A couple months before Rich and I were married, I received a startling phone call from our pastor.
"I got the results of your FOCCUS inventory," he said. "You guys have a lot of issues that need to be worked out. We're going to have to set aside some time to talk these over before your wedding."
I was dumbfounded. Had Rich not been honest with me about his feelings? Or did I not believe the way I thought? Was one of us an impostor?
Pastor Tom interrupted my racing thoughts. "Uh, oh, wait a minute," he muttered. I could hear papers shuffling. "Ah, there it is. I had the wrong couple's results."
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Good news!" he said brightly. "You only have one issue that you really differ on: finances."
Those results were no surprise, but hearing that the test had validated our opposite attitudes toward money did gnaw at my already stressed-out bride's tummy. From day one it had been evident that Rich and I were in different camps when it came to spending and saving—he was barbecuing filet and drinking cabernet in Spender Forest while I was roasting marshmallows (from an economy-size bag purchased with a coupon) at Saver Canyon.
Yet even though we recognized our individual approaches, it wasn't much of an issue while we were single and handling our own money. In fact, I'd rather enjoyed how Rich treated me to the finer side of life during our dating years.
But now we were headed to the altar—and I feared that might be a short stop on the way to the poor house.
We needed a strategy. But what? Our family histories weren't much help. Rich's parents had always kept separate accounts; mine shared everything equally. Both couples had faced significant financial problems along the way. So when I tried to convince Rich my parents' way was "right," he countered that it hadn't been successful for them. And when he promoted his mom and dad's system, I made a similar argument. We couldn't agree on either arrangement as a winning solution.
Ultimately our money melee could only be resolved with one course of action: compromise. To satisfy Rich's need for independence, we decided he would keep a separate checking account into which he would have a small part of his paycheck deposited each month. The rest would go into our joint account, which I'd manage in addition to paying the bills—a control that gave me the peace of mind I needed.
Has the plan gone off without a hitch? Well, no. There have been times when one of us thought the other had money for groceries or gas, and neither of us did. I've continued to question his need for a private account, and he occasionally wonders why I'm so compelled to pay off credit cards. But after seven years, I'm accustomed to his spending quirks and he's sensitive to my savings routine. We try to respect the boundaries and not allow money worries to rule what is otherwise a terrific marriage.
Meanwhile, he's persuaded me that sometimes upgrading to the nicer hotel really is worth those extra dollars, and I've shown him how much more fulfilling a vacation paid in cash can be. And we're both right.
But I do still wonder about that poor couple who had the completely incompatible test results. Hopefully they discovered the benefits of compromise too!
Christy Scannell, freelance editor and writer, is co-author of Katt's in the Cradle (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster). She and her husband, Rich, live in Southern California. http://www.ChristyScannell.com
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