Early on in our marriage, the two of us made a big mistake. And every opportunity that we get, we love to tell couples that are engaged or newly-married – or even seasoned couples – one way to avoid one of our biggest mistakes.
That huge mistake was leaving the financial responsibility on just one of the spouses. We made that mistake and because of it, we faced a big financial challenge that we had to overcome.
The truth is, a lot of you are in that same boat, where only one of you handles the finances, and the other one just kind of sits back – so we’re pretty sure that you’re going to be able to relate to our experience.
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It Sounded Good At First
To give a little bit of background on the situation, it kind of made sense for us on the surface, because when we first got married, Talaat was what you could call a “recovering spendaholic.” He was admittedly a financial mess and while he was working on that, he wasn’t really well-rounded in his knowledge and understanding of money the way Tai was. Tai had a very good financial foundation and her knowledge base was great, so it seemed to make sense that when we first got married, Talaat’s thought was ‘Hey, since Tai is good with the numbers, this is what she does for a living, maybe she should just be in charge of handling the finances and she’ll just let me know what I need to do.”
And Tai was okay with that at first. We both thought it was a great idea since we knew that Talaat wasn’t so great with money, and we had never walked down this journey as a married couple. We didn’t know how it was going to unfold, but to both of us it was a great idea. Tai figured she would rather be the one behind the wheel taking over the finances…. but boy, we were both wrong.
The problem with our decision to leave the finances to one spouse is that over time we both had resentment building up inside of us, but we weren’t telling each other. We continued with the way we were operating but resentment was building up and increasing inside both of us.
Since Tai was doing all of the number crunching, she felt as though she wasn’t being appreciated. For Talaat, he felt like he was being treated like a child getting an allowance to play with.
These feelings are common. For the spouse who isn’t involved in the finances, it can be difficult to feel like a child with supervised spending because they go to work every day and they know how much money they are bringing in, yet they are left with a few bucks each week to spend, per their spouse. It can begin to feel unfair, and this resentment can be made worse each time they have to turn down lunch with co-workers or an invitation to an event.
Talaat at one point felt like he was being cheated out of something or that he was missing out on something, and this is because he did not have a proper understanding of why we were doing what we were doing, in terms of spending and saving our money.
On the flip side, the spouse who does handle all the finances may feel unappreciated. For Tai, she felt taken for granted. It’s not easy crunching numbers all the time, working hard to sustain financial stability, and making small sacrifices each day to work toward becoming debt-free. Oftentimes, Tai’s associates and other employees wouldn’t even ask her to join them out for lunch or even bring something back, because they automatically knew and assumed that she would be bringing her lunch to work. Tai was motivated and making smart financial choices because she recognized the importance of them, and this is the determination Tai had that the two of us needed to have in common; unfortunately, Talaat complained a lot and it really caused frustration and resentment between the two of us.
And because we had both decided early on that this was the way we wanted to handle things, neither of us voiced our frustrations. We both kept letting resentment build up until finally we decided to talk about them. We recognized that although we thought we were working as a team (Tai handles finances, Talaat obliges), we all know that is not how teams operate.
We’re from Chicago, so we’re going to use the Chicago Bulls as an example. Go Bulls! Think about the mid ‘90s and those great Chicago Bills. So you have Michael Jordan on one side as the shooting guard, and you have, for some of those championships, B.J. Armstrong as the point guard. Both Jordan and Armstrong had roles to play. It wasn’t 50/50; B.J. Armstrong wasn’t as much a part of the game plan as Michael Jordan was, but Armstrong played his role well, and both players were very important parts of the game.
As this example shows us, we can’t get caught up thinking that when it comes to your finances in your marriage, that it has to be 50/50. But it’s important to remember that it cannot be 100/0, either, because both situations are incorrect, and both situations will lead to the same frustration for you that we allowed to build up inside of us.
You both have a part to play, so if one of you is good with the numbers, it’s ok that you set up the numbers and you come up with the game plans, but the other party also has to have input. This is their role to play. The less engaged spouse can’t just receive the game plan; he or she has to offer input. Make sure both spouses’ voices are part of the formulation because it’s very important that both of you agree with the final numbers.
Like we said, it doesn’t have to be 50/50, but 100/1 is not an option. Tai still handles more of the financial side of our marriage, but we both play a part in it. We both go over our budget, and we both go over the numbers for any saving goals or any purchases. Tai may be the one going to the bank to make deposits or withdrawals, or she may write all the checks, but at the end of the day, we both have input in the plans for our finances.
We want to mention that for some of you out there who may recognize that your spouse does take care of the finances, and you think they’re ok without your input or participation in budgeting, you want to ask to be sure. Don’t just assume they are okay with the roles you each play. Approach your partner and ask, “Would you like me to be a little bit more proactive when it comes to our money?” We can bet they’re going to say they would love for you to have some type of role in handling finances or bill paying.
Remember that’s your spouse; that’s not your mom or your dad. Your spouse wants you side by side with him or her. Your partner doesn’t want to be sitting at a computer figuring this out just for you to say “That sounds good.” That is not being a team, that’s you deferring responsibility to someone else. In order to operate as a team, you both have to participate.
What About You?
We want to hear from you! We’ve shared what our biggest financial challenge was, so we want you to tell us what your number one financial challenge is that you’re facing right now. Leave it in the comments section below. You don’t have to be married, you can be single, that doesn’t matter. We would love to hear from you.
You can send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we would love to answer your question on a future video on the His and Her Money Channel.
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