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Marriage and Money – Giving Your Partner A Choice

by The Happy Rock on April 13, 2009

marriage-discussion-talk-seriousThe Rockette and I were traveling to our in-law’s house and we were having an informal marriage budget meeting.  It was the perfect time to bring up a few new areas that we could grow our giving.    I failed.

I failed at including my wife in a way that gave her any input.   I failed, because I assumed I had the right answers all worked out.  I failed, because I acted as if I just needed her approval on my right answer.  I failed because I didn’t value her input or perspective.  I failed at a chance to draw us closer, instead I was building a wall between us.

Here is how the conversation went :

The Happy Rock : I was thinking about expanding our giving.

The Rockete : Really

The Happy Rock : I would like sponsor a child at Urban Promise, an after school program in Camden New Jersey, and I also want to increase our support for my best friend from college.

FAIL

You might be thinking that there wasn’t anything wrong with that statement, but let’s dissect it a little further.  The Rockette only has two real choices: agree with my idea or shoot down my idea.  This is especially true considering my tone reflected my confidence about the decision. She knew I wasn’t really asking for her input.  She had no say and it wasn’t the first time I presented ideas this way  There wasn’t any room for her opinion on what to do with our limited resources.  I wasn’t asking what she thought and that is the key point.  Include your spouse and be willing to have you mind changed.  Leave room for them to have an opinion that is different than yours and use the multiple perspectives to arrive at an even better decision and a closer relationship.

The Rockette handled it well and politely requested I ask in a way that gave her a choice. I quasi-quickly apologized and then instantly rephrased the statement to be a question. I said,  “what do you think about giving to Urban promise and increasing our support for our friends from college?”.  Subtle change, but extremely different in its tone and respect for my wife.  She was quite agreeable as I suspected she would be and then we had a very pleasent discussion about the above material.    Disaster averted, giving increased, and a closer connection fostered.

Treat your partner like they matter.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

MoneyEnergy April 14, 2009 at 1:18 am

Nice – this is definitely the right way to be sensitive to your partner’s needs. I can relate to this type of conversation. Good on you.

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Double Eagle April 14, 2009 at 1:43 pm

I feel like maybe you’re over thinking it a bit here. Why do you feel like she was locked into a yes or no? Was she not free to offer an alternative? I guess your intent is what really matters, but I don’t see any trouble with the conversation.

Boil it down to a meaningless example. For instance, you say, “Hey, why don’t we see a movie on Saturday?” Is that failing at valuing her input? The situation is the same, only the gravity of the subject matter is different. She can say yes, no, or offer an alternative.

Didn’t she have the same options in your giving example above? As I said, if your intent was just to get approval for something you already decided, then fine, that’s something to think about. But, in my trivial example, hadn’t you already decided you wanted to see a movie before asking? Otherwise, why would you ask in the first place?

If you hadn’t already decided what you’d like to do to expand your giving, then why ask in the first place? If you had no ideas but just knew that you wanted to give more, then I can see the conversation happening differently. But I don’t see where you should feel like you failed for having an idea that you felt was the way to go.

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Kristy @ Master Your Card April 14, 2009 at 10:49 pm

I agree with Double Eagle here. While I like the message you’re presenting in the article, I think this particular situation is being a little over thought. I mean no disrespect at all, but if you’re wife thought she didn’t have much of a say in the manner in which you presented it, then perhaps she is being a little too sensitive. As DE said above, she was not locked into a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. She could have offered a different alternative if she had one in mind and opened the discussion. Perhaps it was merely your tone she was responding to then, which I can’t comment on as I didn’t hear it. All in all, I think you handled it well given that your wife didn’t appreciate the first phrasing or tone, but I think it’s important to understand that simply making a statement rather than asking a question doesn’t close discussion on the topic. She had just as much input in either of your approaches as the other. The difference was her emotional response to it.

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Julie April 15, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I think it’s wonderful that a)you’re fortunate enough to give to those less fortunate b) you’re taking the time to discuss important causes and c) you realize when you make a mistake in your marriage and are willing to reflect on that and make an honest attempt at change. I’m sure your wife thanks you for that!

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Jacquelin April 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

“Beside many successful men is a smart woman.”

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Helen April 15, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I don’t think you were reading too much into the situation at all, and you handled it nicely at the end. Too often in a relationship, one person is the “finance nerd” and thinks and plans the finances much more than the other partner, who sometimes (but not always) is just as happy to give up the burden of that responsibility.

I’m the “finance nerd” like you, and thoroughly research and think things out completely; therefore, the decision is pretty much made up in my mind by the time I bring it up in discussion. It can create a certain dynamic in the relationship, a type of subtle peer pressure. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I can get arrogant enough to believe that since I invested so much more of my time to consider all options, my decision is the best one for our situation and thereafter, I end up subconsciously resisting any alternatives.

It takes a mature adult to always consider the other partner and ask for input. I know how difficult it can be to do that, especially if you’re thinking long term and the other person is thinking short term. It doesn’t sound like your wife is that way though – well done to both of you!

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Joanna Spilioti June 25, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Jacquelin ,
There’s always a excellent man behind a happy woman,too. Right?

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