A Lesson in Marriage That I Will, Apparently, Never Learn

With our move to Florida coming sooner than we had expected, it has left us for several months without an income.  Thankfully, Chris starts work next week, but for the past three months we have been floating.  And it has been terrifying. We have gone through all our savings and if Chris didn’t start working this month, we would be in some serious trouble next month.

In our family, I do the banking and the bill paying.  Of course, I give Chris the run down each week or two on our finances – what I’ve paid, what we owe, how much is in checking, how much is in savings, how much I put away for Bean.  And if we have decisions to make such as where to pull money from or where to put a particularly unexpected income, we talk those over together.  But the general day-t0-day practice of actually logging expenses into our register and then paying the actual bills falls with me.

The thing about me, though, is that when things get tough, I tend to hide my head in the sand.  Be it with money, relationships, parenting, whatever.  I would much rather just pretend nothing is wrong.  I’m mature like that.

So, this month when money has been particularly tight as we get closer to Chris starting work, I made a cardinal mistake.

I asked Chris to step in and do the finances this month.

I thought it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Just logging some stuff into our money program and writing a few checks really.  No biggie.

But what I didn’t think about, like an idiot, was that Chris and I have specific roles in our marriage because those are the roles we handle the best.  For example, Chris cleans the kitchen because I hate getting dirty, so when I clean the kitchen its more just like I push everything into the sink and throw a dish towel over it.  Because I’m mature, remember?

And disrupting that delicate household balance of responsibilities doesn’t do anyone any good.

The thing about Chris is that he is actually better with numbers than I am, so you would think that would make him better suited to do our banking.  But the fact is that Chris doesn’t do well with worst-case scenarios.  He takes the worst thing that could possibly happen and then he imagines ten times that and by the time he’s done looking at our finances, he has his little head spinning so much that he’s envisioning us going into a homeless shelter in two weeks.

So, like a sweet, good husband, he did just what I asked him to do and he did our banking this month.  And for the next two weeks, he was afraid to leave our house.  Seriously.  It was like he was afraid if we walked outside, what little money we had left would be sucked out of our pockets and into the atmosphere.

And those times we had to venture out (God forbid) for things like groceries, he drove me insane.  Since neither of us are working right now, we usually run our errands together so we would be in the grocery store walking through the aisles and everything I picked up he would comment on.

Do you REALLY need face wash?” he would ask.

Yes, Chris,” I said.  “I really need to wash my face.”

Does Bean REALLY need pajamas?”

Yes, Chris,” I said.  “He’s still wearing his 6 month pajamas and he’s about to turn ONE YEAR OLD.”

Do we really need sandwich bags?  Lima beans?  Applesauce?  Chicken?  Bananas?…”

I mean, he’s freaking out.  And the part that makes me the craziest is that he keeps talking to me like I just don’t understand what’s going on.  Like if I am not panicking, then I, clearly, don’t have a clue.  And that’s when I have to kick him in the pants (which doesn’t cost any money at all, coincidentally) and tell him that A) I am not stupid B) I know what’s going on with our money since I do the banking EVERY MONTH and C) if he keeps freaking out and making things seem worse than they really are, I am going to lock him in the attic until he starts getting a paycheck.

I mean, I’m all about talking about money.  I think its a healthy conversation to have and that both partners should be involved in the discussion.  But I think that talking about it every time we do ANYTHING does nothing but make him freak out more and me get pissed off more and before we know it, every decision we are making become arguments about money.

So, there are several lessons I have learned this month.

1.  We have assigned roles in our marriage because those are where our strengths are.  And it is selfish of me to say that I just don’t want to deal with my responsibilities that month and to put them off on Chris.

2.  No matter how much Chris and I might agree on the way we spend and save our money, we deal with the emotional and stressful side of finances very differently.  As much as he drives me crazy with his end-of-the-world freaking out, that’s just the way he rolls.  And I really should give him the chance to get those fears and anxieties off his chest.  To a certain extent…

3.  Even the most mundane decisions that I make in my marriage – paying the bills every month, for example – will need to be reevaluated over time and that will mean going through some growing pains as we work to find a new balance with our changing situation.  And Chris needs to understand and appreciate the things that I bring to the table in those decisions, just like I need to be open-minded about what he is bringing to the table.

4.  Unemployment sucks.

THE END.

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32 Thoughts to “A Lesson in Marriage That I Will, Apparently, Never Learn”

  1. I think assignments in marriage are important! My husband has one big one: take out the garbage. He also does the finances, but that is because if I did them, I’d spend all of our money on shoes.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about specified marriage roles. If I did our finances, we’d have a bunch of unpaid bills stuffed into a drawer somewhere and I’d spend a lot of time banging my head against a wall. (Numbers and I do NOT mix.)

    So glad that Chris is headed back to work soon! Then all of this will be behind you.

  3. As my temp job ends in a week, and I’m staring in the face of unemployment myself, this post somewhat terrifies me. To compensate, I’d like to highlight some amazing things about unemployment. Surely there must be some good daytime TV – now I’ll be able to find out. Plenty of time to go visit out of town friends – sure I won’t have the money, but that’s what credit’s for, am I right? Ample reading time, before I’ll be forced to turn all my books into the used book store, a stopgate measure before selling the rest of my posessions on the street. See, that doesn’t seem that bad after all.

  4. Neither my husband or me are very good with financial organization. It’s something we are always working on and tends to make us both want to move out to the middle of nowhere and live off the land… but we like movies and Caribou coffee too much!

  5. There is absolutely a reason people gravitate towards certain roles and money worries amplify EVERYTHING in a marriage. Yay for Chris starting work and giving you all some breathing room!

  6. I can’t imagine how scary unemployment must be. But I do admire the fact that you guys followed your heart and what you feel is God’s will and moved home to be close to family! Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to step out on faith! God will provide…especially when you are following Him.

    I’ll say an extra prayer for you guys today!

    🙂

    Megan

    http://www.reddirtandcrazy.blogspot.com

  7. First off, you guys are AWESOME for making it three months. Second off, I am like Chris is my relationship. If money gets tight, I freak out. Thus, I will not be handling the expenses in our marriage. But I think that’s a good thing.

    I’m happy that Chris gets to start work soon, too. Go Chris! 🙂

    Marla @ http://www.asthefarmturns.wordpress.com

  8. My husband and I did the same thing. I handled the money and just kept him up to date every so often. When we got into trouble financially I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him about it because I was so worried about how he would react. When he eventually found out about things he took over and it was pure hell. I felt like I could barely spend a time without 20 questions attached to it. We have finally come to a happy place with our finances where we can sit down and have an adult conversation about where our money is being spent and how we are going to save and what not.

    Good luck with everything!

  9. Did some ad clicking. Just because I felt I needed to. 😉

    Totally understand. We’re pretty much on-board, but I would like to spend every penny of our savings to pay off student loans. And…my Chris thinks this is a bad idea, due to “end of the world” possibilities. One day at a time, one day at a time.

  10. Ugh, my husband is the exact same way…
    me: “honey, let’s have a baby”
    him: “we don’t have enough money”
    me: “people with less seem to handle it ok”
    him: “let me think about it”
    Then he breaks out his calculator and starts making charts and actually sweating over the fact that we don’t have enough canned food in the pantry to handle the pending apocalypse! I’ll break him eventually…

  11. I, too, do the bill paying.
    I, too, made the mistake of handing it over one ill fated month.
    Never, ever, again.

  12. Heaven help my husband if something happens to me. I find that my life/marriage is a lot less stressful if I do the following things:
    1-Never take him shopping with me (“No, I will not by the $.99 box of 50 made from recycled material tampons.”)
    2-Take care of the bills. I tell him the bills are paid and we have XX amount of money in the bank. He can’t handle the truth…about bills.

  13. Jennifer in CA

    I could not agree with you more. I handle all of the bills even though my husband is better with math and finances. I do tend to freak about things a little more than he does though. We recently had to purchase a new vehicle because the transmission in my husband’s car died(car was from the 1980’s and not cost effective to repair). It was not in my plan to purchase a new vehicle and the entire time we were at the dealership I was freaking out. But he had done all of the math and determined we could afford it. I just had to trust him and stop panicking. Turns out he was right!

  14. R$

    My husband is absolutely wonderful with handling our bills/finances/etc. I barely think about it at all- of course this could be because I literally cried [hard] the first time I saw our heating bill when we moved to CT. Betcha don’t miss that one, Katie!!

    ps- You should see what he says if you want to purchase some snake repellent…

  15. OK this is actually super freaky how similar this is to our situation right now. Like you, I do the monthly bugeting… However, this month we decided to (on a whim) buy a house, and close within 2 weeks. Needless to say, all of our money is now GONE, and my husband is Freaking.Out!

    I kinda did the bury my head in the sand thing too… and it was not received well. Minor freak out ensued when he took a look at everything. Nevermind that I have been doing this job myself for years… and that we have NEVER BOUGHT A HOUSE BEFORE…

    He would like to do the budgeting until things settle down… He is so much like Chris your post scares me.

  16. OH – and a video tour of our new house is here on my blog!!

    We get the keys at 5pm tonight, I’m just a tad excited!!

    http://melissa-anne-morris.blogspot.com/2010/04/our-super-exciting-news.html

  17. I hear you, Katie. We are currently living off of our savings (and have been for 10 months now) while my husband has started his own business. STRESSFUL. However, he manages our finances (since he’s an investment banker). And we also run our errands together, since he’s working out of our home. I too, hear all the time, “Do we NEED that?” I’ve told him the answer is always “yes.” It’s food. And then, he’ll go buy a ton of SOMETHING, just because it’s on sale, not because we NEED it, but he still ends up spending a good amount of money on it! I am sooooo ready for the business to start making a profit. I don’t spend extravagantly, but I’m more of the “everything will be fine” type of person. He is NOT. 🙂
    Anyway, I can commiserate!

  18. Amy

    Those are definitely words to live by, Katie.

  19. Lee Ann

    I have the exact same problem in my house. However, as a single woman, the problem is exacerbated by the fact I have to play both roles. (Just call me Sybil.) So I stick my head in the sand for a few days, refuse to tally up the damages to my checking account and credit card, then hunker down with the receipts, scare the beejesus out of myself at the totals, then remind myself I just need to get back on track. Oh, and it sounds like you all need a memo pad that someone gave me. It says: “If you’re calm in a crisis, it looks like you don’t understand the problem.” Yep, that’s me.

  20. I totally agree with certain “mariage roles.” My husband handles all of the finances and I can break out in hives just thinking about having to look at our bank account. The way your husband is acting sounds just like me, I can relate!

  21. We do the finances together because my husband sucks at managing money and would blow our wad in 2 days, and I am an over-manager like Chris and together we somehow meet in the middle. But we’ve both shed blood, sweat, and tears getting to that point!

  22. Excellent, excellent advice Katie. It always makes me laugh how my boyfriend and I have such similar reactions to certain things that go on with you and Chris! Nice to know I’m not the only one sometimes 😉

  23. My fiance has an MBA in Finance, but I pay all the bills for this exact reason. For one, it helps me spend/save money more mindfully. For another, if The Fiance handles bills, he tries to justify living without luxuries like trash pick-up and electricity.

  24. Oy, well put. I do the bills and finances too, if I didn’t I’m pretty sure I’d explode with uncertainty/terror (ala what happens if I’m out of email contact for more than 24 hours lol). He’s good at cleaning and calming me down when I go crazy though :).

  25. Dawn

    Wow – and here I was, procrastinating about doing MY job of paying/handling our bills by catching up on MC, and I discover that I am not the only wife who handles that role!! Makes me feel a bit better. Even though it doesn’t help the bills get paid even one bit. But as long as I feel better… Maybe I will actually get to them tomorrow.

  26. Heather M

    We do similar things. Before I got married I handled everything – once we got married my husband took over the day-to-day stuff. Admittedly he is much better at our home finances (including spreadsheets – which he sends me). It’s one of the areas of his expertise that I really admire and I love the fact that he is so diligent.

  27. “And that’s when I have to kick him in the pants (which doesn’t cost any money at all, coincidentally)”

    PRICELESS!!!

  28. you just described our relationship to a t!! we’re a 1 income family right now and i do all the $$ stuff, b/c as soon as he sits down and looks at what we have, all hell breaks loose and we can never buy pizza again.
    so glad i’m not the only one!!

  29. Michaela

    Oh Katie, as much as you want to be besties with P-Dub, I would like to give you a friendship bracelet, if you do a book tour in Australia after you top the NY Times Bestesellers when you get published.
    If it was up to my partner we’d be living out of a very expensive car, with guitars and playstations instead of food. needless to say, i am the money manager. And I flipped out when I saw this post come up – because we NOT HALF AND HOUR AGO had a big argument because I, being the evil overlord I am, deigned to be a buzzkill about our need to pay our legally obligated bills when we’re legally obligated to pay them. After trying to ignore me for a while, he finally skipped out, leaving me in in pants-kicking mode. I did, however get a big apology phone call ten minutes later about how right I am. He knows what I like to hear.
    So three cheers for relationship roles!!!

  30. Anything that has to do with my car or the yard, I definitely defer to my finace on. But we still have those same arguments when out shopping about what I need and what we don’t need. But that argument usually ends when I buy him his favorite beer or a bag of Doritos. There is definitely a lot to be said, though, for those marriage roles!

  31. Can I rent anybody out for this one? Because, it is just me here handling the bills and sometimes I am freaking out and thinking I can never again let myself walk into Target. I need someone to talk me down.

  32. After reading your post AND all the fabulous (and, at times, hilarious) comments, I am so glad to hear I’m not alone! My marriage is similar to yours, Katie; my hubby is much better with numbers (he’s an engineer, I’m a writer) but he CANNOT handle the bills. Hubby has always kept a spreadsheet of all the money he spends, but he completely freaked out once we added my expenses. Suddenly every expense was met with the “do you really NEED that” question. I got tired of “yes, I NEED to make my car payment” and “yes, I NEED to pay my student loans” or “yes, I NEED the brand-name version of my medication”. It was exhausting.

    I have since learned that everything works much better when I pay the bills and give him an update on our finances. He can wrap his head around the “I’ve paid the bills this month and this is what we have in our accounts” instead of making his head explode with the price of aspirin or whatever it is I’m buying from the store.

    I’m still all for the money talks though; it’s best to keep an open line of communication. Something I must remind myself of now that we’re budgeting for Future Baby. Slightly terrifying to talk about it, but it must be done. Hopefully I won’t have to ask Hubby to take care of the monthly bills just yet, though 🙂

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