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Just a Guy, His Wife, and MONEY

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Clichés are clichés because they're usually true. They say the biggest arguments couples have are over sex, the kids, and money. True? You bet.

couple arguing

Bruce Sallan: At least in my house, it's restricted to just one of those -- $. Maybe I'll just do future blogs about the other two subjects 'cause you know I'm lying about money being the only issue we ever have.

But, this time, we did get into a heated argument over money. I think that second marriages are more complicated on most levels, as each partner does bring more history, more literal baggage, and potentially kids to the marriage. I brought the baggage of an ugly, angry, costly divorce in which my ex also abandoned my boys. My present wife has often stated that she feels she's paying for the sins of my ex. And, to some degree, she is right.

She brings her own baggage relating to money issues that began long ago, which she admits. Plus, she's been so successfully independent that she doesn't like to answer to anyone, let alone a stubborn new husband, about money. This can be combustible, as it was recently.

How can couples get over this problem? As usual, it's with better communication. Her belief, without revealing the intimate and inappropriate-to-reveal details of this latest spat, is that I withheld crucial information. I believe I didn't, that I just chickened out by sending it via an e-mail (which she says she didn't get).

The bottom line is that we are both so sensitive about this issue that instead of giving each other the benefit of the doubt, we chose not to believe one another and have a fight over it. Not a great way to resolve conflict, which we both know. But really, what do I know? I'm just a guy (and she'd fully agree with that).

next: Thanksgiving "Skinny Sides"
15 comments so far | Post a comment now
denise November 22, 2009, 8:10 AM

Oh Bruce, c’mon, just give over control of the money to your wife and you’ve solved the problem! She’ll get it eventually…

Anita (England) November 22, 2009, 9:48 AM

Are you married? If you are, you should be open and honest with each other. The idea is that you listen to each other and help each other through problems no matter how small. You are her shoulder; she is yours and the world doesn’t matter… My hubby and I have a great money idea. He keeps his money and pays all the bills. I keep mine and spend it! Takes pressure off me, and besides, I have the children to look after. He also does the shopping, fills my car with petrol and cuts the lawn… I could go on. Oh, and we’ve been married for twenty-five years! But seriously, though, you two must be HONEST with each other. You will only feel guilty if you’re not…

Natasha November 22, 2009, 12:40 PM

All, couples have that ONE thing that they will fight for until the end of time.
Maybe money is your thing?

Bruce Sallan November 22, 2009, 1:01 PM

C’mon Anita, you know I’m married. What do you fight about? And, Natasha, how about you? What we’re learning is how to fight, as sometimes “fights” can bring stuff out that otherwise might stay buried. Plus, our therapist insists that making up makes fighting worthwhile. Thoughts readers?

Black Iris November 22, 2009, 2:15 PM

You have to fight, the key is HOW you fight.

I’ve never been in a second marriage, but I think it would definitely make money more complicated. Divorce is a financial disaster for most people and it frequently means you have ongoing debts or obligations. Maybe people in second marriages should start with contracts.

Also, sometimes being an at-home parent makes money issues difficult. It’s important to feel that you can spend without permission.

Anonymous November 22, 2009, 7:18 PM

you should of learn from your mistake and not get married, u f’up homie

chris November 23, 2009, 9:55 AM

Fighting can be healthy…just fight fair -no name calling, no bringing up past fights and certainly never ever say something in the heat of the moment that you can’t take back. My husband and I have been married for 16 yrs and together for 20 and those are the rules we live by. Plus, it helps that I handle ALL the money and finicial decisions :-)

Bruce Sallan November 23, 2009, 10:00 AM

Chris - Good for you. Will you please communicate those rules to my wife, especially the one about not bringing up past stuff. As for the handling of the money, I suppose it’s just a matter of time. Getting married a second time, with pre-existing habits and assets, makes it more complicated, period. Thanks for the post. Maybe I should just turn over “our” money to your management? You didn’t mention if you have kids, but I’m assuming so or you wouldn’t likely be on this site.

Jeff November 23, 2009, 11:11 AM

Bruce, we have similar issues. Curious to read the ones about sex and the kids. All are ongoing “discussions” in my home. Thanks for raising such real and compelling subjects.

chris  November 24, 2009, 8:12 AM

Bruce, we have 2 kids - son 14 and daughter 9 and this is our 1st (and hopefully only) marriage. I learned from the moms’ 2nd marriage the right and wrong ways to fight. My stepfather never let anything go…he would bring up things to fight about that happened with us before he ever met my mom! As a matter of fact all the us kids (6 blended kids) have grown up and moved out of their house over 20 years ago and he still fights with my mom about things we did as teenagers. It was/is stupid and petty and I decided young that I never wanted a marriage like that. Luckily, I married a man who agrees that fighting should be done fairly. Now, with this being my 1st marriage it was easy for us to just combined all our money but since this is your 2nd marriage, I would suggest that you and wife have one joint account to pay bills from but each have a separate account for your “own money”.
Good luck! BTW - I love reading your blogs.

Bruce Sallan November 24, 2009, 10:37 AM


Thanks for the comment and kind words. We mostly have things in hand. I pay all our household bills, but without revealing too much personal info, it is quite complicated in a second marriage for many reasons. Bringing up old stuff, in fights, is just wrong. I once attended a marriage workshop, via the Catholic Church (which is a great story in itself - the circumstances behind my attendance) and they offered some great rules for fighting:

1. Don’t swear or call each other names
2. Don’t bring up old stuff, especially if it was once resolved…if you went along you can’t say later you were coerced or didn’t really like the decision.
3. Don’t go to bed angry
4. And this one is the toughest of all, I’ve found for women, hold hands as that reminds each other of your love.

I wish my wife and I could follow these rules as we’d get over our spats quicker. But, we married stubborn partners - each other - but I love her and I think we’re making great progress in learning how to fight, and work things out during our first year of marriage!

Have a great TG. Check out my “A Dad’s Point-of-View” columns on my web-site for a bit more in-depth writing, if you’re interested.

privilege of parenting November 29, 2009, 11:16 PM

I think sex and money are big relationship issues because they relate to power and control—problems in these areas are usually symptoms of the real underlying issues more than the real issue in and of itself. I agree that communication is key—particularly learning to truly listen to what our partners are saying.

As for kids, that’s a huge issue because getting things right with our kids trumps virtually every other issue, both individually and as a community.


Lisa November 30, 2009, 10:01 AM

Too bad I have no one to argue with about money, I just have myself to yell at! One day I’ll find someone to yell at. LOL :)

Sally December 20, 2009, 8:12 PM

In the south we’d just say that honey you are just a “maa-on!” lol!! Money is a tough subject with me & mine as well—I’ve been indulged all my life if not by others,myself.Whereas my husband is “broke” with only 10k in his checking! Still attempting to work this out as we now have a miracle baby!

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