They say those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Yet putting new behaviors in place can backfire as well. As I continue to move forward, I see solutions that fell flat with Husband #2.
Individual bank accounts
Husband #1 never wanted his own bank account. In his words, he didn’t even like looking at his paycheck stub as it depressed him to see how much came out of his gross salary. My responsible part took over the paying of the bills and all things financial. As long as Husband #1’s credit card worked, he was not concerned…or let’s say interested…in the daily handling of the budget.
When he was on his way out of Marriage #1, Husband #1 complained about how he didn’t have his own bank account. Go figure.
Fast forward to Marriage #2. I insisted that Husband #2 have his own bank account, in addition to our joint account. I had my own account as well (mostly to handle the child support payments that Husband #1 was making monthly). I wanted Husband #2 to feel like he had his own money, or freedom, to buy or save whatever he wanted.
Unbeknownst to me, Husband #2 never used his private account. In fact, he completely forgot about it. When we sat in marriage counseling and he brought up the “I don’t have my own money” complaint, I reminded him that he did have a sole bank account in his name only.
Then he turned to me and asked, “How much is in it?”. And then several times after that, “What’s the online password?”
My constant answer, “I don’t know. It’s not mine.”
Lesson learned: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
Financial planning involvement
To reiterate, Husband #1 wanted nothing to do with our finances, that included investments and retirement funds. I handled it all. I tried to discuss these topics with him. Every November I would pour through the yearly benefit enrollment documentation for our employers. I would try to bring up what our 401k contributions would be, how much the company would match, how our savings fit into our overall retirement picture. He’d have none of it. I was adrift in the boat on my own.
There we were again, at the end of our relationship, in marriage counseling and Husband #1 was enraged that he didn’t know anything about our finances. Ah well….
With Husband #2, I would do a monthly state of the union address to give a snapshot of our financial position – especially since we were self-employed. I wanted Husband #2 to be involved in the budget, the savings, the spending decisions and I tried to make it so the burden, while not shared 50/50, was at least something he was aware of every 30 days.
Yes, it was difficult. Husband #2 would give me the look of (dread? confusion?) boredom and I would scurry through the YTD profit and loss as quickly as possible. Eventually it just boiled down to me giving him 4 numbers: What’s in our emergency fund, what’s in our retirement, what’s in our bank accounts, what sales were coming in that month. My hope of having 50/50 involvement was more along the lines of 95/5.
Speaking up about difficulties
With Husband #1, I remained somewhat quiet. I learned early on that if I asked for something, I would most likely not receive it and get brushed off with a statement about how he was too busy, tired, whatever to listen to what I was saying. Looking back, I realize Husband #1 was a conflict-avoiding, passive-aggressive man who would have done anything to hide from a difficult situation.
Sometimes I wonder if he married me so he wouldn’t have to break up with me…
As a result, going into Marriage #2, I was not planning to suffer silently when I felt danger in our relationship.
I’m sure Husband #2 saw my concerns as nagging.
Women tend to be the caretakers of the relationship. Is that a stereotype? Probably, but I have never encountered a man who came up and said, “I feel like we’re drifting apart. Let’s take steps to grow back together.”
While I was doing my best to speak up about gaps in our relationship, I don’t think I was doing it in the best way possible… setting up a damaging cycle. The more I spoke up about the desire to “come together” the more Husband #2 viewed me as “never happy”. My vocalization caused him to distance himself from me, essentially leading to a greater rift in our emotional bond.
The more her man starves her of what she wants, the more she nags and the less likely he is to be responsive to her wishes… Obviously, if a woman feels responded to she won’t need to keep bringing up the same issues… On the surface, it’s easy to assume that it’s all the nagee’s fault ~Jamie Turndorf, PhD in How to Stop Nagging
It’s no one’s fault. Just a terrible cycle.
I’m sure Husband #2 thought I wanted 100% of his time and attention and truly viewed me as the most unhappy wife walking the planet. I wasn’t unhappy. I was trying to keep us from drifting away and avoid losing ourselves in the tangled business that was invading our lives. I certainly didn’t want to be with him 24/7 no matter how much I loved him.
Lesson learned: No matter how you present it, you can’t control another person’s reception of the message.
So what to do?
*I need to remember this. Thanks, Martina Navratilova!