An Argument About Money May
Really Be About Something Else
By Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
into his second marriage, Jim was so frustrated with
the haphazard way Cathy seemed to handle her
finances that he was seriously considering divorce.
Cathy wouldn't consider joint counseling, so he
hired me to help him sort through the issues and
make a decision.
Cathy were both well-paid professionals, and had a
clear agreement to share expenses. Jim believed that
Cathy wasn't really keeping the agreement. He
gathered evidence to prove his point.
kept forgetting her wallet or running short of
cash, manipulating him into paying for all of
their entertainment expenses.
he asked her to pay him back, but she never
seemed to get around to it. He felt ashamed to
make an issue of repayment, so he usually let it
did pay her share of household bills, but Jim
was so worried about her "flakiness" that he
frequently questioned her anxiously about
whether she was up to date.
one point, after hearing her talk about wanting
a new car, he carefully researched which new car
would be best for her. He was appalled when she
bought a more expensive, sportier model.
urged her to keep careful records of her
personal expenditures and offered to help her
review them. She refused angrily and they had
frequent arguments about money.
asked Jim what he did to contribute to the problem,
Jim recognized that he was the one who started
the arguments by frequently asking Cathy about
what she did with her money. It seemed as if Jim was
collecting evidence to support his arguments instead
of looking at what was really bothering him.
asked what he was trying to accomplish by
questioning her, Jim first said he just wanted her
to be responsible. When he dug a little deeper, he
realized that he wanted to be sure she could take
care of herself financially and not become dependent
recognized that frequently questioning her was not
accomplishing his goal. In fact, it was making the
problem even worse.
discovered that he had mixed feelings about whether
a husband should be financially responsible for his
wife. This ambivalence kept him from discussing the
only real problem-- that Cathy was breaking her
financial agreement to share entertainment costs.
Jim if his unexpressed resentment about the broken
agreement might be connected to his judgment that
she was irresponsible about money.
He already knew
that the "evidence" didn't really support his
judgment. Cathy was responsible for everything
EXCEPT sharing entertainment expenses. The
connection made sense to him.
didn't feel ready to confront Cathy directly about
the broken agreement, but he decided to experiment
with not asking her about how she managed her own
He also decided to tell Cathy in advance
whether or not any particular entertainment activity
would be his treat.
after he started his experiment, Jim noticed that
the arguments had almost completely disappeared. The
bills continued to get paid, and Cathy was
occasionally volunteering to treat him to dinner and
to stay married.
Almost everything you do is done for a reason, but
sometimes you have to look below the surface to
discover the really important hidden reason for your
Weiss, Ph.D., Master Certified Coach,
internationally known therapist, consultant and
author, has been helping people create
conscious, loving relationships for over 30 years.
and claim your f*ree copy of 24 Tips for Having a
Great Relationship at
http://www.BeingHappyBook.com . Email