For as long as I can remember, my husband and I have had the same fights. I mean, we fight about a lot of things, but there are two things that we always fight about.
Money and sex. Do you fight about them too?
I am going to leave the sex argument for another time. Today, let’s talk money.
Let’s first address our very different “money” backgrounds.
My husband grew up with his brother and his single mother. His mom worked and struggled to make ends meet. At one point, for a short time, they were on welfare. He didn’t get new things. Didn’t have the toys the other kids have. Christmas and birthdays were meager in gifts. Money struggles were at the forefront of his life at a very young age. His grandfather, who was his father figure for much of his life, saved every penny. This is no exaggeration. He literally saved everything. When he died he had amassed over a million dollars in savings. I had no idea he had that kind of money. By the way he lived, I thought he had been struggling financially. Quite the contrary. He was rich, but chose to live poor and put it all in savings.
I, on the other hand, lived with both my parents. They both had good jobs. Money worries never crossed my mind when I was young. We weren’t rich, but had all of our needs met. I got new school clothes every year. We went out for meals often. We traveled and I always brought home souvenirs. Christmas and Birthdays were full of gifts. When I wanted to go to the movies, I would ask my dad for money. He would always give it to me. I was spoiled, I suppose. Not in a bratty way, but in a naive “I don’t know any better” kind of way.
Bring these two backgrounds together and look out!!!! My husband doesn’t spend enough money and I spend too much. At least this is how we see each other.
The truth is, as a couple we have never hurt financially. We own businesses and work hard. We have money in the bank and savings. We get to travel and have a nice house. We have never had a time where we didn’t have enough. Regardless of that, we still fight about our funds. My husband often acts like we are poor. When I go out to lunch it makes him crazy. When I bring in grocery bags he has a look like, “how much did you spend now,” which drives me crazy. He is often in a panic, and I mean a real panic, over our money. His worst fear is loosing it all, often to the point of lack of sleep and shortness of breath. I am usually the logical one in our finances. Pointing out what is really the situation, not what is made up in my husbands head. He knows that his fears are unfounded, but nonetheless we still fight and he still panics.
One day, last year, I’d had enough. We were fighting about the fact that I was going to spend money on a gift for someone in the family. I can’t remember who, but I do remember it was going to be about $40.00. All he had to do was get that look on his face, and I was in tears. Really? Were we going to fight about a family gift? One that I had cash for, that is a very reasonable amount? Really? Again?
I remember thinking, “I can’t keep doing this. Why can’t he just change? Be more like me?”
I got up and stomped away to the bathroom in tears. As I was taking a shower, I had an epiphany. A real, true epiphany. Here is what occurred to me in a very matter of fact realization. He is never going to change.
I was either going to have to live with him as he was, or give up. Giving up was out of the question.
He has always been the same man with the same fears, that clearly stem from his upbringing. He was never going to change. I realized that I had, unknowingly, been the cliché wife “hoping” her husband would change. How silly I was being? How unfair to him!
After my shower, I went back into the room and gently told him what I had realized. That he is who he is and that I love him for who he is. I said that I understand why he worries and that I know that his fear over loosing money is why we have such a nice life. It is because of him and I am grateful for that.
Acceptance. It is a key part of marriage, I have learned.
After this epiphany, our fights about money have diminished significantly. I have taken a completely different approach to fighting. I go to a place of understanding and acceptance. Does it mean that he is always right? No Way! Does it mean I just give up the fight? Absolutely not! What it means is, instead of saying, “Why do you have to be that way. Why can’t you change?” I try to say, “I understand that you are worried that we will lose our money. I understand how important savings is to you.” As much as I don’t like it, it is a part of who he is that will not change. If I can accept my husband for who he is, truly understand why he feels the way he does, then I can fight better. I can come from a place of understanding rather than blame and anger.
Guess what? When I do, he feels heard and understood and not as defensive. He feels more apt to compromise on an issue. Wow!!!
Am I perfect at my new method? Of course not. I slip up often. But, somewhere along the path of an argument, I find my way back. I remember that I love my husband with all my heart. That he is a good man, just trying to look out for the best interests of his family. That he wants to be heard and understood and valued, just as I do. That we can work this out. And we do.