Relationship Q&A: He Controls the Purse Strings
Q. Since my husband earns more than I do, he thinks he can make all our financial decisions. I practically have to beg him to get the roof fixed, but he doesn't hesitate to buy every electronic gadget there is.
Jenn Berman, Psy.D., a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California, answers:
A. Money is a tricky issue in a marriage. By insisting on making all the financial decisions, your husband is trying to control your relationship. He may feel that because he's the primary breadwinner, he has more of a say.
But in a healthy relationship, the balance of power must be more equal -- which isn't easy if your husband has always controlled the purse strings. You need to talk about this with him during a calm moment, rather than in the heat of an argument. Ask each other: What does money mean to you? Who made the family financial decisions in your home, and what did each of your parents teach you about saving and spending? You'll both learn a lot about your individual money attitudes this way.
On a purely logistical level, you need to sit down together and jointly decide what your financial priorities are. If your husband balks at this, consider speaking to a professional money manager -- or even seeing a couples counselor, who can help you break out of destructive old habits.
Do you have a marital problem that you just can't seem to resolve -- over money, sex, kids, work, the in-laws? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although we can't answer letters personally, we'll choose selected ones each month for our guest therapist to answer.
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