He's a Cheapskate
Q: I have been married for over 15 years and have two children under the age of ten. I find my marriage boring and my husband controlling and frugal. After he lost his job two years ago and found another (shortly afterwards) he has been unbearable about money. I am tired of hearing about the future and not living at all now. I could be dead when he decides we have enough money. I am a very very active person and like doing things. We do nothing fun together ever. I have friends separate from him, and his friends are only through work. I work part-time and give money to the house and lie all the time about money so I don't have to hear him complain. He was so different in the past and I loved him very much. Now I think I don't feel anything and just feel really alone. Is this normal? — Julie, 44
Dr. Susan: Your husband's got a real poverty-phobia thing going on. Since it all started when he lost his job, it looks like that incident tapped into some deep underlying fear of his. Some men become hyper-responsible when they have children, which is not necessarily a bad thing (considering the alternatives), but it seems like your mate is terrified that if he lets up his vigilance for even a moment, you'll all end up homeless. I really hate the idea that his strictness makes you feel as though you have to lie to him. As common as that is, it's an intimacy-breaker. Short of dragging him to a therapist (which costs money!), sit him down and tell him that his extreme frugality is killing your positive feelings toward him. It's all well and good to plan ahead, and it's certainly understandable that having lost a job once, he's being extra careful to save a lot in case it happens again, but as you said, what's the point of it all if your day-to-day life is bland, dull, and lonely?
The two of you need to make a point of finding inexpensive stuff you can do together, because right now you're allowing yourselves to drift apart. I suspect you need to compromise more than you are comfortable doing, in order to avoid making him crazy with fear of destitution, but he also needs to balance out the future with the present. One rarely ever has "enough." We all have to decide our priorities and when a husband and wife seem to have such different ones, they MUST talk about this and agree on a way to live that meets the needs of both. Ask him what the point of all his saving would be if you two stopped being happily married? And you: Cut out that passive-aggressive lying. When he complains, deal with it directly. You have a right to spend some money as you see fit, and he has a right to disagree. But neither of you has a right to make the other miserable or carry on a secret life.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.