Money talks, but couples often don’t. A husband and wife agreed to talk (anonymously) about how they talk about money. The following is an excerpt from their conversation.
HE: We argue a lot about money, and it’s a pain. Theoretically, I assumed that the more money you had, the easier it would be. It just seems ridiculous to have arguments about money when money is not a problem. But we do argue about it. The fact is, having more money brought about a different set of problems than before. I thought having money would be like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card so that I’d never have to fight about money, and that’s not the case, and it aggravates me.
SHE: What looks like a fight about money is not always a fight about money. Sometimes it’s a money conversation, but it’s really about something else entirely. It could be about the in-laws, or about one of us not feeling valued, or it could stem f rom deep-seated fears or resentments from God-knows-when.
HE: That’s right. I think a lot of it comes from moving up, in terms of wealth. People advance at different levels, and when you advance financially, your value system from childhood meets a social uptick. One half of a couple may want to give more money away, while the other may be locked into the mentality of the middle-class giving levels to which he or she is accustomed.
SHE: I identify with that totally.
HE: I think you can divide money problems into two categories: chronic and acute. The chronic issues are major problems that keep popping up in various guises and are continually reviewed, discussed, and debated. Chronic problems never go away unless major change happens.
SHE: We have some of those. We have been at odds over some of the same issues for years. We just disagree about these things. We may move closer and understand each other’s positions a little more, but basically, we are not going to see eye-to-eye on these things, and we are always at risk of having a disagreement about them.
HE: Acute problems are usually short term situations. They’re more easily dealt with—it’s possible to dispense with them through a simple compromise. They’re not a big deal unless you let them become a big deal or unless you insist on making them a big deal. And if you do that, an acute problem can become chronic.
For example, you want to put $500 in the collection plate every Sunday, and I think a hundred is plenty, but I like to give bigger contributions for special projects. We compromise.
SHE: Yeah, we do it your way. Is that what you call compromise?
HE: Yes, it is. This time we do it my way. Another time we do it your way. Other times we’ll talk about it and meet halfway.
SHE: Let’s list some of the money issues we’re still discussing.
HE: Well, let’s face it: These are the biggest questions of life.
(They begin peppering each other with questions.)
How much is enough?
Why do you work?
Should we be out having fun or doing charity work?
What are you on this Earth for?
What kind of budget is appropriate?
What kind of control do you exercise over your spending?
Should you give to this charity
or that one? How much?
Should you coordinate your philanthropy, each pursue individual interests, or both? To what extent?
What do you do with the kids?
What do you tell them, and when?
What limits do you place on their spending and receiving?
When should you give them money? How much?
Should you expect anything in return when you give gifts to children, other family, friends?
Should you make loans? What if the loans are not repaid?
Should you hire relatives?
What if they do a lousy job?
What kind of house? How many houses? Cars? Boats?
Does the one who earns most of it keep most of it?
Should marriage partners split everything 50-50 regardless of who earns it?
Who gets what when we die?
How much should we give away, spend, or otherwise distribute during our lifetime?
SHE: Oh, man, we have had a discussion about every one of these things, and we have had some hard words and hard feelings about some of them.
HE: Yes, but we love each other and we are committed to working things out.
SHE: That’s right. What do you think of starting our Last Will and Testament with, “Being of sound mind, we spent it all!”?
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