Within 24-hours of joining our individual checking accounts, my fiancé went out to buy the top item on his wish list: new golf clubs.
I was happy that he got what he wanted, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t touch a nerve. I took a few deep breaths and let it go.
Then, about a week later, he came home with a huge heavy box in his arms. “It’s a telescope for our trip to Colorado! Maybe we can give it to your brother-in-law when we get back.” A $500 gift for no apparent reason? I couldn’t tell if these spontaneous purchases were somehow connected to our new mutual funds. Was this some sort of test, and was I passing?
As I thought about it some more, I wasn’t concerned about whether we had enough money for those items. We did, and if they were necessary right then, so be it. Rather, I realized that his purchases caused stress for me because I like things to be planned, tracked and neatly lined up. I was learning that this ideal may not always be possible in the context of a shared relationship with money. And, clearly, I was starting to discover that compromise was going to figure prominently into our financial partnership.
For instance, if I kept current with our expenses the way I’d like to and did as a single person, we’d be talking about money every single day. In this new arrangement, however, I realized that I would have to learn to abate my urges to ask for clarification on unidentifiable transactions.
There is a time and place for nitty-gritty money conversations with your partner, but it’s not appropriate or fun to enforce daily financial nakedness.
I swore to myself I would not be like certain family members – cringing at the report or sight of every purchase made by “the other” or judging my partner’s love of and need to give gifts. Exercising patience and simply waiting for our mid-month money date proved to be a healthier path for everyone involved.
On the spender-saver spectrum, I think you can guess by now that I definitely lean right. The challenge is to avoid sliding further and further away from a balanced center in reaction to my fiancé’s jaunts left. I know his choices are not tests, he’s just being himself. And when I take a look at what actually happened this month, I realize that I spent a good amount of discretionary money, too.
In fact, there was one moment when he picked me up at my favorite clothing store on the Upper East Side and I asked him to wait outside while my purchases were tallied. If either or both of us react poorly – that is to say unconsciously – to one another’s needs for financial freedom and emotional security, we risk serious disconnection and will inevitably fight about money.
In the end, rather than insisting on a detailed dialog about my fiancé’s thought process before during and after the golf and telescope purchases, I let nature take care of things. The thick high altitude clouds prevented him from viewing Saturn and the Dumbbell Nebula on any of our four nights in southwest Colorado, and he chose to return the telescope for a full refund… my fear and anxiety had nothing to do with it.
Ultimately, I’m reminded that love and sharing money are about unconditional acceptance of ourselves and our partners, and that the most successful relationships embrace what they are truly in contract for: a giving contest.