Handling Money Problems in a Relationship


This is an email I got from a wife who was concerned about how her husband handles money


 Hello Dr. Marty,

my husband and I are having a tough time. We are opposites…I am the responsible one and he is the fun one. Being opposites had always seemed to work for us. He keeps me young and I take care of him. He is very irresponsible with money and can be very materialistic. Now that we are older I want to get our affairs in line so that we can start a family. My husband wants children and a home of our own but he doesn’t seem to understand why our affairs need to be in order first our plan for this year was to pay off debt to put us in a better financial position for having a family. Last week he opened a new credit account and made a large purchase without consulting me. He admits that he didn’t tell me because he knew I would say no and regrets his actions because of how upset I became but still believes that it is not a big deal. I also presented him the scenario in reverse and he also claims that he would not have a problem if I had done that to him. I love him is much but I am ready going grow and I feel like we don’t share the same goal, even though he’ll say otherwise. I’m not sure how to move forward.




 My answer


 Hi Marie,


There is a good book by Olivia Mellan called “Money Harmony”, which talks about different money personalities, that I will review in a later blog that you might want to take a look at. 


 Marie – you have to decide your comfort level with what can and can’t be done with your finances. Here are five options:


  1. You can budget and leave a certain amount in the budget for “impulse purchases”.
  2.  You can take a regular look at your credit card bills and you bank accounts to see what is going on;
  3. You can separate out your finances. (Check with an attorney to make sure that you would not be liable for his bills because you are married).
  4. You can go for counseling to see if something can be agreed on in terms of “rules for spending” or implementation of the above options mentioned.
  5. If he is not willing to agree to any of the above you can have a trial separation to see if that motivates him to work with you on this issue.  I like the other four options better, but as a last resort trial separation is less drastic than divorce.


 In the end you have to decide on your boundaries, the above suggestions are possible solutions but if your husband is not willing to cooperate, the issue is your ability to stand up for what you know is right for you. In short this is your problem about setting boundaries not his for his spending problems.  Of course, I agree that couples have to be open about finances and not have unpleasant surprises, as well as, make decisions jointly about significant purchases, but in the end it is up to you to stand up for what you believe is right.  


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