How money is handled in a relationship can cause a good deal of emotional distress. In the traditional relationship the woman stayed at home, took care of the children, handled all the social correspondence, as well as ran the household. Today, however, with both parents working and often with woman earning as much as and often more than the husband, all this has changed, or has it? Some women feel that even though they have an income of their own, that they are entitled to keep the money they earn for themselves and that the man should be the provider. On the other hand, women who don’t work often feel that they have to justify their personnel expenditures. Marriage is a contract between two consenting adults. How money is handled is part of the contract and is high on the list of stresses in a relationship. If not dealt with openly, either one or both partners may feel exploited by the other. Often couples avoid talking about handling money prior to the marriage as talking about money may be a taboo subject.
Rachel, the only girl and the youngest in a family of four, came from a wealthy family and was used to being indulged materially, buying whatever she wished. She met and married Steven when she was 26. Steven, a successful business man, earning well over six figures, came, however, from a relatively poor background. He received an MBA and went into business on his own. While admiring his wife, he was astounded by her material over indulgence. Although she had an independent income of her own, he was very judgmental regarding her spending habits which had to do not only with household expenditures but clothing and personal care such as hair, nails, massages, etc.
They came into couple’s therapy in order to help them deal more openly and respectfully with money in the relationship. Rachel felt that Steven treated her like a spoiled child that needed to be monitored. She felt that if he loved her, he would, like her father, reward her materially. While doing well financially, Steven was also terrified of the very real expenditures involved in raising a family in New York. The couple’s therapy helped them to open up a much needed discussion of money which had previously been avoided and to set realistic goals for themselves.
Dianne Heller Kaminsky, LCSW, BCD
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