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Will I end up in debt like Mom?

My husband is tired of me saying no — but I’m worried about our finances and scared I’ll end up like my mom.

Our elder recommends setting a budget, and possibly even some marriage counseling.

Dear EWC

I am a 25-year-old girl who got married a year ago. I love my husband and our relationship is not a problem at all but I am scared our financial situation is gonna put our relationship at risk. I work full time and make decent/enough money. He is a veteran and goes to school and gets paid for it, but he also has child support to pay to his ex-wife. Right now it is a very high amount (more than his part of our monthly expenses) We split the house fees in half and I pay our insurance, phone bills and any activity or dinners out by myself. I do understand that he is in a tight spot and he is improving himself going to school to graduate and get a nice job. He is a very active person and likes to practice his sport and go do outdoor activities which require money, and he counts on me to cover those expenses too. I feel bad telling him no all the time and don’t mean to be a bad wife, but I also want him to be aware of the situation. He got a part-time job that he works every now and then and that fact gets me frustrated because if we need the money and he wants to do more stuff he should be working more, but he says he has school and his sport that take time too. Lately, I’ve gotten more strict and more direct talking about our finances and I can feel tension in the environment. I really love him and I know he loves me too and we have talked about it, but I know eventually it would be a bigger problem. I come from a household in which my parents always argued over money and my mom was stocked on debt because of my dad for a long time. I guess that’s the biggest fear — I feel like I am making my mom’s mistakes.

Roxie replies

Differences about how to handle money are very common between married couples, and can sometimes become a big problem. You are very smart to try to address this issue early in your marriage.
It is possible that the disagreements between you and your husband are caused by your current financial circumstances, and will resolve once he has graduated and found work. In the meantime, try to make money decisions jointly. One system that works for many people is to develop a budget for the year (there are some good computer software programs that can help you do this). Then, sit down periodically (maybe once a week?) and review where you are in comparison to your budget. If you track your income and expenses carefully, your financial picture will be very clear, and you can together decide what you can afford. If you disagree, you can hopefully work out a compromise. Tracking expenses takes time, of course, but once it becomes a habit it goes much more quickly. Hopefully, this process can help you avoid the situation where you say no to his requests for money.

(Personally, I don’t think that viewing your income and expenses as “mine” and “his” is a good idea. You are married and are in this together, for better or worse. However, there are many married couples who would disagree with me and who keep separate accounts. That’s fine as long as it doesn’t increase disagreements.)
However, It is also possible that you and your husband have fundamental differences in how you think that money should be spent. If you can’t work out a compromise, and you feel that a bigger income will make no difference, I would urge you to seek marriage counseling. Learning how to resolve differences is an absolutely essential part of being happily married, and counseling can be very helpful.
One last thought: don’t let your memories of your mother’s problems worry you too much. We learn from our parents, but we are not destined to duplicate them. You have the ability to change the story.

Letter #: 438764
Category: Marriage

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