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Our Money life Is Not Working
öI can't take much more of this," David explains. "I really love Julie, and she's terrificshe's a good mother, we have a lot in common and I like her sense of humor. But, Ruth," he explodes, "she's going to drive us into bankruptcy!"
"That's not fair!" Julie interrupts angrily. "I had to buy Sara clothes because she's grown another two inches. Should I tell the children we have to skip birthdays this year! And, what about the two suits you just had to buy! The problem isn't my spending," she continues angrily. "The truth is that you just don't make enough money to support this family."
"But Julie, I've never earned enough according to you. Never! Why don't youyes, youget a job and help out a little instead of always complaining!"
Julie is totally exasperated. "I can't, David, you know that. No job that I can get pays enough to cover child care. Remember! If I get a job, it'll have to be after the kids are all in school. So, leave me alone."
"Julie," David continues, "I've said it before and I'll say it again, you're just like your mother. You're going to drive me into bankruptcy just like she did to your father.ö
Now Julie is really angry. "That's not true and you know it! Why do you always have to be so mean and bring my parents into this!"
FACT: Money is the number-one reason for conflict in relationships.
Many couples, like Julie and David, say that a primary cause of conflict in their relationships is money. Who should earn the money! How much is needed! Conflict also arises over decisions about what purchases to make and how much money to spend on each purchase.
[Directions: Please write your answersindividuallyto the "Your Turn" exercises throughout the book.]
Maybe this conversation between Maria and her husband, Jack, is more familiar to you:
"Ruth, if Jack's new business doesn't start making money soon, I'm not going to make it." Maria cries as she continues, "I wake up in the middle of the night scared out of my wits, unable to breathe. My doctor says I'm having panic attacks. He says the way to stop them is to get rid of the stress in my life. Get rid of the stress! As long as lack is spending money starting this business, I can't get rid of the stress."
Maria's voice rises. "Don't you understand, Ruth, I'm afraid we'll lose our house. Jack took out a second mortgage to start his business, and he's already three months behind in the payments. And, our credit cards are all at their limits. I'm working all the overtime I can get and it's still not enough." Her voice drops to a whisper, "I just don't want to lose my home."
"Maria," Jack explodes, "I can't concentrate on my business when I have to listen to how afraid you are all the time. You wake yourself up in the middle of the night and then wake me up as well. Come on, you're supposed to support me. You told me when I started that you would. I finally get to be my own boss and you want to stop me!"
"Now you're blaming me?" Maria asks with tears in her eyes. "I work double shifts at the hospital to make more money. When I'm home, I do all the housework so you can work at the business. And I'm doing most of the parenting. I am keeping my commitment! You know I am!"
"The point is," Maria continues, "what about our house! How are you going to pay the overdue payments! What will happen to us if we lose our home?"
"I've told you before, Maria," Jack says angrily, enunciating each word slowly, "we're not going to lose the house. Come on, Maria, this is my dream. You've got to trust me on this."
"I don't know if I can, Jack," Maria says. "I just don't know if I can."
FACT: Money is the number-one reason for stress and anxiety in a relationship.
Couples like Jack and Maria have different comfort levels with the amount of debt they carry. Jack is much more comfortable with substantial debt than Maria. This is why taking on debt causes stress and conflict for many couples. Couples take on debt in many ways:
It's all debt. Any one of these debts has the potential to create anxiety. Any one of these debts can create conflict in your relationship.
Will and Diane may sound more familiar to you:
"We'll never get ahead," Will begins as he and Diane sit in my office one afternoon. "I'm forty-four years old, and I don't see how I'll ever be able to retire. We're not in any big financial crisis. We don't even fight about money. We're just so discouraged."
"You see," Diane says, "we have two children. They're both in high school, and they both want to go away to college. But how will we ever pay for it? We kept waiting to save until Will got a promotion, but he never did, so we haven't saved a thing. I just can't believe how fast the years have gone by."
"It isn't as if I haven't tried," Will says. "I put my paycheck in the bank each month and pay the bills, and each month I think there will be something left over to put away. But something always comes up. Always. I'm exhausted from trying."
"I always thought I'd have my college degree by now so I could help out," Diane continues. ôI dropped out of college when I became pregnant with our daughter, and we haven't been able to afford the time and money for me to go back and finish. I'm so discouraged. I'm tired of constantly trying to figure out where the money went. And I'm tired of Will telling me it's my fault there's nothing left at the end of the month."
"I'm frustrated, too," Will adds. "I look in the mirror and I see old. There have been layoffs at my company. I worry all the time. What if I get laid off! What if I can't keep juggling the bills?"
FACT: Money is the number-one reason for frustration and discouragement in a relationship.
Many couples, like Will and Diane, are frustrated that they can never get ahead. They have no real financial crisis, but the ongoing stress their discouragement causes wears them out individually and as a couple. And, underneath it all, conflict is building.
-be more successful;
-have more money saved;
-have your own business;
-be more secure in your company position;
-have finished your education;
-be able to provide education for your children;
-be able to travel;
-have the home you really want;
-have living room furniture that all matched;
-not feel so old.
"I'm not really sure why we're here," Larry begins, "except that Kate wanted me to come and finally, with a bit of reticence, I agreed."
Larry's discomfort about being in my office is obvious. I nod for him to continue.
"I'm not really sure what Kate thinks is wrong about what we do with our money. After all, I'm a professional financial advisor. I know much more than she does about money.ö
Larry holds himself back from adding, "and probably more than you." I smile and ask him to continue.
"We split everything fifty-fifty. The bills are paid. We don't fight. Our kids are grown and on their own." This time Larry smiles as he finishes, "Well, sort of.ö
Kate interrupts by saying, "Why don't I explain why I wanted us to work with you, Ruth!" She leans forward as she continues. "Both Larry and I earn a good income. We have a nice life. Our children are finally settling into their lives. We have beautiful things and take nice trips. This should be the happiest and freest time of our lives, but it's not! Larry complains constantly about how stressful his job is, how little money we have put away for our agesI'm fifty-three and Larry is fifty-eight. He complains that we spend too much, but what he really means is that I spend too much.ö
Kate looks at her husband, who's been quiet through all this, and says, "Larry wants to retire early, and I want that for him, too. His business really is stressful. But now he tells me he doesn't even think he'll be able to retire at sixty-five, because we haven't saved enough. He always says it in an accusatory way, and I don't know how to respond. So I just listen and stay silent. He wears out eventually, and we go on with our lives.ö
"But, Larry," says Kate, this time addressing him directly, "if what you say is true, then we need to make some changes. I just don't know what to do, and I'm tired of feeling accused."
I look at Larry and ask him if what Kate says accurately represents his concerns. Larry nods and then quietly says, "It seems almost too late to make much difference for the future."
Kate looks at him and says, "I don't believe it! You're just discouraged and mad.ö
FACT: Money is the number-one reason for anger and accusation in a relationship.
Many couples, in the privacy of their own homes, communicate in an angry and accusatory way. Many times this anger comes from deep discouragementwhich is what Larry is feeling. This discouragement may stem from a sense of shame. Larry is a successful financial advisor, but he hasn't been able to do for himself what he does for his clients. His shame is expressed as anger and accusation towards Kate. Neither Larry nor Kate knows what to do. Larry vents his discouragement, and Kate goes silent.
sound mad and accusatory most of the time?
Maybe you identify more with Neil and Anne in this conversation:
"Ruth," Anne begins, "I want you to help me explain to Neil the importance of not wasting money. I am sick and tired of always having to be the responsible one and say, æNow don't spend thatÆ or æDon't buy this because it's too expensive.Æ He's got to understand that we need to put more money in savings in case either of us decides to quit our job or we lose our jobs or in case something else happens."
Anne turns to her husband and says, "Neil, you've just got to stop spending so much money."
"Oh, come on, Anne, give me a break!" Neil shakes his head. "I earn, plenty of money and you know itmore than we need. I work hard for every dime I make and I deserve to spend money on myself without you scolding me and telling me I can't, I'll tell you what, when you earn as much as I do, you can tell me when I can and can't spend!"
Neil looks at me. "Ruth, can't you explain to her that we're saving more than enough money for whatever catastrophes she keeps making up in her head! Can't you explain that a guy who works as hard as I do needs all the things I have because I need to relax and unwindand because I've earned them?"
"All you want to do is have money to play," Anne says angrily. "You don't even care about what's important to me. You never listen to me and what I want. Never!"
"Here we go again," Neil interrupts. "Now she'll tell you that if I don't stop spending money, then I really don't love her. Right, Anne! I can't believe it. Round and round we go. .."
"Stop it, Neil. Just stop it!" Anne says angrily, "I'm through. I'm done trying to get you to be responsible. I quit. It's up to you, now. Since you earn the most income, it's up to you now. Just pay the basic house bills and I'll use my money
to pay for my life. You figure it outhow much for toys and how much for retirement. Now are you happy?"
FACT: Money is the number-one reason for fussing and feuding in relationships.
For many couples, like Neil and Anne, no matter how much or how little money they earn, money is the primary reason for fussing and feuding in their relationship. Money is the primary reason for couples fussing and feuding at the dinner table, on the couch and in the bedroom.
Whether fussing over the cost of recreational toys or feuding over retirement savings, these couples have conflict. Whether feuding over paying the mortgage or fussing about the cost of their children's clothing, they have conflict. Whether fussing over how much to spend on a vacation or feuding over the Visa bill, they have conflict.
Sometimes couples decide to stop all this fussing and feuding and quit fighting. Maybe Denise and Ted sound familiar to you:
"We've finally stopped fighting about money," Denise explains. "I think we've both just given up.ö
Ted nods as Denise continues. "Each month is more discouraging than the last. We used to be hopeful. We'd say, æNext month, we'll have a little left overÆ or æNext month we'll get ahead and maybe even go out for a nice dinner or something.Æ The next month would come, and we would still be behind."
"We had terrible fights," Ted confesses. "We'd call each other names and yell. We were both mean and nasty. We'd wear ourselves out and then not talk to each other for hours or even days. To me, this was a relief. Then, we would start talking again and everything would go back to normal."
"We would be divorced by now if we had continued to fight the way we did," Denise adds. "Even if it looked like things were back to normal, we had really hurt each other. It seemed that it took a little longer for us to come back together after each fight." With tears in her eyes, Denise says, "I know this sounds crazy, but I think we both gave up on the money in order to save our marriage.ö
öI agree," says Ted. "We couldn't keep hurting each other and stay married. But now, we feel hopeless. We're sending in
bill payments lateif at alland our Visa card is at its limit. We don't have any slack if we have an emergency. I hate those phone calls from people asking for their payments. Sometimes I don't even answer the phone. It's just plain discouraging. I keep working, but we'll never get ahead. We'll probably have to drive our old cars for another ten years, and I don't know how our kids will ever get to college...."
"And," Denise interrupts, "we'll never get our honeymoon-ever. See, we couldn't afford a honeymoon when we got married because we were both in school. We promised ourselves we would take one someday, but I don't think that someday will ever come."
FACT: Money is the number-one reason for anxiety and hopelessness in a relationship.
Couples like Ted and Denise trade the fighting for greater anxiety over the money itself. Some couples believe they must stop talking about money in order to save their marriage. This doesn't work because they are not making decisions about money and are not in charge of their money life. Not only do couples like Denise and Ted live with the nearly constant anxiety of late payments and creditors calling, but they also live with a sense of hopelessness. They begin to believe that they will never get ahead and their money life will never change.
(c)1999 Ruth L. Hayden. All rights reserved. Reprinted from For Richer, Not Poorer by Ruth L. Hayden. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.