Hello and welcome to a new edition of ‘Honest Conversation’ by Modupe Ehirim. These are deep and thoughtful musings from a woman who has been married for over three decades. They are insightful, delightful and teach a lot. These posts are usually on Sundays so be sure to return next week for another installment. Look out for more Honest Conversations on Sunday or read the previous ones by clicking this link. Feel free to share this with all your friends, married and single, and you’re also welcome to leave a comment.
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WE HAVE SHARED VALUES, SO WE SHOULDN’T HAVE PROBLEMS…
Early in our marriage, my dear husband and I agreed to have joint finances. The model we agreed on was this:
We were open with one another about our income but chose to keep it in our individual accounts. We made a joint budget for the family and decided who would handle what expense. We each had personal allowance which we could spend as we wanted.
As our income grew, we reviewed our decisions to reflect the changes.
Was this a fair arrangement? Of course, it was. We trusted one another. Trust is a basic requirement for a happy marriage. There was only one snag. Trust doesn’t make up for lack of capacity. While my darling was a meticulous keeper of the records of his financial activity, I had never kept financial records. I was one of those people who didn’t spend more than they earned, but also didn’t keep records of what they spend. In fact, marrying him was my introduction to personal financial management.
As we went on, I spent funds allocated to me as the need arose, but didn’t keep records of my spending. As a result, I didn’t spend more money than was allocated to me, but I couldn’t explain why I wasn’t able to do all that I was expected to do with my allocation. My records were in my memory and as the saying goes, “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” From my husband’s perspective, I was demonstrating financial unreliability. At my own end, I was frustrated that I couldn’t get him to agree to allocate more funds to me. Subtle suggestions came into my mind, “Perhaps, he just didn’t care enough about me. Why wouldn’t he believe me and just adjust my provision upwards?” Subtle suggestions came into his own mind, “Am I sure she really can be trusted with money? Perhaps this joint budget thing won’t work.” Our budget meetings were gradually becoming stressful.
Prior to getting married, one of the things I had learnt from reading books on marriage was the need to refrain from jumping to conclusions when there was misunderstanding arising from assumed shared values. In this situation, we had the shared values of openness about financial matters and integrity. That was what we wanted. However, we had not taken the time to develop our capacity to practice the shared values. I had no financial management skills and had to admit that. I had to understand that when money was budgeted based on agreed priorities, spending money on other things meant that those priorities were neglected. He had to learn patience and ask questions at very rudimentary levels in order to truly understand whether my needs had been adequately provided for in our budget.
Were these issues resolved amicably in just one conversation? They were not. We had several conversations and even after many years of marriage, we are still having conversations. We had to bring down the walls we had put up to protect ourselves from anticipated hurt based on the subtle suggestions that had come into our minds. We had to remind ourselves that we were on the same team working towards the same goal of a happy and successful marriage.
Many marriage breakdowns begin from these types of misunderstandings. Consistent and effective communication remains a key requirement for successful relationship even where values are shared by the couple.