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Wife Has to "Ask" Husband for Money

QUESTION: My second husband and I own and work at our own mortgage business. My husband is cheap with most everyday things, and I don't get a "salary." We usually shop together, because I don't drive, and he pays. When I do want to go shopping with Mom or Sis, he always wants to know what I want to buy and if I need it. I feel that I work hard and am begging him for 20 dollars! He always gives me the money, but has to say something about it first. (I was the money-earner in my first marriage and did what I wanted with my money -- sometimes to excess.) Should I take a "salary" of around 50 dollars a week?

You have astutely observed the paradox that "opposites attract!" You admit to being a bit of an excessive spender in the past, while you appraise your spouse as thrifty. Perhaps you could each fare best by rubbing of a little on the other.

The challenge of many relationships which contain opposite qualities is for each partners to learn from the other, therefore achieving a middle (healthier?) ground. Perhaps you could both entertain the concept that you were attracted to a partner that held some attributes which would be good ones to balance in your own personality. Start by respecting the tendencies in the other as possible avenues of growth in yourself. But do not stop there! Continue to explore the emotional meaning money plays in your relationship.

Consider that your role as the chief "money earner" in your first marriage seemed to justify your complete freedom to spend without accountability to your mate. Perhaps, for whatever reasons, you and your first husband did not make decisions together about the resources you earned, but followed the strategy that whoever made the money had the power of decision-making to spend it. Now that the roles are reversed in your present marriage, you may experience your spouse's desire for accountability to one another about spending money as "controlling." But this may also be, in part, a result of your own interpretation that the person who makes the money in the family is entitled to make the decision on how to spend it.

Perhaps your present husband does share this popular interpretation. But whether or not he does, he gets credit for the fact that he is not actually "controlling" your spending at all. In fact, you find that you can get what you want or need from the joint resources, but it is the fact that you have to "ask" him for money and the reality that he wants to know what is being bought that creates the relationship "snaggle."

Consider discussing the fact that in your marriage you are both legally entitled to whatever income either spouse earns. You are partners together in life, and there are many benefits of this partnership that do not translate to economics alone. Place love and nurturance in equal importance to moneymaking in the family and proceed to address economic issues as a team. This does mean accountability to one another, based on shared financial goals and mutual accountability.

Work out a budget together. Negotiate monthly amounts allotted to various categories, including "miscellaneous" spending. Maintain equal access to your accounts and leave it at that! You write your own checks and consider taking on the responsibility of paying monthly bills or at least sharing bill paying with your husband equally. This will keep you in touch with your financial health and relieve your husband from feeling overburdened and relegated to the role of "limit-setter" with you.

You might also try being more proactive regarding your own behavior to money in your relationship. Consider paying for groceries when you go the store together, and make an agreement that when each of you spends money from your joint resources, you need not get consent of the other if it falls within the budget you designed together. Some couples make agreements to consult one another for purchases over a certain dollar amount. ($100 or more, for example.) Create the agreements and rules by which you relate.

Finally, be careful that you are not being "lazy" in allowing your husband to do all of the "worrying" in the family. Take your fair share of bill paying and contribute to financial planning. The fact that you already rely on your husband to drive may make you vulnerable to letting him do things for you that later make you feel passive or childlike in relationship to him.

Accepting equal responsibility for sharing resources builds in accountability on both sides. You will not have to "ask" one another for minute details of spending which would make any relationship feel overly controlling. He is relieved of the "parental" role in your relationship, and you are divested of experiencing yourself as the "child" in your marriage.

The emotional meaning of your difficulty with money in your marriage may have more to do with falling into "parent-child" roles than true disrespect. And look out, passion can be dampened by parental dynamics in any relationship. Freeing yourself of these dynamics will prove refreshing, and may even revitalize your relationship in other ways!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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