It’s not an uncommon sentiment among women to say, “All my husband cares about is money.” As a man who’s been accused of the same thing himself, I don’t speak for your husband, but I may be able to provide some insight. I know it seems like all he cares about is money, but there’s something a little deeper there.
Society’s pressure on men
Men and women both face pressure from society, but society’s expectations of them may be a bit different. The ideal man, based on what we hear on television, at church, at work, and in social settings, is three things. He’s tough. He’s good looking. And he’s rich.
If you can only be one of those three things–and most of us struggle to be even one–be rich.
American society tells us that if we work hard and we’re smart enough, we’ll be rich. And if we’re not rich, it’s because we have a moral failing somewhere. Outwardly professing this belief is optional. Men who believe that about themselves and about others place a tremendous amount of burden on themselves.
Certain religious and/or political beliefs can amplify this, but it’s surprising how deeply ingrained this gets into our DNA as Americans. There’s a lot of individualist in any American, regardless of their religious or political beliefs. If you’re willing to work hard, you’re supposed to be able to get good results. And we get upset when that system doesn’t work as well for us as we perceive it does for others.
The ultimate inadequacy
Back in April 2013, I was in between jobs and we were on a strict budget. I remember one night, my son asked for something to eat. He ended up asking for about seven different things, because I kept having to tell him we didn’t have what he asked for.
I know he didn’t set out to make me feel bad or anything. But I hated that. I hated having to tell him we didn’t have any of those things, and he was going to have to settle for whatever he ended up settling for that night. Providing food, clothing and shelter for my family is why I do what I do, and I hated feeling inadequate in that department.
That was an extreme case, but these kinds of things can happen any time. When the kids want a new video game console, or the couch is worn out, or someone we know gets a new car, it really stinks to say we can’t afford it.
And yes, sometimes that manifests itself in anger. But trust me, as someone who’s been there, that we’re not just angry at the person who asked. We have a pretty good idea who would be able to help us get to the position where we could say yes.
Back in April 2013 when I didn’t have what my son wanted to eat, I know there were two people who would have given anything to know they’d put me in that situation. If your husband loses it in a similar situation, trust me. He sees those two jerks being gleeful about his kid having to do without, and that’s who he’s mad at.
How some men compensate
If you say, “all my husband cares about is money,” it’s a good bet he compensates or copes in a similar way I do. I admit it. I’m a miser.
I can’t control how much money I make. I can control what I do with the money I make. So I try to do more with less. If your husband is a miser, he’s probably trying to do the same thing I do. And he’s probably doing it for the same reason I do.
Admittedly, sometimes I overcompensated, and maybe I still do. When I don’t know, the safest thing is to fall back on a default answer of no.
What my wife and I did
There is no easy cure for this, but by doing a few things, we were able to come up with a strategy to provide for our needs and at least a few more things we wanted.
The first thing we did was agree to a budget. We took a list of all our bills and put them together on a spreadsheet. Then we figured out about what we spent on things like groceries and gas. Gas prices can vary, but AAA tracks gas price averages that you can use to estimate. They even provide a calculator that can help you figure out what your daily commute should cost you.
Then we took the money we make and subtracted all of the expenses from it. In our case there was a small surplus. If you don’t have a surplus, you need to do some figuring until the numbers balance. It’s better if you have a surplus to work with. Our surplus wasn’t as big as we would have liked. Eating out less often and doing our grocery shopping at Aldi helped us improve the numbers. We adopted the envelope system to keep things honest.
We did two things with the surplus. First, each of us got a small pool of money every month that we could spend on whatever we wanted. This helps us feel less deprived.
The other thing we did was make a list of things we wanted. One of the items on the list was a car. We started setting money aside for those things and bought them when we had enough money. Having a plan for buying some of these things helped us feel less deprived and without sacrificing any financial security. It’s possible to save up some money pretty fast even on a low income.
One more thing you can do
There is one more thing you can do for your husband. I’m fortunate now to work for a boss who believes in me, but for most of my career, I didn’t. Sometimes my boss said he believed in me, but usually his actions said otherwise. One of the most important things my wife ever did for me was to tell me she believed in me. Working for guys who didn’t believe in me still stank, but I wasn’t married to them. My wife’s opinion was, and still is, more important.
This paid off later. At least I think it did. In 2015, I had an unexpected job opportunity come up. That job was going to be a stretch, but I thought I could do it. I interviewed, got the job, and hit all of my goals for the year in my first quarter.
The new job paid better, and of course that helped us meet our financial goals more quickly.
I’m not saying I got the job solely because she believed in me. But it made it easier.