Have you ever lied to your partner about money? Not necessarily a big bad lie, but maybe a small one. You may have said that your new coat was 50 percent cheaper on sale when you actually paid full price. Or maybe you’re not lying about finance, just avoiding the topic entirely.
I’d rather do something other than argue about money with my husband and I’m not alone. Research shows that new couples can go through any relationship milestone, such as: B. Intimacy, moving in together, or meeting in-laws, but never talking over the “M” word. It’s not much easier in long-term relationships either. However, money worries are one of the main reasons for broken relationships. So why don’t we just talk about it?
It sounds like a straightforward conversation, but discussions about money are rarely just an emotionless exchange of the numbers on our bank statement. They can make us feel uncomfortable, judged, and embarrassed, especially when we deal with money completely differently from our partners. It can feel like they’re questioning not only your expenses, but your life choices and values as well.
I saw this clash of financial personalities myself. My husband is a saver who pragmatically views money as a resource, while I am a saver – money is a solution to all kinds of emotional problems. For me, retail is really therapy. I’m the one pushing us to take that dream vacation before we get too old. He worries about savings to accompany us into old age.
When we all had our own disposable income, these different approaches weren’t a problem. However, when I took a career break to have kids, my expenses suddenly became an issue. Things that I never had to justify were now under uncomfortable scrutiny. I had to change my spending habits now that we had a single income, but I found it difficult. As a young mother, isolated and exhausted, I tried to hold onto my old self, who used to dress smartly and buy goodies. Of course, I should have embraced this new phase of life and the necessary emotional and psychological adjustments instead. We’re not always that logical, however, and I’ve reverted to my standard feel-good strategy – spending. My husband got frustrated and I got angry.
My solution was to hide my expenses. I smuggled purchases into the house and got secret credit cards. But I felt guilty all the time and hated cheating on my husband. I may not have actively lied, but that was still financial infidelity. I was afraid he would find my credit card statements and worried about paying the credit card bills if I wasn’t making any money.
Hiding financial truths became more problematic for many of us during the pandemic. If you lost income due to unemployment or were on leave, you may not have been able to pay off your secret credit card debt. It became more and more difficult to hide secret purchases from our partners at home. On social media, people talked about their partners questioning any package delivery and missing the fact that packages were being delivered discreetly to the office. Some would send their purchases to neighbors and pick them up when their partner was out. The stress of a global pandemic, lockdown, health and financial concerns, all of which added to pre-existing financial tensions, led to more arguments.
When I heard the daily Covid-19 statistics during the first lockdown, my instinct was to protect my family. I bought masks, disinfectants, gloves, steamers, top quality vitamins, manuka honey, and first defense, and I also bought too much food. Packages arrived daily. We were both stressed when the doorbell rang. I was on a spending frenzy. I felt that my expenses were important to protecting my family, but my husband saw it as unnecessary extravagance. The reality is that we were both a little wrong and we were both a little right. Our opposing perspectives would be perfect if we could meet in the middle, but we never had this conversation.
After years of bypassing the subject, we recently found a way around that middle ground in an unexpected way. While I was editing my novel, would I lie to you? I discussed the plot with my husband last year. Regarding my fictional couple Faiza and Tom, our conversation also led to more general discussions about money – the kind we would normally avoid. I talked about why Faiza was having a hard time telling Tom the truth and how much money it cost to keep her financial secrets. My husband said Tom was probably just worried about money, but he could also see that Tom could have helped Faiza be more open about her money management problems. We finally had the conversation, but it didn’t feel confrontational. After all, we were only talking about Faiza and Tom, right?
But did it really make a difference? Changing your monetary personality and longstanding spending habits overnight is not easy. However, if you speak openly, you can understand not only your partner’s motivations and fears about money, but your own as well. He saw that his preoccupation with securing our future had a negative effect and caused unnecessary stress. I realized that I was opposed to the kind of reasonable financial security that everyone should plan in, and my expenses were driven by fear; not for the future, but for losing opportunities in the present.
These insights have made a big difference and money is no longer an emotionally charged topic that we avoid. We can indicate when either of us is falling into our old patterns, but now we can do so with humor and empathy rather than suppressed frustration. When my husband reminds me that we need to be careful with our budget, I agree, surprised myself. I wonder if I really need to spend the money. If he’s constantly worried about finances, he’ll listen when I remind him it’s okay to go out for sushi occasionally.
This has only been possible by understanding each other better when it comes to money, but this in turn is only possible if you find a way to let the money do the talking, no matter how much you don’t want it.
Would i lie to you by Aliya Ali-Afzal (RRP € 18.99). Buy now for € 16.99 at books.telegraph.co.uk or call 0844 871 1514