Today, our society places a great deal of emphasis on money, and the “rights” that come with it. The assumption is that more money = more say. Whether it’s a say in political policy, or whether it’s determining the direction of family finances, we reside a lot of what we consider “rights” in the amount of money involved.
In many cases, more money does amount to more choices. From travel options to the ability to arrange matters as you see fit, having money, and enjoying financial freedom, can provide you with a number of choices that those with fewer financial resources can’t access. But when you start talking about the financial situation in your own home, it’s important not to fall into societal trap that more money = more legitimacy as a person and a voice.
“It’s My Money, So It’s My Choice!”
One of the things I ran into a lot when I lived in a community with very traditional gender roles was the idea that the person earning the money (usually the man in the relationship) had the “right” of the final decision on all things financial. It’s hard to argue with this mindset in a one-income household. However, it’s important to realize that not all contributions to the household are financial, and if you value the idea of one parent staying home, it’s vital that you truly respect each other as partners, and acknowledge the stay at home partner’s contributions — and his or her right to participate equally in financial decisions.
Viewing more money as a justification for dictating to others is one form of financial abuse. Even though you might not see it as such, the reality is that you are using money as power, and using it to coerce someone else — and using your ability to make money as an excuse to view another’s viewpoint, needs, and wants as inferior to yours. That’s something major when you have a long-term domestic partnership arrangement (whether it’s marriage or something else).
In any relationship, it’s important to value the other person’s contributions. One of the reasons that he or she might not be earning money is due to the fact that you have settled it between the two of you that one of you stays home, in order to help you reach financial independence while still seeing to the needs of your children. I remember that I used to be somewhat resentful of my husband’s spending at times. “It’s my money,” I thought. “Why is he spending it that way I should be able to make the decisions!”
After reflecting on my resentment, though, I realized something: My husband was staying at home, working on a degree, and taking care of our son while I worked. He contributed a great deal to our household by caring for our son, keeping the house clean, cooking the meals, and improving his education so that he would eventually be able to contribute more to our family income. All of what he did was just as important as what I did in earning money by working outside the home. Just because society doesn’t reward someone’s stay at home efforts with a paycheck doesn’t mean that they are worthless. We’d all be happier in our lives and families if we’d acknowledge that a salary isn’t the only measure of worth, and if we were willing to consider flexibility in lifestyle as important as a high net worth.
Once I understood how my attitude was negatively impacting our marriage, and once I moved beyond the idea that income = worth, the situation improved, and I stopped begrudging my husband’s spending. We don’t always agree on what’s worth spending money on, but we both understand that we need to let the other be involved in financial decisions — and I know it’s only fair that my husband get to spend money on things he enjoys, even if I don’t necessarily enjoy them.
Just because you have more money doesn’t entitle you to dictate everything to others.
What do you think about this? Do you think having more money, or making more money, entitles you to tell others what to do?