Money fights: is it about dollars, or a lack of sense?

I recently watched a couple I know have a complete meltdown over money.

Except it wasn’t about money. It was about job satisfaction, household chores, kids, their new house, their new neighborhood, her degree, his lack of help at home. The fight started out discussing the pros and cons of giving a small amount of money to a relative, but actually circled around all these other topics. The exchange started out civilly, and ended in threats of mental breakdown, divorce, suicidal thoughts, slaving in menial jobs while the kids were neglected, etc.

Oh, but it gets more interesting. The entire exchange took place on a social media site. The couple involved were in two completely different places, hashing out their private pains, with an audience divided between offering helpful advice and slinging line after line of stand-up comedy. Eventually, the duo took themselves offline from this site, quite possibly for good. 

Aside from the obvious issue (no, no, no, and heck no, don’t give/lend relatives money unless you’re OK with never seeing it again), there is the problem of discussing money in an intelligent manner. What’s your method?

  • Do you just sail along, until problems start to build a backlog, then get mad and have a knock-down-drag-out?
  • Do you fly off the handle over every single blip on the financial radar? If the spreadsheets don’t total up to the penny, does it mean war?
  • Is one person the adult and the other the child; one of you doing all the bills and handling all the accounts, and giving the other an allowance (and a hard time about how and where it’s spent)?
  • Do you avoid the topic of money, and instead pick a fight on something else, so you can eventually say things like, “Well, we would be able to take a vacation to Hawaii if you didn’t waste money on fishing and poker! Oh, and I guess your two feet really do need twenty pairs of shoes, right?”

In the case of The (un)Social Media Marrieds, their problems go deeper than a donation to a relative. Many aspects of their current life are making them unhappy, but few actually have a dollar sign in front of them.  They’ve had the same discussions for a long time. Both claim they want to make changes, but they also like the comfort level of their current situation. So they take it out on money: not having enough to be totally comfortable, blaming each other for not having the cash for the latest emergency, the wife not having a job to pay off her student loans, or both of them spending on “blow” items, like lunches out activities with the kids.

If you’re going to have at it about money, then address it calmly and directly, equal partner to equal partner, regardless of who brings home more bacon. If the issue isn’t money, then resolve to have the conversation with cash removed from the table and common sense laid out. Schedule time regularly to look over your budget and other life issues, so they don’t get out of hand. If all is well, fine. If you need to fine-tune or rework completely, now you’ve budgeted the time to do it, before stress sets in.

I don’t know how The Marrieds are doing since they left the site. I hope they are OK. They have kids who are watching and learning from them.

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Filed under budget, family, frugality, Relationships, Uncategorized

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