Fred had taken his computer to Starbucks to get a little breathing room. He knew that if he stayed at home, his wife would nag him about different things she needed him to do around the house. Behind it all would be her incessant anxiety about money.
No doubt they would get into a fight about the topic again.
Since Fred did not have to go into the office today, he chose to stay out of the house and out of trouble.
Here at Starbucks, he could sip on a nice hot latte while browsing the web, reading articles, and taking care of some financial odds and ends that doubtless would have had his wife hovering over his shoulder at home.
Fred logged on to his bank account and frowned at the balance. Money really was impossible to hold on to.
Opening up the most recent statement, he scanned the dollar and cents column to catch any charges that seemed out of the ordinary.
“One hundred and twenty dollars…what the heck is that about?” He murmured, rubbing a hand over his chin in consternation.
Skin Glo Spa and Treatment.
Fred grumbled. His wife had spent more than a Ben Franklin on a stupid spa excursion while he was hard at work. Money was tight, and here she was blowing it on something frivolous.
Fred continued to scan the ledger of purchases, and noticed that trips to the grocery store were appearing frequently. He hadn’t been to the grocery store more than once a week for the past several years, so it must be his wife.
Why was she going there so much? Didn’t she know how to shop?
“I’ve got to tell her about using coupons,” he murmured, trying to add the figures up in his head before giving up and heading over to the statistics page.
A rainbow-colored pie chart faced Fred, showing him that an enormous slice of the pie was going toward food and consumer staples.
He flexed his fingers in anger and frustration. Why was his wife wasting all this money?
His anger only increased when he noticed the names of a few restaurants here and there. The dollar amount was small enough to indicate the purchase of lunch for one. Maybe his wife was picking up coffee or snacks as she drove around doing errands. Couldn’t she just bring some coffee and food from home?
It gets worse…
Things didn’t get any better when Fred exited the bank’s website and headed over to check out some of his investments.
They were all bombing, giving Fred a serious case of dancing stomach butterflies…and not the ones that bespoke romance…the ones that bespoke vomiting from stress.
He grimaced and sipped his latte.
Checking his email, he saw that one of his tenants would be late with the rent, and was begging for a two-week extension. He needed that rent check to cover some of his own bills. Now he would have to dip into his savings accounts, which he hated doing.
If only my wife wasn’t spending so much money, he lamented.
Suddenly Fred’s phone rang. It was his wife.
He picked it up and greeted her with an annoyed hello.
“Hi honey,” Janice replied. “I wanted to ask you about something.”
I wanted to ask you about something, Fred wanted to say, but held himself back.
“There is this purse I saw online. It was in an email from Groupon. It’s on sale, but it’s still $200…I was wondering if…”
Fred was incensed that his wife was even asking about his.
“We can’t afford that right now,” he cut in.
“Okay, honey,” his wife replied. “I’m kind of sad about that, but I understand.” she sounded a little upset as well. “How’s your day going?”
“It’s fine, how’s yours,” Fred replied mechanically.
His wife gave him a few details about how it was all going and then Fred gave her a curt goodbye, promising to be home soon.
Well, this is different…
After the phone call, he browsed around, reading some articles that he had hoped would take his mind off of his money problems. An add for discounted playoff tickets appeared on his screen, and he clicked through.
These seats are really cheap, Fred thought to himself. I could totally buy two seats and invite Jason to go to the game with me after work. I’ve got to get these while they’re on sale like this…
Fred whipped out his credit card and dropped $200 to reserve the seats.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he rationalized.
At 4:00 PM, Fred closed up his laptop and headed home. He continued to muse over his wife’s spending habits, and how she had also been getting food out and random spa treatments with his hard-earned cash. Sure, she worked too, but that was only part-time. Didn’t she care about contributing to the family’s financial well-being?
When Fred came home, he was ready to confront his wife.
Dinner conversation goes south
They sat down to dinner, and after a few minutes of silent munching, Fred brought up the spa treatment.
“Oh, Fred, I forgot to tell you…Cindy gave me a gift certificate for the spa. It was only for $50. I thought that would cover it, but turns out that place is expensive. I was there already, and I didn’t think I’d end up going back. So I just used the gift certificate and paid for the difference.”
“And this…massage or facial or whatever was $120?” Fred asked incredulously.
“Well,” his wife began, sounding a tad annoyed. “It wasn’t..it was maybe like $50, but they had some hair products I really needed there, and that are hard to get at the store, so I bought them too. I didn’t think you’d mind…it was just like $20 extra.”
“Well, I do mind. And I also mind that you go to the grocery store so often.”
Janice put down her fork and gave Fred a steely-eyed glare.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I looked at our bank statement today, and I see that you’ve been going to the grocery store several times a week. What are you spending money on there?”
Janice’s eyes practically bulged out of her head.
“What am I spending money on?” she asked in a hoarse, angry whisper. “This,” she continued, pointing at the food.
She pushed back her chair and stomped into the kitchen, returning with a bottle of dish soap and a roll of paper towels.
“And this. And this.”
She slammed them down on the table.
“What!” Fred half asked, half demanded. “Why can’t you buy that stuff at the drugstore? It’s cheaper there!”
“If you think you know better, you can do all the shopping around here. And make the food!” she added for good measure.
“Money is tight, Janice,” Fred continued. “And one of our renters didn’t pay this month. I have to dip into our savings account to cover some of our bills. And you know I hate doing that.”
Janice said nothing but stormed away. For the next several days, she did not talk to Fred, but only responded to him with icy stares.
Finally, the storm blew over and Fred forgot his money woes. The renter paid up, he restored the balance to his savings account, and his anger at his wife’s seemingly frivolous spending went away.
But as it always did, time and time again, it was bound to come back next time Fred felt stressed out about their finances. Arguing about money was a constant source of tension in their home.
What could he do?
The three mistakes we all make
There are a few mistakes Fred is making in this story, and many of us have made them as well.
One of them is bringing money-related stress up to his wife.
It’s natural to share your problems with other people, especially people who are close to us. To that end, many men share their financial problems with their wives, just like Fred.
Many couples discuss finances together, and if that’s the case, you can still leave your stress and feelings out of the picture.
Even if both spouses work and contribute financially, a man can keep his emotions out of the picture and share them with a friend instead.
This may be a controversial statement, but I don’t care: men are wired to be givers, and women are wired to be receivers (biologically and emotionally). A woman wants her husband to be stable and responsible. When he shows weakness in this area, it can make her stressed and upset.
I don’t discourage you from sharing your problems with a trusted friend for support. I also encourage you to share vulnerable feelings with your wife and seek her emotional support. I just urge you not to turn to her for support about money-related stress.
Another mistake that Fred is making is stinginess.
As I said, men are supposed to be givers. Analyzing his wife’s spending and getting upset that she spent $70 taking care of herself (remember she already had a gift card for $50) is stingy and small-minded. Demanding she make her day more stressful by going out of her way to make extra trips to less expensive stores for consumer goods instead of buying them at the grocery store is also demanding and selfish (yeah, I know that was a long sentence).
Lastly, Fred was acting hypocritically.
He denied his wife’s request for a new purse, an article of clothing that would have made her happy.
Of course, when it came to buying playoff tickets, he was willing to lay out $200 with a credit card—something he could have done to buy his wife that purse. For some reason, we often have a double-standard about spending when it comes to our wives and ourselves.
The best case solution is to entirely avoid sharing money-related stress with your wife. Find a supportive male friend (dad, brother, work buddy) outside the context of your marriage to share these stresses with. I emphasize that the friend should be male because turning a female acquaintance into an emotional support is just as detrimental to your marriage (another article on that coming soon).
You don’t want to lean on your wife for support about money problems. It’s not fair to her; whatever your respective income and career statuses are, she wants her man to be responsible, giving, and able to hold it together.
Do an honest assessment of how often you bend the rules when it comes to paying for your own needs, and how often you tell your wife you can’t afford what she wants. Try to make your wife your primary investment, and work some of the financial magic you do for those playoff tickets to help her get whatever it is she wants…new clothes, a purse, a trip to Paris…whatever.
You’ll find that the more you invest in your wife, the less likely she’ll be to try and remind you that she’s number one. You’ll also be happier as you step into the role of a giver, which is a naturally masculine role.
Just remember this golden rule: your wife will always be the most important investment in your life, and the one that yields the highest and most meaningful returns.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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