I am one of very few women in this country dreading the most recent stimulus check. As soon as I heard the stimulus bill passed, I got a sick sense of dread in my stomach.
Why? Because my husband controls all of the money in our marriage and he is extremely stubborn. Let me begin by saying we actually have a generally happy, loving, satisfying marriage. We get along great and truly can’t imagine life apart, and we’ll have been married 12 years this August.
But he is very controlling of the money. He truly sees it as “his” money, regarding just about everything, except my small paychecks. He does pay all of the household bills. But he makes over $100,000 a year, and I earn about $24,000 a year because I am a part-time nurse and also home-school our daughter.
My husband said, ‘The stimulus check will be going to aluminum siding for the house, that’s the plan.’
I pay my own personal bills, and buy 95% of the groceries, which is always a stretch for me. On the other hand, he has $20,000 in the savings account — which, believe me, is seen as his, not mine. He gets bonuses from work almost annually, but I never ever get a large sum of money for myself to just do whatever with.
When we received our stimulus check, we got in a huge fight because he wanted to give me $400. And trust me, he thought he was being generous, but this was right after Christmas and I had been sick and off work for over a week. I don’t have sick pay or paid time off because I’m part time. So I truly, desperately needed the half of the stimulus just to buy groceries and pay my bills!
So after we found out about the $1,400-per-person stimulus tonight in the car, my husband said, “The stimulus check will be going to aluminum siding for the house, that’s the plan.” I wanted to scream! The plan? When the hell did you ask me?
I just know that it’s going to be another huge fight, and he’ll probably try and throw me a couple hundred dollars again and think he’s great. I can’t take this anymore, but I do really love him and I don’t want a divorce.
I just want him to stop being so controlling with money and so “your money/my money.” Also, he would never go to counseling. What should I do? Sorry my letter is so long.
At My Wit’s End
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Don’t apologize to me, and don’t apologize to your husband.
You have found your voice. Now you need to use it. There’s a big difference between putting your needs first and putting yourself first. Telling people what you need and having those needs met is a basic entry point into a relationship. They either listen to your needs or they disregard them. If there is no change with your husband, as is likely, you need to decide on what action you take.
Love is an action.
Now, I’m sorry. I’m sorry your needs are not being met, and I’m sorry to say that if people do NOT listen to your needs, they are not showing you respect. Love is an action. Without respect or trust in that process, there is no growth. It is he who should be apologizing to you.
So what you can do? Tell you husband what you told me. No more Silent Scream. That fury can be addictive. You get to feel energized and righteous and wronged. And Johnny Rotten was right, anger is an energy, but it should push you toward action. Inaction leads to unhappiness and depression. But not in the heat of the moment. Anger and conflict will become the issue rather than the issue.
The issue is twofold: the $1,400 stimulus check and having control over your own finances.
The big picture:
I will give you a version of what you could say, as a suggestion (not a direction): “We don’t earn the same amount of money from our jobs, but they are both equally important jobs. We are a partnership, and we both put the same amount of work into our family and our life together. I need to be an equal partner in our life and finances. I need control over my finances.”
That stimulus check:
“I earn $24,000 a year and, for that reason, I qualify for a stimulus check. It’s important to me that I make the decision on how to spend my check, and I need you to understand why. Yes, I have bills to personally pay, but making these decisions is critical to my feeling respected and valued.” If he does not hear you, he (not you) has a problem.
It’s important to realize that telling you how to spend your money and how to spend your check is a form of coercive control. This is not a transactional relationship. It’s a marriage. You home-school your child not to make up for the shortfall in incomes, but because you believe you are EQUALS. And you are.
I, for one, salute you. Nursing, teaching and caregiving are among the most important jobs in the world, and like many service professions, they are grossly underpaid. They also count among the professions that have put their health and lives at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
If your husband insists on spending your check on aluminum siding, that should lead to a larger conversation about you having agency in your life inside this marriage, and a choice over how to spend your own money. One person cannot be more equal than the other in a marriage or in life. George Orwell has written extensively about that concept. It did not turn out well.
Are you experiencing domestic violence or coercive control? Call the National Domestic Violence Hotlineat 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
FreeFrom works to establish financial security for domestic-violence survivors, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence supports efforts to change conditions that lead to domestic violence and coercive control. You can also learn about creating a personalized safety plan here.
The Moneyist:My wife has homeschooled our son and our best friends’ son since September due to COVID-19. Is it too late to bring up money?
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