How to Resolve Financial Conflicts
and Keep Love in Your Marriage

Letter #2

Dear Dr. Harley,

My husband and I have been married for 11 years. They have not been the best, but I have stuck by him. I honestly believe he loves me, but I still have some problems that really upset me. My husband does not take time for me, nor our two children (ages 8 and 3). Our daily routine is get up (he's not a morning person so we say very little to each other - usually just "bye"), go to work, come home, eat supper and then he leaves to go do things with friends. It's usually 10:00 pm or later before he gets back home. By that time, I'm exhausted and ready for bed, so we have very little time for each other in the evenings.

This is how it is during the week. Now on the weekend, it's somewhat worse. We get up, eat breakfast, he showers and then he's off on his own for the rest of the day until he gets ready for supper that night. Sometimes, he stays home for the night; other nights he's off with his friends all night. I just can't understand why he can't spend time with us, as a family. I've asked him and he just says he doesn't know why, but he just can't stay home. He tells me that he truly loves me and that it's not me, nor the kids.

Another problem we are having is MONEY. We both work full-time. Sometimes he gives me money and other times I have to beg for it. He usually cashes his check (instead of depositing it in OUR checking account) and then he spends his money accordingly (gas, food, his tool bill and anything else he wants to get). Of course, that doesn't take his whole pay check, but sometimes it's more than we can afford.

When I mention bills to him, he gets furious and says he works hard for his money, and shouldn't have to give it to me. Well, it shouldn't matter how hard he works for his money, bottom line, he should share it with his family. Do you have any suggestions for me. I guess I'm more concerned right now with the money issue, but it still bothers me that he don't spend time at OUR HOME! I'll be anxiously awaiting to hear back from you.

M.R.

Dear M.R.,

You have described yet another marriage where two spouses have grown apart. I'm sure you and your husband did not start out that way. I'm sure that in the beginning of your marriage you spent evenings and weekends together, and you made your first financial decisions together.

Then, at some point in your relationship, you started to make decisions that did not take each other's feelings into account. Maybe you decided that he could see friends you didn't like if you could see friends that he didn't like. Then he did it again and again. You may have also made sacrifices for each other, so that one of you would suffer so that the other could enjoy him or herself. Then you began to expect the sacrifices.

In other words, it may have started with the best of intentions. You may have thought that the way to care for someone is to let the person do whatever they want to do. You may have thought that if you really cared about your husband, you'd let him be with his friends evenings and weekends because that's what he wanted to do. In the area of finances, you may have thought that since he earned the money, he should be able to spend it as he saw fit, hoping that he would spend enough to care for his family.

Now you are reaping the fruits of a misguided plan for marriage. Care, you see, is not one-sided. A caring relationship is not one where a husband sacrifices for his wife or a wife sacrifices for her husband. Instead, a caring relationship is one where a husband and wife care so much about each other that they will not let the other sacrifice for them -- they will not allow the ones they love to suffer so that they can be happy. They negotiate to achieve win-win solutions to all their problems, so that they are both happy with the way they live together.

In a caring relationship, couples put their incomes into a joint account and then decide jointly how it is to be spent. It's only in a relationship that's been overcome by self-centeredness that couples cash their paychecks, holding some of it out for themselves, or deposit the whole thing into a personal account.

Your marriage is a study in what can happen when my Policy of Joint Agreement ("never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse") is not followed. My policy will straighten out all aspects of your marriage if you and your husband will follow it. You will be in bliss after one year!

The trouble is that it's hard to follow at first. Most of what you and he do are good for yourselves and bad for your spouse. You see his activities and financial habits as bad for you, but he probably sees things you are doing as bad for him. To follow my policy, you will both go through a period of withdrawal, where you will find yourselves complaining about all you are having to give up. But each habit and activity you give up is an area of incompatibility in your marriage.

Remember, you have been developing an incompatible relationship by creating habits that are good for only one of you, not both of you. By getting rid of these incompatible habits and replacing them with compatible habits (that meet the terms of the Policy of Joint Agreement), you will be creating a compatible relationship.

You now have the solution to your marital and financial problems. If you or your husband consider each other's feelings before you do anything, avoid whatever doesn't meet with each other's approval, and build a lifestyle around habits and activities that you both like, you will be happily married and your financial problems will become a relic of the past.

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