Photo: Robert Trachtenberg
Q: I'm a stay-at-home mom who's been married for 22 years; my husband is the sole provider in our household. Our bank accounts are in his name only, and I have no idea how much we have in checking, savings, or our IRAs. He gives me an allowance for gas and groceries, but when something else comes up (oil changes, birthday gifts, prescriptions, clothing, haircuts, doctor visits), I'm expected to cover that, too. Then I don't have enough to buy gas and groceries...so he accuses me of overspending and lowers my allowance. I feel defeated. How can we manage our finances together in a mutually respectful way?
A: Your husband has some strange ideas about equality in a marriage. But he isn't entirely to blame here. Why have you allowed him to impose this dynamic on your relationship? A child gets an allowance—you are his wife. He may be the one who earns money, but being a stay-at-home mom is a job, too. Whether it generates a paycheck is irrelevant; it delivers tremendous value to your family. The real problem is that your husband doesn't appreciate what you do, and you can't expect him to value your hard work if you're not valuing yourself. You don't have a money problem. You have a self-esteem problem.
You must demand that your name be put on every account as co-owner, and then learn exactly where you and your husband stand financially. Next, bring your husband in as an equal partner in managing the monthly spending. Sit down at the end of this month and review every bill. If he has a problem with the amount that's being spent, then it's up to him to offer plausible solutions for cutting down on expenses. This is not your problem to fix alone. It's a challenge for you both to solve—together.
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From the February 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine