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Managing Money Together

She Said: "He spent our money without telling me"; He Said: "I thought it was a good investment"

Lisa's side: He spent our money without telling me.

A few months into our marriage, Jim excitedly told me about a home-based business a friend had mentioned. The business consisted of selling new weight loss products on the Internet.

"We have to invest only $600 to get started, and we don't have to do much work to make a profit," Jim said confidently.

I was hesitant about taking money out of our savings for something we knew so little about.

"Let's take some time to think and decide later," I responded.

About a week later, as I was updating our checking account, I came across a receipt that showed Jim had paid the investment fee for the business three days earlier. How could he do this? We'd agreed to wait!

My anger built as I waited for him to come home from work.

"How could you go behind my back and spend this money?" I yelled. "I thought we were going to discuss this and decide together!" I expected Jim to apologize or give me a rational explanation. Instead, he clammed up.

"Well?" I demanded. "Don't you have anything to say?"

"I won't talk to you about this when you're yelling at me!" he snapped.

We didn't speak for several days.

What did he expect after he betrayed me? I had every right to yell!

Jim's side: I thought it was a good investment.

I feel responsible for our financial future, so I'm always on the lookout for ways to supplement our income. When a business associate told me about her new home-based business, it sounded like a great idea. I couldn't wait to tell Lisa about it and get involved immediately. But because she was apprehensive, I agreed to wait until we could discuss things further.

But a few days later, while out of town on business, I ran into this business associate again. She warned that I had to act immediately if Lisa and I were to benefit from this great deal. The initial investment fee was about to increase by $200, and the deadline to pay the lower fee was that day. Although I'd promised Lisa I wouldn't act until we talked things through, I didn't want to discuss it over the phone. Not only does Lisa's job as a teacher make it difficult to speak with her during the day, I thought she'd respond better face to face. Anyway, I was sure she'd want to save $200! I decided I'd explain it to her when I got home two days later. She'd understand once she knew the situation.

Before I could explain, though, she found the receipt and attacked me with heated criticism. I was so offended and hurt I didn't want to talk to her until she calmed down. While I knew I owed her an explanation, I just couldn't do it when she was angry.

What Jim and Lisa did

After a few days of strained silence, Lisa approached Jim. "I'm sorry I yelled at you, but I felt as though you betrayed my trust," she confessed. "When you wouldn't talk to me, I just became angrier. I need to know why you made that decision without consulting me."

She listened as Jim explained the dilemma he'd been in. "I knew we agreed to wait," Jim continued, "but I just didn't want to pass up a great opportunity. I did it for both of us."

"I'm glad you're concerned for our future," Lisa said. "But it's our money, and I should have an equal say in how we spend it."

Jim understood. "I was so focused on the 'deal' that I neglected to think about Lisa's feelings," Jim says. "I was wrong not to consider her opinion seriously. I didn't respect her through this process."

Jim suggested they create a plan for how they'd handle financial decisions from that point on. Anytime a major purchase was going to involve removing money from their savings account, they needed to discuss it together before making a final decision. Period. No rushed, individual decisions. "We have a budget for our everyday living expenses," says Lisa, "and we don't need to discuss every detail of spending money for gas, food, and household items."

"But if something comes up that would take us outside our budget, we definitely get together and decide what's best," says Jim.

Their resolution was put to the test six months later, when their home-based business ended in failure.

"The business required a lot more work than I'd thought," Jim says. "With Lisa working full time, and my business travel, neither of us had the time or energy it required. I had to admit I'd blown it by failing to get all the facts up front."

"Although it was wrong of me to harbor resentment, it wasn't easy to get over my anger," Lisa admits. "I'd bring up the issue every time we discussed finances, or when Jim would tell me we didn't have the money for something I wanted."

While it's taken time, Lisa and Jim were able to put the incident behind them. "The system we created because of this fiasco has really worked for us," says Lisa. "I'm also learning not to rub in Jim's well-intentioned mistake. I try to listen to his side and not take the attitude that says, 'You messed up, so let me handle this!'"

"At the same time," says Jim, "I'm realizing we need to act as a team when trying to be good stewards of the money God has entrusted to us. Sometimes that means we each take time alone to pray and focus our thoughts. Then when it's time to make a decision, we make it together."

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Budget; Marriage; Money
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2005
Posted September 12, 2008

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