Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Money and Control

All marriages are a dance of the right balance of freedom and control. That dance applies to money in marriage as well. A phenomenon that I have often seen in marriage is that when one spouse holds the reins tightly, the other spouse may exert their autonomy by spending.  This predictably will result in the more conservative spouse pulling in the reins, verbally of course, resulting in frustration on the part of the spouse who is more liberal in their spending habits. This is what's called a control struggle. I should also mention that over spending on one spouse's part will elicit rein tightening on the others.  This works both ways.

That's why a negotiated and agreed upon cap on your spending can save you a lot of hassle.  If you find yourself in this kind of money dance where one spouse becomes the money cop and the other spouse the money bad guy, start talking about your issue in a non- reactive, non-judgmental way to avoid further polarization.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

More Thoughts on Money and Decision Making

Last week's blog post was about an underlying truth that wise and mature couples practice.  When in doubt about spending, defer to your spouse.  If you can.  I appreciate that is much easier said then done.  It may not always be possible but when it is will be a great investment in your marriage if not in getting your own way.

Other bits and pieces of wisdom that I have learned over the year are as follows: pick an amount over which you will not spend without a marital consultation - say $50, $100, or $200.  After that, have an agreed upon amount over which you will confer with one another about the purchase.  Like a boat for example.  Do not purchase a boat without conferring with your spouse. The same goes for a pet.  I once bought a Saint Bernard for a boyfriend decades ago.  That's how I know what I'm talking about regarding unilateral decisions and pets.  The same concept applies for smaller pets but that may be a posting for another day.

Don't make big decisions unilaterally.  That is the moral of today's post.    

Monday, April 9, 2012

Money 101

Money and marriage...or is it marriage and money? You've heard all the warnings about how struggles about money are the root of all evil in marriage leading down the slippery slope to divorce court.
I'm not entirely sure that is true but I am glad to share what I have learned on my journey as a marriage therapist and, in my civilian life as a married person.
I'll start with the basics. Money in the here and now - real time, as they say. Not money as a symbolic and perhaps unconscious way to act out hostility and who knows what else but just plain old money issues.
First of all, consensus is great when it comes to spending money in marriage. I would say, when in doubt, check in with your spouse before spending money. It will earn you currency in your marital emotional bank. Take out your cell phone and call. Honey, I'm thinking of buying a $200 pair of shoes. I really need them so my chiropractor won't scoff at me for wearing such crappy shoes which make my back ache and then I am snarly at home. I know they're a lot of money but I think they will be a great investment. Okay with you? How could anyone say no to such a heartfelt and reasonable request? It is always good politics not to mention thoughtful and reasonable to check in with your spouse before you make a large-ish purchase. There's lots more to be said on the subject of marriage and money but I think this is a pretty good over arching principle to start out with. When in doubt, check in with your spouse before you spend.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


A friend who checks up on my blog postings graciously mentioned to me this morning that next week will have been a month since my last posting. Life happens. After a lifetime of what I brazenly call near perfect health, like a bolt of lightening, sciatica took over my body and I have been like a human pin cushion from the waist down for three weeks or so - I lost my Kindle, I swear caused by cognitive discombobulation caused by the pain from the sciatica, and my computer needed to be replaced leaving me computerless for 10 days or so.
Geez, the last thing I need is a therapist who talks about her own issues instead of listening to me, you may be saying to yourself. I don't blame you and trust me, in my office, it's all about you and your marriage. Perhaps my life lessons can have some relevance to your marriage and marriage in general.
One thing that I have learned during this slightly out of control chapter of my life is that people tend to get snarly when they're in pain. That would be me. I have often not had enough compassion for my husband who is a titch older that I am and has very creaky joints. Be nice to people who are in pain. It takes over a big percentage of your life and waking moments.
Take great care of yourself. Slow down. One of my wisest mentors used to always say to me like a mantra Listen to your body. I pass that wisdom onto my clients as well. You can't really love someone else unless you love yourself first.
Meanwhile, at the risk of sounding like little Susie Sunshine, this chapter of my life is giving me a chance to slow down, realize that despite my considerable grandiosity I am not super woman, and get back in touch with my physical self. As I have been slowly and meditatively swimming in the pool - something I never would have done without this bolt of lightening, it occurs to me that pain might be a gift...I actually mean that.