by Focus on the Family
What to do when your spouse seems to be making you both poorer by the minute
We received this tongue-in-cheek question at our Crazy Marriage Seminar this year. No surprises that questions on squabbles over money management were one of the most frequently asked.
In many marriages, husbands and wives differ drastically in spending habits but interestingly, the disagreement over money is rarely about money. It is usually more about fighting for something that brings satisfaction to one’s life; pleasure, independence, control, freedom or security.
Here are some ideas as to what you can do if you are living with a spouse whose spending patterns are a cause of concern for you:-
Rally your spouse to be your team player in setting money goals
It is highly likely that neither you nor your spouse would like to be dictated to when it comes to decisions on how much money is to be spent and where to spend it. However, you’ll both need to start with the big picture by collectively deciding on how much money you both envision to keep as security in the form of savings and how much to put aside to freely spend for acquisition of things and investments.
While negotiating this can often be tricky because values might differ from your spouse, the key thing is to remember that the goal is to maintain the health of your marriage – that is what is truly valuable. Coming to a consensus that the both of you are reasonably comfortable with should be the main objective for the sake of your marriage. Think as a team in all your money management decisions – that is the value to hold on to.
Seek to find out the underlying reasons for your spouse’s need to overspend
In every fight, listen to your spouse’s story before telling yours. Find out why your spouse spends compulsively on things. There are usually a myriad reasons for overspending. To name a few – privileged childhood, deprived childhood, depression, anxiety, the thrill of the hunt, satisfaction of snagging good bargains or keeping up appearances. Looked at closely, they all point to one thing – the need to fill an emotional void.
Whether or not your over-spending spouse is fully aware of this fact or oblivious to it, your spouse might think along the lines of, “If I have this, I’ll be hip.” Or, “I’ll be accepted.” Even, “My life just might be complete.” However, the truth is that the acquisition of things never provides real security. It can instead be a never-ending abyss that cannot be filled.
Before making a purchase, encourage your spouse to ask this question, “What am I trying to do?” If the answer has anything to do with finding fulfillment or escaping stress or pain, discourage them from buying the item and instead find ways to be the one to provide the stress relief to your spouse or explore other less material-based pursuits to fill that emotional void of theirs.
The best thing you can do to help your spouse overcome their inclination to overspend is to support him or her in seeking other ways to fill that emotional need. It could be anything from joining them in pursuit of finding fulfilment or even simply spending more time with your spouse doing things you both love that might not even need to cost a cent.
However, seek to validate and not put down your spouse as you help him or her identify unmet emotional needs. Rather than rebut your spouse’s point of view, validate it with statements such as “Let me see if I understand what you are saying” or “If I heard you right, what matters to you is…”
Be open to seeking professional help too, if you sense there is a need, by seeing a counsellor or religious leader as a couple to help your spouse manage his or her spending habits.
In every marriage, conversations about money are always going to be challenging. But if you are determined to be a spouse who is willing to lovingly help your loved one develop healthy spending habits, your marriage will be greatly strengthened.
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