How can I prevent my history of money from hurting my marriage?
October 29, 2012 4:41 PM Subscribe
My history with money, coupled with recent life challenges, is affecting my marriage. I am stressed and angry; my partner is (probably) depressed and overwhelmed. How can we grow together, not apart?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here are the snowflakes: when we met I was insolvent (credit card debt); partner had some money tucked away. I dedicated myself to becoming debt free; partner supported this in many ways when we were dating (treating me to dinners out, adjusting their lifestyle to my means, etc).
Fast forward five years: Partner's job was slowly draining the life force from them; I had a job with a long commute that I enjoyed, but a limited term contract. We agreed that our situation was not a long term option, and moved across the country to a more promising position for partner. I am now out of work.
This was a good move in some ways, but a few ugly truths reared their heads. First, being unemployed is hard for me and I am devoting a lot of energy to searching for a job. I am relatively isolated in the new place. I am usually pretty even keel, but this is wearing.
Second, partner's last job took an enormous toll on their mental and physical health (including significant weight gain). Partner has stated they are aware of this and would like to make changes, but generally seems exhausted and unable to cope. The new job promises to be better but right now is also very demanding (the transition itself is hard). I am not sure partner remembers what it is like to not be totally consumed by work.
Finally, we are struggling to live on one income. I know how to live frugally, but in the new place we are slowly eating away our savings (most of which is the nest egg my partner had when we met). To my surprise, my partner has a very hard time managing money. I am starting to realize my previous view of my partner as the more fiscally responsible of us (since they saved, and I was in debt) was in large part due to luck and generous parents.
I want to be supportive of my partner in this transition, but I am having a hard time avoiding resentment. I am tracking our spending (I manage our finances, including paying all bills and doing taxes). It is easy enough to see that a lot of our money is going to eating out and treats at starbucks. Partner occasionally has asked for my help in "making more healthy choices" as they are sensitive about their weight gain. I would like to support this because healthier often is cheaper. But very often my suggestions are met with strong resistance (partner's good intentions are often overruled by job-related stress). Sometimes we are good at shopping and cooking and filling the freezer. Partner agrees that this is a great idea, but I also find plenty of bakery/coffee shop receipts that indicate our home cooked meals are being supplemented daily.
I feel my partner should be able to make their own choices about what to eat, although I like to have a rough budget. I don't like this role of gatekeeper. Also, I strongly suspect my partner is dealing with an untreated case of depression, which they are treating with snacks. So far my suggestion they seek therapy has been ignored. I don't know how to change this.
Sometimes I feel my partner as a very irresponsible person, totally lacking self-discipline. Other times I think I have an unnecessarily harsh stance on this issue of spending (I am sure my partner would agree). After all, we are not in debt, and if I were working I would likely not care, or even notice. The savings will (hopefully) be used for a house down payment one day, but it is not clear when that will be. A little part of me thinks that it's their money anyway, so I have no right to object. Another part is angry that they aren't protecting our little cushion. The weight issue is less of a problem for me (so far), except that my partner feels bad about it (which I don't like to see), and I am concerned about their long term health.
I realize that this topic surfaces very frequently on mefi. I am sure that therapy would benefit one or both of us. I will work on that. I am wondering if there are ways I could change my perspective so that we are more of a team, instead of my gatekeeper role. Any suggestions on how to achieve this shift will be humbly welcomed.