Recently, Rob made a $400 dollar mistake. He went to a physical therapist.
Visiting the physical therapist wasn't the problem. The problem was that he assumed that the doctor on campus was an in-network physician, but it turns out the therapist is out of network.
Is this even a money fight?
I believe that every couple (except the frugal auto-pilot types) should follow a budget. It's great for communication, and it's been one of the most helpful tools in keeping our values aligned and our marriage thriving.
Budgets are supposed to be tools for good, but I used our budget for evil.
When Rob told me about the mistake, I told him, "That really effs up our budget and I donn't even want to talk to you right now."
Rob walked out of the room, defeated, and to add insult to injury, I yelled after him, "And don't think that doing the laundry is going to make me feel better." Then I left him to burn in the silent wake of my wrath.
But why was I so angry?
We can absorb a $400 mistake with ease, and, up until the moment that Rob told me about the $400 mistake, I didn't even want anything worth $400.
Personally, I believe I became angry for two reasons. The first reason is innocent enough; I didn't want to solve a problem while two kids screamed in the background (Rob legitimately chose a horrible time to tell me about the mistake). The second reason isn't innocent at all. Because I felt that the finances were out of control (felt being the operative word), I blamed Rob for sabatoging our finances to make it seem like I'm a less valuable partner in our marriage.
Would Rob deliberately sabatoge me or our finances? No.
Did that matter at the time? No.
Money fights reveal character flaws
In my case, our financial situation had nothing to do with our money fight. Instead, a need for control and affirmation drove me to marriage eroding extremes. Rather, our money fight revealed a nasty character flaw that have an unfortunate pattern of cropping up in my life.
The money fight, it turns out, wasn't a money fight at all. Instead, it was an attack that revealed my insecurities and character flaws.
When I apologized to Rob, I didn't apologize for caring too much about our budget. I didn't start a conversation about how to solve our $400 situation. Instead, I apologized for feeling greedy and for not trusting that Rob when he tried to the trustworthy thing. I apologized for attacking him, instead of giving him grace for an honest mistake. Rob forgave me, and he apologized for making the mistake and for presenting the problem while both kids screamed at me.
We still have to figure out what we'll do about the $400, but we've taken care of our relationship and that's even more important.
What to do if you fight about money a lot
Everybody values money. It's easy to get upset or angry or sad or generically emotional about financial problems, but I wouldn't assume that money problems are the source of your relationship problems.
Bad money habits including fighting about money tend to be an outgrowth of other problems in a relationship or an outgrowth of personal flaws. Bad money habits are the fruit of a tree of poor character or poor relationships.
If you're hoping to improve your finances, I recommend a budget. I recommend communicating with your spouse about money. I recommend recapping your spending and automating your savings. I recommend making your own meals, and shopping used and find side sources of income.
But most of all, if you want to improve your finances, I recommend doing the hard work of looking to fight against the ill in your own heart and growing an excellent character.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.