Last week I wrote about a newlywed couple that had to deal with the issue of “financial infidelity.” To make a long story short, Karin bought a laptop (with her own money) without telling her husband Jim about it first. He flew into a rage and started throwing temper tantrums, accusing his wife of “financial infidelity.”
Photo by Ed Yourdon
I personally think the husband is out of his mind, but the situation does bring up an important question; what constitutes financial infidelity and how do you deal with it?
While I am no expert in infidelity (thankfully), it occurs to me that other forms of cheating are a bit more-clear cut.
When you break an implicit or explicit promise – that’s cheating.
But money is tricky.
Where do you draw the line?
If I come home to find that my wife put the house up for sale without discussing it with me first, I’m going to feel cheated.
If, on the other hand, I bring home Honey Nut Cheerios rather than Corn Flakes because the Cheerios are on sale – it’s no problem.
So do you draw the line simply based on the dollar amount? Do I have discretion up to $10 and after that, I have to consult with my wife?
In my household, we both work. I happen to make more money than she does. Does that mean I have more discretion than she does? If that’s the case, she’d be guilty of “financial infidelity” at a lower number than I would. Does that make sense?
I believe there is no “global solution”. Each couple has to make their own agreement, be crystal clear where the boundary is and communicate about it often.
So what do you do when your spouse breaks that boundary?
Here’s an approach I’ve come to rely on:
1. Communicate what you feel and why.
Rather than blame your spouse from the get-go, just tell him/her you are upset, scared, afraid, whatever…and tell them why. You may find out that they did what they did for a perfectly justifiable reason – even though they failed to talk with you about it first.
2. Get agreement on how to handle similar situations in the future.
Communicate how you would like to handle the situation going forward and find out if your partner agrees. Don’t try to force them into agreeing. Just ask them how they would like you to handle it if the situation were reversed.
3. Don’t expect perfection.
Your wife is probably a great person – but she’s not perfect. Neither are you. There may be some area where she continually lets you down in the financial world. Can you accept it? Has your wife accepted your imperfections?
Some battles are just not worth fighting. Make sure you pick your battles well.
How have you dealt with issues like this in the past?
A Giveaway for Frugal Dad Readers
As an extra incentive to pick your brains, Jason has twisted my arm and convinced me to give away 3 copies of my course, “Money School for Couples”. It’s a course I created to help couples stop arguing about money. It’s made up of 10 short videos, some exercises and a few whitepapers. Basically, it’s everything I’ve learned over the last 25 years. The course teaches you how to fix a marriage by fixing the finances. I’m going to use Random.org to pick the lucky winners.
All you have to do to have a chance at snagging your free copy is:
a. Enter a comment with your answer to one of the three questions below.
b. Agree to give me your honest feedback about what you like and dislike about the program.
1. Have you ever had to deal with “financial infidelity”?
2. Have you ever crossed the line when it comes to cash?
3. What system do you use that has helped you and your spouse avoid these kinds of battles?