“Once the inner conflict between dependence and independence has been tracked down, identified, isolated from the tightly woven fabric of one’s day to day life, can the leap then be taken from the small, stuffy room of fear and out into the plains of freedom.”
– Colette Dowling, The Cinderella Complex
The primary goal of this book is to heal your relationship with money. This has been our focus until now. You have come a long way in the process of building your financial independence. But as you know, we don’t exist in this world alone. We are each at the center of a web of relationships – especially with our kids and our spouse. I’ll talk about kids in the next chapter.
In this chapter, I want to focus on your relationship with your spouse and how you can create a healthy relationship around money and continue your growth on this issue together.
As we talked about in previous chapters, many of us have been living trapped in an old mode of the way we think about relationships. The Prince Charming archetype coming to save us is still very strong in our psyches. Let’s remember though that Prince Charming first showed up on the scene around the 12th century with the concept of romantic love. Think Tristan and Isolde, and the Knights of the Round Table who were saving princesses from dragons. “Living Happily Ever After” looked a little different in those days.
In order to move forward in our lives today as financially independent women, I suggest we look at our relationship with Prince Charming from a 21st century perspective. I created the following principles as a fun and refreshing way to look at a familiar fairytale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, from a perspective that suits what’s right for us in our 21st century relationships.
The Top Seven Principles for ‘Living Happily Ever After’ in a 21st Century Relationship:
1. Doc’s Principle – Relationships are a path for growth.
Your relationship is probably one of the most challenging ways you can choose to grow, but it is the most rewarding one I know. Being in a 21st century relationship is about being with someone who will show you what you still need to learn. If you have up to this point handed over your family’s financial responsibilities to your partner (because you are still thinking of him as your savior, or you find it more convenient), then plunge in and ask him to teach you! Tell him that you want to be a partner in managing the finances. In other words, you want to be his financial partner. I’m not talking here about just tracking expenses and paying the bills (although this is a very important part of it),
I’m talking about you learning about your investments and how to oversee them. This way both you and he can grow and learn together. Have you ever heard that the best way to learn something is to teach it? It’s true. Let your husband teach you about what he knows. Being in control of your financial destiny requires that you be an active participant. Take this step and I think you will be surprised how this helps your relationship.
2. Grumpy’s Principle – We are not that different.
Even though you might think that your partner is a “know- it-all,” you need to remember that in the end he is not a fairy tale character. He is a man that loves you and is … human! This means that he might not know everything, and he might even make a mistake (just like you).
I have heard from many women who assumed their husband knew what he was doing with the finances because he approached them with enthusiasm and confidence. They found out later though that he made some mistakes. If this is the case with your husband, then have some compassion and understand that making mistakes can be part of the process. So, guess what? In this sense, you are not that different.
3. Sneezy’s Principle – We all need both space and closeness.
We all need intimacy and closeness for nurturing as well as space to grow and express ourselves. When you talk with your partner about money, remember that he (like you) is probably holding onto old habits and conditioning. If there is one issue that will trigger conflict around these, it’s money. For example, if either of you have issues with co-dependency, then talking about money will be a trigger.
What I mean here is that if you have an issue with co-dependency, you are most likely looking for someone to depend on and therefore money will probably be one of the first issues that you “ditch” into the lap of your partner. If you have already found the “perfect” partner for co-dependence (which typically those who are co-dependent do), then your partner most likely will not easily let go of his control over the money because for him it is his way of taking care of you. Do you see where I am going with this?
Secondarily, if your partner has an issue with intimacy, he might look at your wanting to do the finances together as an intrusion on his space. He may look at your suggestion of working together on this issue as coming too close to him. As a result, this would trigger some tension and might create a conflict between you two.
In any case, money issues will trigger other issues that exist in your relationship. Arguments about money issues in a relationship are never about the money itself –- they are just a symptom of something else that is running deeper in the relationship. In other words, money is just an outside manifestation of what’s going on in your inner world.
If you are in a relationship with a man who has an old- fashioned belief that he should be in total control of the money, you want to be sensitive to that. It’s important that you take the time to explain to him that your wish to get involved in the finances is not about him having to give up power or you questioning his abilities. Rather, it is about you wanting to become educated, knowledgeable, and responsibly involved. In order to have as smooth a conversation as possible, please approach this as a collaborative endeavor with your partner/husband.
4. Happy’s Principle – Commitment is the magic word.
Choose to fully commit yourself to learning and managing your family’s If your husband resists sharing this job with you and talking with you about money, you need to question what is going on. It is important for both of you to commit to having a totally open relationship about every penny you have (or do not have). Do not settle for anything less. This is your commitment to the relationship.
Marriage in today’s world is a relationship between two equal partners. Just like in a business, if one of the partners is not willing to open up and have transparency with the money there will be no trust. Is this a relationship that you want be in? You’ll need to make that choice. If you choose to stay in this kind of relationship, the issues will no longer be your partner’s fault – you made the choice.
5. Bashful’s Principle – The truth is your best friend.
When we hide the fact from our partner that we don’t know how to manage our money and we feel ashamed of our ignorance around money, we hurt ourselves and our relationship. In the same way that hiding things in our relationship has never supported the relationship, the same goes for hiding financial issues.
A woman that hides from her partner how she spends money, or a husband that does not share with his wife what is being done with the savings, is not creating a base of trust and depth in that relationship. Trust is the foundation of every relationship. If this is not built, in the end that house will fall down. Take a risk and share your truth. Truth heals.
6. Sleepy’s Principle – Wake up and take responsibility.
Snow White, Cinderella, and the rest of the fairytale heroines awaited their knights in shining armor to rescue them. In the fairytales of the 19th and 20th century, catching a brave and handsome husband always appeared to be the best strategy. Real life (especially in the 21st century) is a bit different. Being a victim never supports your relationship.
I hope by now this book has made that point to you. If you choose to be a stay-at-home mom, you and your partner must make a commitment to figuring out how your family will live on one paycheck. You need to work together on this to see what makes most sense for your family. If your family cannot survive on one income, this doesn’t become your husband’s fault. Remember, you are partners. It might mean that you need to work part- time, or maybe you two could find ways together to cut expenses. The point is to remember that you are a team and each one of you is a responsible member of the team.
One of the biggest mistakes women make when it comes to money is that they are not willing to make a decision to buy something without their partner’s approval. If we see an opportunity and fear that our husband/partner will not approve, many of us would rather let go of the opportunity than rock the boat of our relationship. We are not willing to make a decision and then stand behind it. In other words, we avoid confrontation with our partner at all costs. The funny thing is that if we purchase something that is directly connected to taking care of the house and children, we usually don’t have a problem with this.
However, when it comes to anything else – even as small as how much to leave for a tip in a restaurant – that’s when we tend to let go of responsibility for the decision. If we continue to act this way, we are saying to our partners and ourselves that we are not equal partners in the relationship. This is not the direction we want to go. It’s time that as women we start taking responsibility for our buying decisions!
7. Dopey’s Principle – Shine your true self .
Remember that you are a valuable When you love and respect yourself, the person you truly are will blossom and shine. Never discount yourself or undervalue your work. You were born priceless, so don’t settle for less! If you are a stay-at-home mom, please value and respect that work. If you and your husband have agreed to this arrangement, then please remember that the job of the stay-at-home mom is equal to the job of the breadwinner.
I have heard from many women who have trouble with this. When they run low on money, they are uncomfortable asking their husbands for money to buy something for their family (and especially for themselves). They feel guilty when there isn’t enough money to cover the monthly expenses – like they were the ones who were financially irresponsible. If there isn’t enough money to meet the monthly expenses, it is your responsibility to talk with your husband about what solutions you two can come up with as partners. Remember, your job as a stay- at-home mom is as important and vital to your family as your husband’s job that brings home the paycheck.
I want to point out that if you and your husband have agreed that you will be a stay-at-home mom, it doesn’t mean that the one who brings home the paycheck (your husband) has the power to decide how the money is spent. As partners, the two of you have equal decision-making power. As Suze Orman has put it so well: “Give the relationship power over the money. Do not make the money more powerful than the relationship.” You are a valuable human being. Let yourself shine!
… and they lived happily ever after …
Many women think that they can either be independent OR have a partner. If they have a partner, they fear the confrontation that may come about if they talk to their partner about taking control of their money. So instead they play ignorant. What I want to make clear is that I am not talking about taking power away from your partner.
I am talking about you learning about money so you can understand it better and work together with your partner. For this to happen, you don’t have to change your whole life around, but you do need to change your attitude and willingness to become an active partner in your family’s financial issues.
I am convinced that we join in relationship with another person with the purpose of supporting each other’s personal-growth process. In order to support us on our path we need our partner to walk with us. Our relationship with our partner/husband brings unhealed emotional ‘stuff’ into our conscious mind. We push each other’s buttons until we gain clarity on our destructive patterns. It is each of our responsibility to begin to deal with what comes to the surface.
Remember that money conflicts are always a symptom of something that is going on deeper inside. I hope that this chapter has offered you some tools to work both on your relationship and your money issues.
Questions for Reflection:
- Are you honest with your partner about any debt you are carrying?
- Do you ever hide your spending from your partner? If so, why?
- Which one of you (your partner or you) is more involved with your family’s finances? Write down how this breaks down. For example, 100% you + 0% him; 80% him + 20% you; 99% him + 1% you? Set a goal for how you want this to break down by the end of the end of the month.
- Are you afraid to talk to your partner about sharing financial responsibility and being an equal partner? If so, what are your fears?
- Are you living with a 12th century perspective on romantic love or living in the 21st century? If you don’t feel quite caught up to the 21st century, what will it take for you to get here? Write down your response.
Commitment to Yourself:
Remember that when you commit to yourself and stick with it, amazing things can happen!
I commit to being transparent with my partner about money issues.
Say these affirmations out loud as often as possible. Remember, the more often you hear yourself saying these words, the more you will internalize them.
I have the courage to speak to my husband/ partner about all financial issues.
I am a smart and capable partner in managing my family’s finances with my husband/partner.
I love and respect myself and my husband/ partner.