I love shopping for clothes and gifts, which makes Christmas my favourite time of year.
My husband likes to keep a close eye on our finances and has put his foot down, saying I have to cut back.
I know we have to pay our bills but I resent how old-fashioned and controlling he is. I work part-time and always spend my own money.
I’ve tried to chat with him but he doesn’t want to know.
Take an emotive occasion like Christmas and combine it with an emotionally charged subject such as money, and you have a recipe for a volatile cocktail.
This is even before we consider the financial and power repercussions of marriage. Money is seldom solely about money – it’s more often than not about emotion too.
You and your husband come with inherited beliefs and behaviours around money.
Some of these are unspoken or unquestioned for several reasons, including our colonial past.
For some families, money is taboo; for others, it is openly discussed and celebrated.
Your query reflects the complexity of finances within contemporary relationships, and I understand your frustration.
Christmas is a time of year which shines a light on the financially successful but often ignores those who struggle to find financial security.
With these societal contradictions, it is no wonder many experience difficulty talking about money and budgeting with their partners.
Your husband may be fearful of financial instability, while you may fear a loss of autonomy and you both may be grappling with the worry of losing control.
It is crucial to have open and honest communication about financial matters. However, before talking with your husband, take time to consider your relationship with money.
What family stories have shaped your thinking and behaviour? How was money or financial success valued or celebrated? What does having money mean to you?
Uncover the significance attached to shopping for clothes and gifts during Christmas.
For some people, this will stir up deep feelings and you may want to explore your emotional response with the support of a registered therapist.
Having reflected on your relationship with money, express your feelings, concerns and desires to your husband and encourage him to share his perspective.
Of course, if you invite him to share his view, you will need to listen with the intention of understanding.
If you find yourself predicting what he will say or rehearsing how you will respond, you are not listening.
If your husband expresses financial worry you believe is unfounded, telling him not to worry won’t help.
Acknowledging his worries is a critical first step towards working together on a shared solution.
Without judgment, ask open-ended questions, such as, ‘How does Christmas influence how you think about our spending habits?’
Understanding how his family’s and wider community’s expectations have contributed to his standpoint can help nurture empathy and compromise.
Explore how you both feel about gifts and determine which decisions about spending are individual and which are made jointly.
Framing the next part of the conversation around creating a budget together allows you to unlearn redundant behaviours and heal inherited wounds.
Shame may have been used to influence money management within your family.
Encouraging a sense of empowerment for you both is critical. A budget that enables you to shop will protect your sense of agency while also being considerate of your husband’s financial concerns.
You may identify other areas to cut corners that don’t hold as much value for either of you. Perhaps this year you could decide that you are both willing to forgo a Christmas night out or to cut back on family presents.
Collaborating to find a solution will yield the real dividend: harmony and commitment to a common objective.
From this basis, you can foster financial transparency and co-operation in your relationship. The new year might allow you to have regular discussions about budgeting, financial goals and how you both can contribute to financial decisions.
This might involve setting a budget for Christmas shopping and holidays that doesn’t jeopardise your financial goals. Use these conversations to discuss the importance of discretionary spending for personal enjoyment to avoid feeling overly restricted.
The lessons you have learnt and inherited about money may need to be unlearnt. This takes time and several conversations.
There will undoubtedly be times when you will fail.
But take these experiences as learning opportunities, perhaps unlocking further layers of intergenerational financial coding that no longer compute in your relationship.
- If you have a question for Caroline, please send it to [email protected]