So ladies, imagine one morning during the holidays, your old refrigerator suddenly seems about to give up the ghost. Images of all that spoiled food start dancing in your head, and you find a one-day-only flash sale for a fridge at a fantastic price . . . but your husband says he needs to think about it.
What goes through your mind? If you’re like many women, you’re not only frustrated (or furious) that by being indecisive, he’s risking hundreds of dollars in ruined food (and ruined holiday preparations) but also that he’s risking having to pay hundreds of dollars more if you can’t get the cheap fridge! You find yourself distracted during the day, checking constantly to see if the sale is sold out, and worried about whether the fridge will last.
Or men, imagine that tomorrow you’re in the middle of paying some unexpected, large, medical bills, and your wife walks in with a new outfit and happily announces, “It was on sale! It’ll be perfect for vacation. What do you think?”
What goes through your mind? If you’re like many men, even if you subconsciously know that your wife wouldn’t spend beyond your budget you feel a roiling in your gut as you automatically tally up the cost of the medical bills, vacation and outfit. You feel a sense of pressure as you wonder whether you have what it takes to provide for your family. Which is why your dutiful smile and “it looks nice” comment might seem a little forced.
What goes through your mind in those little scenarios – and why – is what Jeff and I have begun studying for our next major research project; a project we are partnering on with Thrivent, a wonderful, values-minded Fortune-300-company. Through their innovative subsidiary, brightpeak, Thrivent is sponsoring our research study into this question: what is underneath our responses to money in relationships? Because when there is conflict or irritation, we know it isn’t about the money. (More about that in a moment.)
It’s Not About The Money
Our previous research for For Women Only and For Men Only identified crucial things we need to know about each other as men and women—and those differences impact our responses to money as well. So our first product with brightpeak is our brand-new video experience for couples, called Men, Women, & Money. Done in a Master Class format with 3 younger couples, this experience helps men and women understand what is really going on under the surface and use that understanding to prevent and solve money misunderstandings and issues. Once we have those “aha moments” about each other, we don’t have to have those frustrations ever again!
Because here’s the thing. That argument you and your spouse get into about buying this or saving that? It’s not about the money. It is about all that stuff under the surface, regardless of who the “spender” or the “saver” is in the relationship. (Which, by the way, does not appear to be gender related.)
So what is going on under the surface?
Husbands: Here’s What Might Really Be Going On
As a sneak preview, men, here’s what might be going on in that situation with your wife’s new outfit. In our research it was clear that most women have a deep question about whether they are beautiful, special and “worth something.” For many women (not all, of course), “retail therapy” and buying that cute new outfit (even if she is buying it at a consignment store!) serves several purposes. Your wife wants to feel “new” and special and beautiful . . . and she wants to know that you think she is beautiful too. That new purchase temporarily fills that need (it is a counterfeit “filling” of course, but it feels good nonetheless).
She is also hoping that you will light up and tell her that she looks beautiful—and that by your manner you signal yes, this cost money, but you are worth it.
Wives: Here’s What Might Really Be Going On
And wives, when he says he wants to “think about” buying a new fridge versus waiting and taking the risk with the old one, it’s not because he is indecisive or doesn’t care. And he doesn’t want you to go through a day of torture. He probably doesn’t even know it is torture!
For most men (although not all), a fairly substantial decision (especially a purchasing decision!) simply requires time to think. Where your female brain is more likely to want to think something through by talking it through (“do you think we can risk losing all that food? We have the party in two days . . .”) his male brain is more likely to require time when he is not talking about it. He needs to process the decision and understand what he’s thinking—and he is intending to come back to you in some reasonable period of time, because he understands that there’s a limit on that sale, too!
The Crucial Caveat
Now, here’s a crucial caveat: None of these feelings mean we have to blindly give in to them. We shouldn’t irresponsibly spend money we don’t have, and we should be mature enough to understand each other and stop knee-jerk reactions that stem from insecurity. We should be able to talk about money issues without getting defensive or irritated. But we have to understand each other (and ourselves!) first.
Neither of those scenarios demonstrates a lack of love or caring. We’re just very different in many ways. And we respond to money differently based on our wiring. So hiding beneath that drive-you-nuts behavior is a spouse who wants to please you and love you well. It just takes a little understanding to see it. If you and your spouse want to better understand each other and build a great relationship about all things money-related, find out more here.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.