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The Coupon-Clipper vs.the Take-Out Fiend

March 27, 2009

I think couples are divided between natural born savers and spenders. But often you’ve got one of each in a marriage, making for a combustible relationship. In surveys about what couples fight about, money often tops the list. Men more often think money is a problem between them. Women more often think child care and fair division of chores are. Today, as we approach tax time, let’s look at some of the money problems couples experience. See if you can find yourself in any of the following:
Does your partner hide purchases?
Do you go ballistic when you see the credit card balance?
Is one of you a coupon clipper, and the other a “let’s get take-out?” fiend?
Does one of you think, “I work hard, I deserve this indulgence,” while the other thinks, “I don’t care how hard you work, it’s not in the budget?”
Is either of you guilty of financial infidelity…such as hiding purchases, buying large ticket items without informing the other, signing off on the taxes for your spouse, and fudging them too?
Are you so aggravated that you want a post-nup? Or even a divorce?

Okay, let me break it to you…none of the above is good for your relationship…because it’s not fair.
In my book, Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage, I give tips to couples about how to get real and be fair over money. Here are some tips:
Start by recognizing that money is about more than a budget, it’s about the values you bring from your family. Whether your parents barely scraped by, lived comfortably, made a virtue of live for the moment, or save for the rainy day. You didn’t grow up in the same family, so you’re going to have different perspectives about money.

Take time to understand your partner’s perspective. Let go of being judgmental, or holier than thou. Be curious. See if you can strike a reasonable balance between your differences.

If you’re disappointed with how much your partner makes for a living, try to appreciate the specific good qualities he or she does bring to the relationship.

If things don’t feel fair, ask for what your ideal would be, rather than get stuck complaining or criticizing.

Strike a new deal. Every marriage at times needs to evaluate whether what worked in the past, still works. After all, life changes, and so does “the deal” in a relationship.

For an excerpt from the book, go to or
B. Hibbs, Ph.D.

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