Let me take you on an exploration back into my past by telling you about Tim—my first husband—and money.
As you probably know by now, I’d been actively “managing” my money since I was a little girl. My dad made keeping records and being clever with money a rewarding thing to do. By the time I got married at 21 it was very natural for me to be the family accountant. I not only liked knowing what was going on with the money, it actually was and is very important to me. I enjoyed being effective and adept with it.
Tim was a good man. He was responsible, ethical, very smart, and had a wicked sense of humor that often left me laughing so hard I was in tears. One such occasion was his response to a TV commercial that asked “How do you keep baby Johnny dryer?” Tim’s response was: “a cork and a rubber band”—at that point I simply lost it.
He looked like Bill Bixby, the non-green part of the Incredible Hulk of the early 80s. He was charming, warm hearted, wrote me poetry, and actually danced with me. Great guy.
After we’d been married about five years I got tired of being in charge of managing the money. It was role nausea. Although I’m good at it, I just needed a break. I asked Tim to take it on for a while. He agreed. Although I don’t remember it, I’m sure I walked him through the process of how I managed things, and handed over the checkbook. (You remember those, right? I still use them, every once in a while!)
I kept checking in and asking him how things were going and he said “coasting along”. Turned out they were pretty much coasting downhill into oblivion!
After several months of his managing the money, he got a new job that required him to go away for around three weeks of training. Since he was going to be gone for some time I asked him to turn the checkbook and reigns back over to me. He did so, and it was a mess.
He had been entering checks in the checkbook, but had no running total, nor had he balanced the checkbook to the bank. The actual bank balance once I figured it out was $2.57—and yes, I do remember the amount. I wasn’t going to get a paycheck for two weeks, and he wasn’t going to be paid until after the training. It was the 70s, and—as a side bar—credit cards didn’t let us pay over time until 1987! And of course he took the credit card with him on the trip. Yipes!
I was stuck eating the weird canned goods in the back of the cupboard while he was enjoying steak at his training seminars. Hmmm.
No surprise I took back the bill paying, is it? He just wasn’t good with numbers, literally. He could write two different numbers on the check, the handwritten one and the numeric one, and a different number in the checkbook. I referred to it as musical money, like musical chairs. It usually ended up with me waiting to see which number the bank chose.
Even with that huge difference in our skill sets around money, once we got past that month, money was not something we ever fought about. During the rest of our marriage we made a lot of money decisions together. He participated in the choices and spending—he just didn’t manage the checkbook, I did!
One of the times we moved he went ahead of me and rented an apartment for us. We knew each other so well that he found the perfect place for both of us at a great price. Everyone that knew me was frankly amazed that I didn’t need to see the place first!
The point is that together we made a great team, we combined our different strengths. I found ways to communicate how the money was going that worked for him, and he respected my role as the family accountant. How can you and your partner find a way to be more effective with money by sharing your talents?
Shell Tain, The Untangler
Is there a money knot in your relationship? Wanna talk about it? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at www.sensiblecoaching.com