Money, marriage and managing differences

Sangeeta Sinha
fighting over money issues

Money can be a major area of conflict for couples.

In our case it was bigger, because we had completely opposed notions about how to spend money. He loved spending on material goods, while I believed in spending on experiences. And thence began our conflict.

Related reading: 10 reasons why Indian couples fight

My husband loved music and was keen on having a nice system. I believed that music could be heard even on a small, low-budget system. Major discussions/arguments took place before we went shopping. We had some money from wedding gifts, which we intended to use for setting up our new home and we decided to use a small amount from that for the system. But for more than a year we lived with only a large music system sitting nicely in a corner in our hall; all our money went towards the system.

I was aghast. After all, music would be the same even if listened to on a smaller system and I could not understand why he needed such a huge system. “Music needs to be heard on a system with a high-end amplifier to get the right quality of sound,” he tried to justify himself. To me it sounded no different from any small system.

couple fighting over money

‘money can be a major area of conflict’ Image Source

It was on our vacation to Goa that my husband got a chance to get back at me. The moment we checked into our hotel, I booked a daylong spa; a little expensive, but these kinds of luxuries are necessary to keep your body charged. My husband did not understand: ”Why such a huge amount on just getting your body massaged?” he wanted to know.

I tried explaining, “Just the way you need a high-end music system to get the right tone, in the same fashion you need spa treatment in these sophisticated spa saloons to get the right result.” He refused to understand. It’s a different matter that in the end I persuaded him to join me in the spa, with the bill doubling.

Now after almost 2 decades of marriage, things remain the same. He continues to be a ‘things’ person, while I am more an ‘experiences’ person. We may have rubbed off a little on each other in our own ways but our basic nature remains the same. Nothing changed even after so many years.

Nothing does change…. The conflict continues, but you start being considerate towards each other’s interests.

Related reading: 7 tips to make marriages work

Today if I have money and I need to buy a gift for my spouse I would surely pick an expensive perfume or a pen or some high-end gadget, while if he had to buy me a gift maybe he would book a luxury vacation or spa or a nice outing in a coffee shop.

The point is that we know what makes the other happy and we are willing to take that step, even if it does not fit into our idea of spending. Not that we have changed in any way; it is just a desire to keep the other happy, and that is the biggest key to a happy relationship.

Moreover, this conflict is healthy if not stretched too far. And because of this conflict we get to enjoy both sides of life: I enjoy the material things he buys and he enjoys the lovely experiences I plan. Often these conflicting views that we think of as big issues in our lives actually seek to balance each other.

But it does take a lot of effort and understanding before you reach this level. The attitude of each individual towards money is rooted elsewhere: family background, experiences in life, etc. The conflict between us was not about money, per se; it was a conflict of temperament. So before taking a stand about you being ‘right’ and ‘attacking’ your partner, try understanding and then work out a middle path.

couple balancing money

‘it’s healthy if you don’t take it far’ Image Source

The middle path or the golden mean of bliss that Buddha talked about could be different for different people. Suppose I want to go for a walk and my spouse would rather go shopping? Handle the differences in a mature way or create a big problem; it depends on your willingness to adjust.

Being on the same side of the fence sounds ideal, but how do you play without an opponent? Man and woman are born opposites and will remain so. Marriage is all about having an opponent, but there is no medal. You keep playing with your adversary knowing full well that there are no prizes. So go ahead, choose a lovely opponent and keep playing.

As Osho said, “Without marriage there will be no misery – and no laughter either.”

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