I could see the tension in his face as soon as I said it – “We should go over the budget tonight.”
It happened every single month. I would try to figure out a way to bring up the subject of our family’s finances, and my sweet and typically chatty husband would immediately withdraw.
I would panic, and start to list all the things we needed to pay for – the new health insurance, the weekly checks to the occupational therapist, the hospital bills that just kept rolling in, the boys needed new shoes (because crocs are expensive, yo), and on and on.
I would get more and more agitated and he would withdraw even further, once even taking out his phone to completely tune me out.
These were not our finest moments as a couple.
We had both read all the same books. We had both heard the advice that couples sit down weekly to discuss spending. We both understood all the benefits that come from a couple being on the same page financially and sharing in the responsibility.
All of this knowledge did not stop us from a pressure filled, super tense conversation, that typically ended in a huge argument, every single time I brought up the finances.
My husband is a dedicated, loving leader. He works hard, and I am so grateful that his dedication allows me to stay home and care for our boys.
What I failed to see every time I brought up our finances, was that he felt accused and super pressured by the mere mention of the subject.
My husband felt that my bringing up money, meant that he wasn’t doing a good enough job providing. Moreover, me continuing to drone on about all the bills made him feel like I was not satisfied with the life we share.
Whereas I enjoy organization and spreadsheets and calculators and different color pens (oh my goodness, different colored pens are my favorite!), he gets figurative hives when the mere idea of budget planning comes up.
Finally, I gave up trying to do it my way. I just asked him to please let me know how he wanted to handle the household budget, and I promised to go along with it.
His response? He very carefully and very humbly said, “I would prefer that you take care of all the day to day details, and then just keep me informed. I will work very hard to make the money, and I trust that you will work very hard to make sure it is well spent.”
“Hmmmm…really?” I thought. “Is that even allowed? What would Dave Ramsey say?”
We decided to give it a try and here is what we learned:
1. It is much easier to have the person more suited to the work, do the work.
As I mentioned, I love this type of thing. I can do it in half the time, with very little stress, and even feel like I got a break from our boys by doing more “grown-up” thinking.
My taking on the details of our finances has also freed up my husband to do more of the things he is good at (like marketing and managing his business – our only reliable source of income and obviously an important part of keeping us financially afloat!).
It is honestly a win-win for us.
2. Just because I manage the details, doesn’t mean my husband isn’t involved in our finances.
What has worked best for us, is for me to manage the bills, the budget, and our savings plan with his ultimate approval. I figure out the details and share them with him. If there is anything I am unsure about (i.e. Should we save less this month, or is it time to go ahead and replace the couch now that our budget can afford it, or should we hold off on this bill until we have more income?). I ask and he ultimately makes the call.
He is aware of the big picture, and I have his support and help when I need it. He is completely involved in a way that works best for his temperament and my heart.
3. Trying a different approach, no matter what the books say, might just be the answer.
We love Dave Ramsey. We have both learned so much from his teachings. I think that’s part of the reason why we both stubbornly kept trying to force a completely shared management of our financial life for so long.
The truth is, we are ultimately achieving what Dave and most financial experts advise – both partners being involved in and aware of the finances. In our case, this just looks a little bit different and requires an approach better suited to our personalities. Now that we have clear roles and responsibilities, it is so much easier to have a conversation about money without either one of us taking it personally.
Let me encourage you – if you are currently in a situation where you are finding it hard to talk with your spouse about money, don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be afraid to listen to all of the advice, consider it, and then just do what works best for your marriage.
I love my husband. I love his willingness to provide for me, for the boys, and for all of our unique expenses.
And I love that we are finally on the same page when it comes to money.