Managing money seems like a matter of logic. But, as with many issues, just presenting the facts is likely to create conflict. You can learn how to stop your spouse’s overspending using a win-win approach that takes into account desires as well as needs.
Creating positive change in your relationship never requires conflict. Sometimes boundaries are required, but that is not conflict. Boundaries are simply what you do or don’t do.
If your tendency is to criticize, complain, or argue whenever you discover a problem, those are habits you will need to end. You do that by substituting more effective, less damaging behaviors.
It is not possible to criticize, complain or argue your way to a better relationship.
Be sure the issue is really about money and not about the relationship
Financial problems are about spending too much money on a lower priority expense so that there is not enough for a higher priority expense.
- Spending food money on lottery tickets
- Using all income for immediate needs, preventing emergency savings
- Buying a new car while being unable to pay the rent
If your issue is not about insufficient money for a higher priority, then don’t treat it as a financial problem. So, if you have enough money for your priorities, but you don’t like it that your spouse is buying drugs, sex, clothing, or even giving a lot to family or charity, then it is not a financial problem. It is a difference in values. You will need to use specific boundaries and relationship building skills to address them. Many people get my coaching package for dealing with a difficult spouse to address such issues without the need for couple’s work.
Use a multi-step approach to solve money problems in marriage
One of the reasons people have intense conflict is that they try to fix problems in one step. They see something they don’t like, which there spouse is doing. Then they go to their spouse to tell them they need to stop. It feels very controlling to the spouse receiving the message. That then leads to conflict or avoidance and to relational distance.
The worst offenders of the direct fix-it method are logical, intelligent people who forget that they need to take into account other people’s feelings.
Step one: make a budget
A budget is simply a list of expenses and the amount of money that you will spend on each. The total of the amounts should not exceed your average income. If it does, then you need to reduce the amount allocated for some expenses. If your income changes, you can adjust the expenses up or down, so that your budget stays balanced.
There a many places online that you can get more help making a budget and I won’t use this time to teach you. I will say that when you are married, you and your spouse own everything together. It is different than living with a friend or a roommate. Regardless of who earns what, the combined income belongs equally to both of you. All expenses come out of that combined income. Any spending money is shared equally.
It will be easier if you make the budget on your own, without involving your spouse. Collaboration is overrated in relationships. Cooperation is much more important. Your spouse will have a chance to modify the budget after you have made it.
Make sure that you list an allowance for you and an allowance for your spouse as items on the budget. The amount will be exactly the same for both of you and will be the money left over after you have subtracted all other expenses.
For example, I earn more money than my spouse but we both have the same amount of allowance. It is money that each of us can use, as we please, without needing to check with the other person. Some months it is more, some months it is less, but is always the same for both of us.
Step two: give your draft budget to your spouse
Do not go to your spouse with any complaints about their spending. Instead, just say something like this:
I made a draft of a budget so that we can both get what we want while still being able to pay for necessities. It’s just a draft and I would like you to look it over and make any changes to it that you like. Then, I will take another look at it.
This draft may need to go back and forth several times before you have a working budget.
Step 3: start using the budget
Whether your spouse makes changes to your draft or not, start using the budget.
If your spouse wants to spend more than is allotted, that is okay, but you and your spouse need to determine where to take the money from. A budget will make that much easier to see.
For example, if your spouse wants to spend more money on home furnishings, then you and your spouse can take a look at where you going to take the money from. Does it come out of retirement savings, the clothing budget, vacation savings, or some combination of these? This process is not argumentative and spouses can easily see that spending more in one area means taking it from another area. This makes spending a practical issue rather than a personal one.
Using the envelope system of budgeting is an excellent way to create this kind of flexibility and discipline. You can search for envelope system of budgeting to learn more about it. My wife and I have been using a form of this system since we first got married. It has prevented us from having to have any kind of authoritarian system of managing money. That helps our marriage.
If you control the money, be sure to put your spouse’s allowance in a separate debit account without your name on it. People need some freedom and spending money in order to stay satisfied in their marriage. Your spouse needing to ask you for money much like a child does with a parent, does not promote equality, and will lead to either secret spending or resentment.
If your spouse won’t cooperate
If you don’t control the money and your spouse will not cooperate with either the budget or principles of equality, then it is not a financial issue. It is a relationship issue called financial abuse. Financial abuse occurs either when you don’t have enough money to pay for necessities due to your spouse’s spending money on other things, or your spouse will not allow you to have equal spending money.
Financial abuse is not dealt with by budgeting, discussion, or reasoning. Just like other forms of abuse, it requires the use of boundaries to protect you and your relationship. Boundaries are combined with loving behavior to create a loving relationship. Relationship boundaries do not use harsh language and are necessary whenever not using them would lead to a worse relationship. Boundaries never include arguing.
If you would like my help creating and using effective and loving boundaries I would be happy to work with you. Let me help you put an end to arguing and resentment and get back to creating a loving marriage that you and your spouse will both enjoy.