For Richer or Poorer, Part 2

By Anne Gagliano

In Part 1 of this column, I addressed the fact that money issues are the second highest cause for divorce. Money is obviously a divisive force within a marriage, but it doesn’t have to be. I will continue in this column to list the philosophies or habits that I have found through experience and research to be either positive or destructive within a marriage.

Philosophy #4:  Thou Shalt Not Commit Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity is reported by lawyers as being a more common reason for divorce than sexual infidelity. What is it? Financial infidelity is secret spending; it is the act of hiding your purchases or expenditures from your spouse. I know couples who have done these types of things—kept paychecks hidden, lied about income, then spent it on themselves. Big no-no!  It is, in fact, a form of cheating.  The lying is a vicious cycle that can cause all kinds of problems such as bouncing checks, for the other spouse may not be aware that the funds have been depleted and may overspend.  Fees upon fees can pile up before you even know what has happened!

The top two causes for financial infidelity are shopping addictions and gambling addictions.  These can be so severe as to need professional counseling.  If the addiction is not addressed, financial ruin may loom as the spending gets out of hand. Spouses can become so mistrustful and so devastated by the waste that they never recover and the marriage will end. Marriage is worth fighting for; be honest with your partner and seek help if you have an addiction.

Philosophy #5:  No Tit for Tat Spending

Another problem I’ve witnessed in marriages is something I’ve dubbed “tit for tat spending.”  I know couples who have gotten deeply into credit card debt from this one.  It can also be described as “revenge spending.”  One spouse, feeling entitled, makes a large purchase, just for self, whether the spouse approved or not.  The other spouse, resenting said purchase, decides, “I’ll get something too.”  The original spender cannot argue, for they in fact, just did the same thing.  So there you go–you have now made two very large, unplanned for and unneeded purchases that have either caused debt or depleted funds that should have gone to a household expense, putting you behind and forcing you to cut corners or work overtime just to catch up.

This is childish and foolish and very destructive to a relationship.  If you really want something, talk about it, save for it, plan for it.  Or, better yet, surprise your loved one and get the desired item as a gift.  This will cause you to delight in it together, drawing you closer.  If this is your attitude, it will be reciprocated down the line for you.  “Things” should never be put before your love for each other.  BJ Thomas sings this sentiment beautifully in one of my favorite songs, “Loving things, and using people only leads to misery.  Using things, and loving people, that’s the way it ought to be.”

Philosophy #6:  Should Mom Stay Home?

I suppose this is more of a question than a philosophy, but the answer to this question is the philosophy I wish to address.  Should mom stay home or should she work?  Research, and my own personal experience, both point to the same conclusion: Women are happiest when the ultimate decision is their choice.  If a woman feels compelled to work, just to make ends meet when she’d rather be home with the kids, she will resent it.  If she’s compelled to stay home and give up a career she enjoys, she will resent it.  So the bottom line is this: Let mom decide if she wants to be full-time or part-time or anything in between; after all, she is the one who actually has to do the work.  You’ll both be happier if she’s given the choice.

It is, of course, easier said than done, to live on one income.  Major adjustments have to be made if mom decides she really wants to be home with the children.  It can be done, even on a firefighter’s income, and my husband Mike and I are living proof of that.  Set a budget, lower your standards of living a bit, clip coupons, try consignment stores, get rid of cable, have just one car if the kids are babies (school years, you need two)–these are all ways to save and all things Mike and I have actually done.  We have managed to put two boys through private school and college on one income with zero credit card debt.  I have supplemented here and there, but it’s mostly been with a firefighter’s income that we’ve raised a family.

It’s important to add an addendum philosophy to this category, and that philosophy is this: If mom decides to stay home, do not demean her for not earning a wage.  A stay-at-home mom does the equivalent of five jobs, and her being home saves a fortune in childcare, eating out expenses, and extra clothing and driving expenses–so believe me, she earns her keep!

Philosophy #7:  Controlling Leads to Lack of Control

Controlling is listed as being one of the top five reasons for a financial divorce.  Controlling can be described as one spouse delegating what the other spouse can or cannot spend.  It is an actual “allotment” or allowance dolled out by the controller to the spouse as if they were a subordinate.  “Controllers” are typically men, and this type of treatment leaves women feeling inferior, resentful, and even childish.  Ironically, if a husband tries to control a wife in this fashion, he will so alienate her that she will flee just to get financial freedom; and, ultimately, she’ll control his money in a divorce settlement!  I have witnessed this type of behavior in couples I know, and it is an ugly thing to see.  Marriage is a relationship, not a job.  One spouse is not the boss and the other the employee.

You are one flesh, one love, soul mates.  Your money should be shared as all things are shared in a loving relationship.  The goal of marriage is to enjoy one another, support each other, and to meet each other’s needs.  Money should be viewed as simply a means to an end, the end being a happy home. For richer or poorer, you’re in it together!


Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 25 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.




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