And the Two Shall Share One Wallet

whatwomenwant_header_1by Sheila Wray Gregoire

What do you do for fun? Rent a movie? Watch it on your HDTV? Attempt to use power tools? And your wife, for fun, may do something even scarier. She may go shopping.

Fun today costs money. The days when people had fun by hanging out on their verandas and chatting with neighbours are long gone. Today our leisure comes with a price tag. For that matter, so do our goals. Do you want to buy a larger house? Pay off your mortgage? Start a new business? All of these revolve around money, too.

It’s no wonder, then, that conflicts over money are still the cause of most marriage break-ups. After all, we may trust our spouses to be faithful, or to look after the children, or even to leave us the last piece of chocolate cake. But we don’t trust them with our money. That “two becomes one” thing stops at the bank account. In fact, marriage therapist Barton Goldsmith says that in his experience, couples find it harder to talk about money than to talk about sex. Money is too close to our hearts.

So let’s let it all hang out today. I think many men hold onto their roles of provider and “head of the house” as an excuse to keep control over the money. That’s not godliness; it’s a power trip. Many of my friends live on allowances doled out to them by their husbands, as if these women were children themselves. That’s insulting! There’s nothing wrong with budgeting, of course; allocating money for specific categories is a responsible way of handling the finances. But when you make all those decisions, and don’t even give your wife a bank card, some major control issues are at play.

Obviously some people are irresponsible with money. One friend of mine asked her husband to cut up her credit cards when she realized her spending was out of control. Ignoring overspending isn’t loving; it’s cowardly because you’re pushing problems down the road until they become a crisis. But when a guy tries to control the finances in the absence of these problems, something deeper is going on. And you’re never going to be intimate unless you can share everything. Even your wallet.

Maybe you’re not a controlling kind of guy, though. Maybe you have the opposite problem. You honestly have no idea how much money you have—or don’t have. According to Statistics Canada, the average consumer debtload is $30,000 per every man, woman, and child. Most couples spend 10 percent more than they make each year. We are too seduced by what money can buy. It’s that same
heart issue.

Financial security, though, is really quite simple. Earn money. Spend less money than you earn. Repeat! Sure it would be nice to keep new gadgets and not pay the consequences, but that’s not how the world works. So take a deep breath and stop hiding from that bank statement.

And do you realize that when you face your money fears, you simultaneously break down walls with your wife? Our biggest dream is to be intoxicating to you. Too often, though, we lose out to your job, or to the Home Depot sale, or to your new computer. We feel like we play second fiddle. When you let go of the hold of material things, we feel much more cherished.

Recently my husband Keith and I were talking with my brother-in-law, who was bemoaning the fact that though all the boys in the family are professionals, only one is really wealthy.

My husband, though, noted that this all depended on your definition of rich. So his brother tossed this back: “Rich is when you can go into a store and buy whatever you want without thinking about it.” Keith quickly retorted, “If all you want can be found in the dollar store, then we’re all loaded!”

I think Keith’s right. Rich has very little to do your bank account. It has everything to do with your heart. If you’re satisfied in the home God’s given you with a loving family, you’re rich indeed. If you live in a mansion and own multiple vehicles, but you’re driven to get even more, you’re to be pitied. There’s nothing wrong with material success; there’s everything wrong with making that your primary goal.

Right now we’re entering an economic downturn. Over the next few years money may be tight. But your marriage can sail through as long as money isn’t at the centre of your hearts.

Ultimately, does your money own you, or do you own your money? The answer to that question says a lot about our souls and about our marriages. We had better start getting it right.

Sheila is the author of several marriage books, including Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood. You can find her speaking at marriage conferences around the country, or at www.SheilaWrayGregoire.com.

The article above was featured in the January 2009 issue of SEVENj magazine.