels unloved, she reacts in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband, and when a husband feels disrespected, he reacts in ways that feel unloving to his wife.  Round and round you go.

All of us must guard against this Crazy Cycle!

So what should you do? Many excellent counselors exist to help you come up with a game plan on the money-side of things, and I recommend that you seek such help.

However, my counsel goes deeper.  First, realize that this is not about money but about your wife feeling loved through this conflict and you feeling respected.  Second, reassure your wife that you love her, and that you are committed to her future security.

If you do not reassure her of your love, and she gives in to your hobby, she will let this symbolize to her that you do not care about her feelings.  Should she conclude this?  No, but sometimes such conflicts take on a bigger than life significance.  You must not let this go down a path where she feels unloved when you know that you love her!  Although her reactions feel disrespectful, you must look deeper into her heart, realizing she is not intending to communicate disrespect.  Otherwise, things will get crazy!

If you follow this counsel, my experience tells me that the two of you will come up with a plan on the money. Trust me, when a wife feels assured of her husband's love and understanding, she seeks ways for him to enjoy those things that energize him.

-Dr. E