Current circumstances have definitely made shopping a little more complicated. If it’s not with masks and social distancing, it’s online shopping for everything from groceries to mattresses to everything in between! (Sooooo many boxes being delivered, am I right?) But what might have stayed exactly the same is the negative reaction you get from your husband when you arrive home from your latest run to the big-box store or yet another Amazon delivery appears at the front door. For some wives, it feels like their husband makes a huge deal out of every little purchase—even if it fits within their budget!—and they just don’t understand why he’s being so hyper-sensitive about it.
When Jeff and I were researching our latest book, Thriving in Love and Money, we heard from men who saw their wife’s shopping differently from their perspective. And we learned that conflicts around money aren’t really about the money—they stem from the attitudes and beliefs we hold about it. So if you’re starting to think your husband is a control freak, if you’re tempted to hide your shopping bags or guard the front door so you can grab the boxes before he sees them—wait!
Let’s press pause and take a look at the fears and concerns that are lurking behind your husband’s actions.
Your Husband Sees More In Those Bags And Boxes Than What You Purchased
When your husband sees your most recent purchases and loses his cool, he isn’t just responding to what you bought. He sees more than what’s inside the boxes and bags. He views your purchases as predictions of future behavior: more shopping, more expenditures, more bills to pay. In Thriving in Love and Money, one man put it this way: “If I’m looking at what she bought, it isn’t just about this purchase. In my mind, it is one of many. Shoes last week and pants today will mean new tops tomorrow. And clothes for the kids the week after.” While you’re wondering why that new pair of boots is such a big deal, he’s getting more and more concerned about covering the future expenses that are sure to follow. So why might worrying about future expenses be a big deal?
Men Feel Enormous Pressure To Provide For Their Family
Most men feel an immense pressure to provide (even if you are both working): a pressure that would be there even if you spent hardly anything. Taking care of his wife and family is a man’s way of saying “I love you”—and showing that he is worthy of you. And that comes with much more insecurity than you might realize. Providing is one of the key areas where men experience the ongoing risk of failure. Most men are constantly, subconsciously, evaluating their current and future earnings prospects, and whether they can provide “enough” to support the family and make them happy.
Keep all that underground insecurity in mind . . . and add on a husband seeing “extra” spending (even if it is in the budget and isn’t really “extra”), and you can see why some men are unusually sensitive. Your husband might be one of them. And if he isn’t controlling in any other area, his reaction likely isn’t about control but fear: a deep, palpable fear that he won’t be able to keep up. It may not necessarily be a logical feeling, but it is very deep. And very common.
Respect Your Husband’s Concerns
Talk to your husband about this in such a way that he truly sees that you appreciate him and that you want to understand and respect his concerns. Tell him, regularly, how thankful you are for all the work he does to provide. And then, at some non-emotional time, ask him to share his point of view. Ask him whether he feels pressure when he sees your new purchases, or when he knows that you’re spending money on things he might view as non-essentials. If you two have worked out a budget that you’re sticking to, ask him what you both can do to help him feel better about it, without you feeling like he’s micromanaging your wallet.
Talk The Situation Over And Come To An Agreement
If he doesn’t have an immediate answer to those questions, that’s okay. Guys often need some time to process things. You might learn more over time, anyway—and be better able to convey that you’re willing to help take some of the pressure off. One of the important factors in reducing relationship stress around money that we share in the book is having a financial cushion. That might be a goal you can work towards (or commit to maintaining) as a couple to ease his sense of financial pressure. Whatever practical steps you decide to take, or agreements you make, talking it over can help you understand each other’s point of view better—and help you both experience more peace when you make a purchase.
Want to know more of the little things that make big differences in your relationships—whether it’s love, parenting, work, or friendships? Subscribe for more from Shaunti here!
And check out her latest book (co-authored with her husband, Jeff), Thriving in Love and Money. Because you need a better relationship, not just a better budget.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.
This article was first published at Patheos.