An Argument About Money
May Really Be About Something Else
© Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
Five years into his second marriage, Jim was so frustrated with the haphazard way Cathy seemed to handle her finances that he was seriously considering divorce. Cathy wouldn't consider joint counseling, so he hired me to help him sort through the issues and make a decision.
Jim and Cathy were both well-paid professionals, and had a clear agreement to share expenses. Jim believed that Cathy wasn't really keeping the agreement. He gathered evidence to prove his point.
When I asked Jim what he did to contribute to the problem, Jim recognized that he was the one who started the arguments by frequently asking Cathy about what she did with her money.
When I asked what he was trying to accomplish by questioning her, Jim first said he just wanted her to be responsible. When he dug a little deeper, he realized that he wanted to be sure she could take care of herself financially and not become dependent on him.
He also recognized that frequently questioning her was not accomplishing his goal. In fact, it was making the problem even worse.
Jim also discovered that he had mixed feelings about whether a husband should be financially responsible for his wife. This ambivalence kept him from discussing the only real problem—that Cathy was breaking her financial agreement to share entertainment costs.
I asked Jim if his unexpressed resentment about the broken agreement might be connected to his judgment that she was irresponsible about money. He already knew that the "evidence" didn't really support his judgment. Cathy was responsible for everything EXCEPT sharing entertainment expenses. The connection made sense to him.
Jim still didn't feel ready to confront Cathy directly about the broken agreement, but he decided to experiment with not asking her about how she managed her own money. He also decided to tell Cathy in advance whether or not any particular entertainment activity would be his treat.
A month after he started his experiment, Jim noticed that the arguments had almost completely disappeared. The bills continued to get paid, and Cathy was occasionally volunteering to treat him to dinner and other activities.
He decided to stay married.
Remember: Almost everything you do is done for a reason, but sometimes you have to look below the surface to discover the really important hidden reason for your behavior.
About the AuthorLaurie Weiss, Ph.D., internationally known therapist, coach and author, has been helping people create conscious, loving relationships for over 30 years. See Being Happy Together: How to Create a Fabulous Relationship With Your Life Partner in Less Than an Hour a Week at www.BeingHappyBook.com