“He’s Micromanaging Our Finances”
“Michael has a double standard when it comes to money,” says Patricia, 34, about her husband of three years. “He is a successful attorney who collects expensive wine, wears designer suits, plunks down hundreds of dollars for dinner at fancy restaurants, and takes upscale vacations. But when it comes to furniture, renovations, groceries, my wardrobe, baby gear, or gifts — in other words, stuff I value — he’s a tightwad. Michael claims my spending is out of control, so now he’s micromanaging our finances. He insists that I turn over receipts and flies into a rage if I’ve bought ‘too many’ bath towels or ‘spent too much’ on my sister’s birthday present. We fight constantly. Our daughter, Allyson, is only 6 months old; I hate to think that she’s growing up in a home with so much hostility.
“In fact, I’m a superb bargain hunter — I never pay retail for anything. But Michael is disdainful of the effort I spend finding the right deal. He’s loving and attentive to Allyson, but he acts like I can’t do anything right. Thanks to my hard work, our Philadelphia condo is beautifully decorated. But has he ever paid me a single compliment? No. All he does is criticize.
“Our approach to money reflects our different approaches to life: I’m an optimist, whereas Michael’s a pessimist who is convinced a pink slip and doomsday are just around the corner. He earns a handsome salary. We’re investing wisely. We pay our credit cards in full every month and carry no debt beyond our mortgage. Plus, we have plenty of discretionary income, despite the fact that I have no salary at the moment because I’m staying home with the baby. But for the past year we’ve fought nonstop about money. Our arguments get really ugly. Then we give each other the silent treatment for days. We’re so angry we hardly ever have sex.”
“I grew up in a middle-class family, the eldest of three daughters. Mom was a housewife and Dad worked in insurance. We never ate out or took vacations — luxuries I take for granted now. Still, I didn’t feel deprived and overall, my childhood was happy. I’m still close with my parents and sisters.
“I met Michael five years ago at a friend’s wedding. He was just out of law school and had accepted a job at a top firm in Philadelphia. I worked in sales for a fabric company. I was drawn to Michael’s good looks as well as his dry wit, which shone through as we discussed movies, theater, and city life. The next day he invited me to dinner. We clicked so well that soon we were inseparable.
“Our personalities are very different: I’m spur of the moment and a bit disorganized, always juggling a million things; Michael is disciplined, efficient, and focused on the task at hand. But back then, we found our differences appealing and even joked that it would do us good if my spontaneity rubbed off on him and his responsibility rubbed off on me!”