Photo Illustration: By The Cut.Photo: Getty Images
My husband and I have been married for 2 years and money has been the cause from the beginning. Early in our marriage I had many medical problems requiring surgery. I had my husband’s medical insurance but the bills were still quite high ( total about $3,000). Her husband paid for her because she was earning more than I was at the time. I told him I would give him the money back, but we never talked about it again. He works on commission so his income is not stable, but last year he made about $90,000 and I was his $60,000.
Last month I started a new job paying $85,000. It’s a very good position and I’m really happy. However, she repeatedly quarreled with her husband over who should pay what. His salary has been on the decline lately and he keeps saying I should cover more than half of our expenses. (Part of me thinks he’s not working as hard either because I’m making more money, but that might be an unwarranted assumption..
I feel like I should split things 50/50. I wish I didn’t have to pay him back for his medical bills either, but he said he would go back to what I said when I first paid for it. What is the correct way to solve this?
No one wins while you count each other’s money and fight over who owes what. Instead, you need to back up and review the big picture of how you think and communicate about finance. This is essential to making your marriage work, so your husband must be on board as well.
Talking about money is difficult and awkward. As a result, most couples avoid it and end up fighting. The key to breaking out of this pattern is recognizing that it’s important to discuss finances, especially with your partner. skillNo one knows how to do it instinctively. It takes study, practice and patience. It also takes a willingness to make some mistakes, admit that it happened, validate each other’s perspectives, and (most importantly) move through hell.
To start building this skill, you and your husband need to submit your arguments. you are starting anew In this ideal world, how would two people talk about money? How would bills be split, who would control what, and what habits and discussions would they have? What makes you feel cared for and appreciated?
It’s a good idea to take some time to think about these questions and then choose a date to discuss them. I like to set a timer so that each person has the same number of minutes to speak. (I have a lot of other ideas on how to keep money conversations from getting complicated. For a longer guide, see here.)
Be realistic. Now is not the time to fantasize about marrying a millionaire. Rather, we want to imagine a smoother version of our existing lives. Also, avoid bringing up examples from the past that have gone wrong. you want to focus on the future Financial therapist Amanda Kleiman says: When we feel connected, we open up and are more willing to listen. “
It’s perfectly normal for you and your husband to have different ideas. The point of this discussion is to find common ground and share a common picture of what you want your future to look like. After each person has said their part, stop. Don’t try to hash anything yet. Instead, create another date to revisit and clarify these topics. you were both vulnerable. After bathing in your mutual support, give yourself a few more days to reflect on each other.
Then you have time to speak the numbers. You can’t live in an abstract world forever and there are bills to pay. As you feel more on the same page about how you want to share them, try applying that same blank-slate energy to the process.
There’s a way to divide up the household chores, popularized by Eve Lodsky, author of fair play, I think this also applies to money. This involves both partners creating a list of all the tasks required to run the household, refining it, and then reassigning them based on personal preferences, skills, and circumstances. The idea is that everyone is on the same page about who is doing what so that “invisible work” is seen, responsibility is shared and resentment is not accumulated.
Here’s how to convert this model to financial: Each person brings a list of costs that they consider to be “shared,” puts them together, and discusses how best to manage them. Maybe you’ll pool some (or all) of your salary and pay your bills out of the collective pot. Maybe you split the costs and each takes care of what you are responsible for. The system should be flexible and evolve with changing needs.
I know it’s difficult to manage shared expenses when one person’s income fluctuates, like my husband’s commission-based salary. Both parties can agree on a base level amount that each contributes to the cost. This is within what he normally earns. That way, the extra thing he takes home is gravy.
I don’t think you don’t owe him money when it comes to medical bills. And he must know, deep down, that arguing about this is silly. but, teeth You said you would pay him, but it’s important to admit that you didn’t. This, for me, is a perfect example of what people say when they don’t know how to have a money conversation that isn’t just a transaction, because it’s mostly outside of the home.
You both made a mistake here. Now is the time to acknowledge them, validate each other’s perspectives, and discuss how to move forward. What your partner really wants is appreciation and recognition for supporting you in a difficult time. You may even be submitting these bills. Ideally, creating a new system around household finances would alleviate some of this pressure and demonstrate a willingness to be held accountable. I can’t say for certain, but this is a good place to start.
I hope these steps of zooming out, connecting the big picture, and trying out new ways to share financial responsibilities will help stop the fights and create space for the marriage to feel safer. I would also like to acknowledge that your husband may not respond to them. In that case, you’ll have to make more difficult decisions about your relationship. If we don’t act now, things will only get worse.
The Cut’s financial advice columnist Charlotte Cowles answers readers’ personal questions about personal finance.Email money conundrum firstname.lastname@example.org.