Friday, October 22, 2010

Slowly learning

The day before the housewarming party D and I had a huge fight. What started the fight was of course not really what the fight was about. At all. A small stupid incident set us both off and turned into a day-long battle - interspersed with us getting along for a few hours - that ended up with D storming out of the house and me furiously cleaning the bathroom while muttering to myself.

The fight was about money. Well, about how we treat each other about money. How my deep financial fears and penchant for projecting my insecurities onto him combine with his impatience and severe rationality to make us (mostly me) unable to make financial decisions without a lot of angst. Of course we didn't come to that nice conclusion right away. We had to endure lots of stupidity (on both our parts) before we got there.

The problems are many: First: numbers, to D$, are like the alphabet. Numbers, to me, are scary and make my brain turn off. Second: If I am going to make a decision I have to talk about it for a long time first.  I talk about is how the decision is making me feel - am I mad that I have to make the decision, what are my fears, etc. None of this is usually very logical but I have to get it out before I can make a rational decision. Example: when I needed to take out more student loans in order to pay off older and more expensive student loans, I spent several days saying, "I made pact to myself that I wouldn't take out any student loans for graduate school and so I don't want to take out any loans." I knew in the back of my head that it was stupid not to take out more loans - in fact I knew that I probably would take out more loans -  but the idea made me sick and upset and I had to talk about that before I could move on to the smart decision.

When D is faced with a decision he looks at the facts and decides. Done deal. So he thinks that all the talking I am doing is how I will make a choice -  that I will make a decision based purely on my emotions. During the student loan debacle he ran up some numbers for me (without walking me through it) and acted offended and contemptuous when I wouldn't readily admit that the loans were the best idea and go ahead with it. He thought I was going to refuse to take out loans, and end up spending more money in the long run, because I was upset at the ultimately meaningless act of taking out more loans.

Here is what happened (what happens): D$ feels like I don't trust him to look at the financial information and make the right choice even though crunching numbers is what he does all day long. I feel that D is treating me like I am stupid and is treating me as if I can't be trusted to make financial decisions. Massive hurt feelings ensue. It looks something like this:

MWK: This is how I feel

D$: These are the facts.

MWK: But this is how I feel.

D$: But there are the facts.



Both: *#$@!*#@%!

After the last fight we were finally able to get to the bottom of some of this. I made D understand that my emotions are just as legitimate and necessary to me as his numbers. I think D understands that he needs to let me express my emotions and give me the time to emote without being impatient or treating me like a child. D$ told me how frustrated he gets when I won't listen to him on the numbers stuff and I understand now how hard it would be to have your wife doubt you on what is, to be sure, your greatest skill (that's math, folks. The man loves math).

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Last weekend, about a week after the party, we sat down to talk about money again and to make a budget. There were a few tense moments but mostly we were able to have a calm and civil conversation. We came to an understanding about our finances and how we want to handle them. It was by no means fun, but I am proud of us for getting through it.


  1. It's not an easy thing to talk about, but you did it. Our conversations are similar - feelings vs. fact. Sometimes I think we (as in everyone) need that time to be all #*#$&@#^! about it to get to the sitting down and being adults part. Good for you and D, though. Lots of people don't have patience to talk about money.

  2. How is it that our brains are very real? This house hunting thing? SCARES me.

  3. I need to clarify those statements. My brain is made of alfredo today. How is it that our brains are very similar? In the same way that you freak out, I freak out. Currently, it's about houses. And we fight about the same damn shit. Guiiiiilt. Aaaangst. But darn tootin' for talking about it.

  4. @Blind Irish Pirate: I got your meaning the first time. I don't know how D and I will survive the house hunting thing - he actually brought this up as a fear during our fight which was NOT fun. We have two years to get ready for that, thankfully. At least according to our plan.
    @Angie: I definitely need the #*%@ before I can make a decision. I make us talk about money precisely because it would so, so easy to just let D take care of it. The women in my family have a bad history of not knowing what is happening financially and getting really really bad surprises. I have vowed not to let that happen, no matter how much these conversations suck. I am hoping the conversations get less sucky the more we work at it.

  5. Well done, lady. Well done.

    And I am all too familiar with that feelings vs facts dynamic.

  6. I am familiar with this conversation! It's not about money in our household, but about various other topics. It often gets sorted when my husband says "OH, you are having the FEELINGS." And then he stops bombarding me with solutions.

  7. Ahh, the money coversation has to be one of the most difficult ones to have - even if you have similar views on its value and what to do with it. If you can thrash it out on this you'll do fine on the house hunting - you've covered the hard stuff and worked your way round the fact and feelings minefield.
    I'm a planner, my plans start from emotions and aspirations but I need to back everything up with facts to help build up the plan. I think that means I'm the worst of both worlds! My poor man ;)

  8. Been there, so many times. It's frustrating when you just need to talk things through and a man thinks your every comment is an indicator of your future decision/action. Good for you keeping talking, though. Nothing will help more than that.