Is it possible to fix a marriage after financial infidelity? I came across an interesting story about a newlywed couple that illustrates how difficult it can be – especially if you don’t learn to talk to each other about money.
A few weeks after their marriage, Karin bought a laptop without first consulting her husband, Jim.
It made the groom so angry that he started reconsidering his decision to get married in the first place. Now he’s seeing red and the bride is scared to death. He was still working hard to get rid of his college credit card debt and resented her spending.
Neals Note: If you really want a solid relationship, look for how you contribute to problems. This exercise isn’t meant to absolve others of their misdeeds. But since you have more control over your behavior than you do over anything else, it’s a lot more effective to review your behavior if you want a change. Believe it.
It’s true that Karin bought the very expensive laptop without first talking to Jim. But she bought it with her own money. Still, Jim was angry. He told her that it wasn’t “her” money anymore…it was “their” money.
Now, Jim is laying on the guilt and he’s laying it on thick. Since he doesn’t need to be consulted on major financial decisions (he whined), he figures he isn’t important anymore. He told this to Karin point-blank. Jim doesn’t even want to discuss financial issues with Karin at this point. She feels like a dunce for what she did and he’s furious.
Karin was even willing to return the laptop but Jim got angry when she suggested this too. Karin wants to fix the problem and doesn’t have a clue how.
Here’s my read.
You may disagree with me on this one, but I don’t see Karin’s action as so terrible. She may have displayed poor judgment but is what she did financial infidelity? I don’t think so. I have a digital camera purchase disaster. Does my wife need to call her divorce attorney? I hope not.
Jim needs to grow up and Karin should tell him so. OK, Karin bought the laptop without discussing it with Jim. Chances are they didn’t set the ground rules prior to getting married. How is that Karin’s fault?
Also, they are a newlywed couple and they are just learning how to mix their money and marriage.
It’s a process.
These types of issues are trivial…but they are inevitable. In the grand scheme of things, it ain’t a 7.2 on the Richter scale. Is it really worth scuttling the marriage over this? Can you fix a marriage when Jim is acting like a child?
Here’s what I’d recommend to Karin – assuming she’s willing to put up with Jim:
1. Set the ground rules.
What is private money? What is joint money? What are the parameters for spending? What are the reporting requirements?
I’m not sure if Karin has a communication problem, but it’s absolutely certain that Jim does. If Jim wants their relationship to survive, he has to find a way to talk about money without throwing tantrums.
It sounds to me that Jim is making the laptop into something much greater. Maybe the purchase symbolizes Karin’s independence and it threatens him. Right now nobody knows, but if they want to stay together they better figure it out.
3. Make a financial plan.
If there is anything I like about Jim so far, it’s that he’s concerned about spending. That’s a good thing – although he still sounds like a control freak to me.
This problem demonstrates the need for the couple to hammer out a plan. Learning how to talk and fight fair is great…but it’s not enough.
That plan should include the amount they are going to save each month. It should also include an amount that each party can spend on a discretionary basis. I think it’s really important for each person to feel (and be) free, and money is an important expression of that freedom.
What concerns me most is the fear and anger I pick up from Jim. A good financial plan should help diffuse this.
A plan will set boundaries – just what the Pilgrim ordered.
What else would you suggest for Jim and Karin? Do you think that Jim is out of line, or would you have a similar reaction to the laptop purchase?