Carla works hard managing the household. The boys are growing like weeds, the hurricane’s destruction drove the price of groceries through the roof, and don’t get her started on the increased fees at her public school. She can’t seem to keep everyone happy on the “allowance” she’s been assigned to do her job of running the roost. So… Carla opens a secret credit card. No need to alarm anyone. Solutions, getting the job done, and avoiding a fight, are what Carla’s all about.
She is successful for years until her husband comes across the credit card bill and wants answers—now. The fight is far from avoided.
There are several red flags in Carla’s story. Unfortunately, none of them are that unusual. In fact, we hear stories like this often when we work with clients and their money. Stories about how total control of the purse strings by one spouse places stress on the other spouse. So much so that they start hiding certain money details—shoeboxes full of cash, secret credit cards, private slush funds, no-tell investments, hush-hush accounts. The list goes on and on.
This can’t be right. We’re in America. Everyone deserves a vote and to have his or her voice heard, especially in a marriage. No one wants to live with a “money controller.” You are a team. Teams have captains, but no one likes a ball hog or a money hog. A Team cannot win without every single player. Neither can your marriage.
Try these 3 steps to identify a money controller at your house and to learn how to put a successful end to those unhealthy behaviors.
1. Know the signs of a “money controller”.
Do you suspect you might be a “money controller” or are married to one? Do either of you:
- Demand all paychecks and money go right into the one account they control?
- Keep the bills and credit cards at arm’s length so the other person doesn’t see them?
- Condemn the other for how much money you make?
- Dole out money like an allowance (Ick. Sorry, but you’re not married to your mommy!)
- Puts YOU on “a budget” like shaming a dog to stay in the newspapers. (A budget is a wonderful tool IF you create it together and it benefits everyone involved.)
Stay alert for the red flags of “control” in your relationship.
2. Ask yourself what might be the cause of this “control” in your relationship?
Every relationship is unique so we don’t assume to understand the intricate and complicated dynamics of your relationship, but you do (or at least you do as well as any of us can).
Try and step outside the emotion of your relationship and look at it as honestly as you are able. Why are you or why are they feeling the need to control the finances?
Consider these questions:
• Do I “check out” when my spouse talks about money? So they assume I don’t care so they just take it over?
• Are there times I berate him or her about their worry over money?
• Have I considered what they are afraid of? What am I afraid of?
• Is there something I could change?
At The Money Couple, we have the science and many years of data to support the notion that every individual approaches money differently – it’s in your DNA. You (and your spouse) were born with a certain bent towards money. It’s not likely to change. No one would make someone feel bad that they’re tall or short, so we encourage others to not make someone feel bad about how they view money.
How you view money helps you understand yourself—your shortcomings, your strengths—and some personalities are more anxious about money, but it doesn’t mean you should use that attitude to control your spouse.
Take some time to think about it and be honest with yourself about your contribution to the control issue in your marriage.
3. Get involved—now.
Addressing conflict or even just discussing touchy subjects (which most people see money as) is difficult. We are not saying it is easy. But get involved now.
Every step you take towards sharing and being honest in your relationship and with your money, big or small, puts you on a more positive path for your future together.
Did you know that research shows couples often argue about a topic for 7 years before getting help? Don’t wait any longer. Try these steps to address this now:
• Be honest with your spouse – talk, talk, talk, listen, listen, listen – ask questions and actually listen to what they say.
• Remain open to what they say. Trust them enough to let them be honest with you. Maybe there is something you can do to improve.
• Every other month trade-off being in charge of the money. It will be an eye-opener for both of you.
• If you’ve made money mistakes in the past acknowledge them, forgive your spouse, forgive yourself, and move forward.
• Learn some additional skills from a money course. We have one you might like.
• Seek counsel: If the mountain seems too big or the pain and confusion too deep, seek professional counsel. We go to doctors when we don’t feel quite right; there is zero shame in doing the same with your finances or your relationship.
“Total control could destroy your marriage.” Don’t do it.
Shake off the past. Agree to move forward together, knowing no one is perfect, but everyone deserves a voice and a say in your relationship and money.
Please leave a comment below to encourage others who suspect they might be a money controller or live with one.
You can do this. Step by step.
Taylor & Megan Kovar
The Money Couple