Marital Money

I would like to think of myself as a patient person.  Stop laughing, I am serious.  Anyone who truly knows me is probably splitting a gut right now.  I am SUPER impatient and go through life at 800 mph unless something or someone stops me.  I also consider myself a pretty intuitive and introspective person (I think most of my closest peeps would agree with this).  However, when it comes to marriage and money, I am slow on the uptake.

I think it’s fair to say that most women (probably most humans) feel the same.  Whether we are money-smart or not, we struggle with the partner-money-conversation.  No wonder it’s one of the leading causes of divorce; it elicits a fight or flight response for most people, especially when it’s a foreign concept.

Last week, after spending an entire day budgeting for 2020, I sat my family down for a budget talk.  This was the first time we have included the kiddos.  I explained that we had some decisions to make and ran through our list of options (namely different travel options and experiences vs gifts and tangible items) and asked them to rank their order of preference. 

Interestingly, my son (basically my genetic carbon copy) responded almost before I finished asking the question and he knew exactly what he wanted.  Both my husband and daughter on the other hand looked a bit more considerate, presumably pondering their options.  What I learned later though, and what my husband has been trying to tell me for YEARS, is that he needed to see it in writing (on paper….black and white…how many other ways could he tell me!?).  

He is a visual learner.  He has been requesting a white board wall in our home FOR-EVA and I cringe everytime I think of building a conference room wall in my living room.  I resist it so vehemently because I don’t get it.  I can listen to a podcast on 1.5x speed and take immediate action on the content.  I cannot, however, read as quickly as he can; and I end up getting totally ADHD and re-reading the same line approximately 75 times before it finally sticks to the walls of my inferior brain.

We are simply different.  He is not less capable, nor less interested in our finances; but when I attack the subject like a bull running through a china shop instead of friendly Ferdinand with his humility and grace, I lose him.  He then feels belittled and frustrated and we both shut down.  We go to our proverbial corners and sulk and simmer and nothing progresses.

So, I did something decidedly different this time, I shut my mouth and opened my laptop.  The following day I put all my thoughts, and the numbers, on paper and sent him an email.  I sent screenshots with clear and concise explanations of my interpretation of the numbers, my goals and ideas for next year, and how I think we should go about getting there.

By the time his truck pulled in the driveway that evening I was in a completely different headspace.  I had forgotten all about the email and budget and numbers and angst and because of that, my guard and intensity was at an all-day-low.  This was the perfect breeding ground for good marital money talks.  The first thing I heard after hello (and all that jazz) was, “that email was GREAT!”  “Huh?”, I said.  “That email you sent today, it was so helpful.”  After filing back through the routines of the day, I found that dang short-term memory nugget.  Ah-ha, the budget.  

We went on to have a great conversation and listened to each other slowly and with intention.  Even though we still had differences of opinion on how to approach next year’s budget, we were much more open and gracious to each other’s ideas because we were coming from a place of mutual understanding and respect.  I had given a little, and he felt comfortable inching closer.  I cannot believe how slow I am to figure things out when it comes to marriage.  It’s like there is a special kind of blinder that gets installed post-honeymoon that prohibits you from thinking rationally about most topics.

I am no dummy, I know this is no magic bullet and that it will take consistency and I will be reminded regularly of our differences in learning and communication, but I feel so encouraged by our little revelation this month.  The truth is, I think we may be better off emailing back and forth about our finances than having knee-to-knee conversations.  It sounds weird, even to type, but it is what works for us.  It takes the emotion out of the conversation and enables us to look more pragmatically at the hard numbers. 

I guess the lesson is, that as much attention as I pay to how my kids learn so differently, I need to also give attention to how adults learn differently.  Expecting people to respond to my way of learning, thinking, understanding, and experiencing the world will severely limit my interaction with it.  I am grateful for my husband and his quirks (I mean differences). 😜

I guess it’s time to go shop Amazon for that whiteboard now.

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