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Ask Dave

He Doesn't Care

Cathy wants to know what to do when a spouse has no interest in living within a budget. Dave says Cathy has to get his attention.

QUESTION: Cathy in Traverse City wants to know what to do when a spouse has no interest in living within a budget. Dave says Cathy has to get his attention.

ANSWER: First, we punch him. What does punching him look like in your world? Go back to the kids. He’s not helping you with the kids. How would you explain to him that that was important? How would you convince your husband otherwise—forget my stuff or the fact that’s money—to join you in something that’s very important in your life when he wasn’t doing so? Twist his ear. Bend his ear. Nibble on his ear. Whatever…some mix of that to get his attention, right? The bottom line is he needs to understand, in the case of the kids, in the case of taking out the trash, that this is important to you and it is a method by which he says, “I love you, Cathy.” He doesn’t understand that about this money thing.

What happens with the money thing is when you put money in the mix, people get weird. They bring up all their old tapes from when they were kids and how their dad did or their mom did it wrong or whatever, and they twist all this stuff around about what they saw in the money thing. But if you just treat it like it’s any other subject in your marriage, then it’s not so mystical. Just treat it like he wasn’t helping you with the kids. My wife can get my attention when she needs to, right? That’s really what it is. There’s no magic to it.

I will give you a couple of words to use. The kids are all in bed asleep, TV is off, you’re not standing at the kitchen sink. You’re sitting with him with no distractions with both of his hands in yours, and you’re looking into his eyes. To start with, that’s almost un-American as busy as we all are right now, but let’s just stop and do that for a second and just look at him and go, “This is important to me. It is a way that you can say, ‘I love you, Cathy.’ I know you don’t want to do it, and that will make it speak even louder that you are doing something for me that you don’t want to do. I want you to invest in our relationship by helping me with this. I don’t want to be your mommy giving you money. I want us to be a team working together and making financial decisions.” All I did there was what you would’ve done anyway if it was some other subject in the house other than money. But the word “invest” carries weight with guys sometimes, and when I hear from my wife that this is a way I can say, “I love you” in a better way, I actually—as thick as I am—usually will hear that one. It’ll help move the conversation along. He’s a good guy. He’s going to do this. Don’t treat it like it’s a different kind of subject just because it’s money. It’s a life subject that you’ve got to work together in marriage on.