Over-Spender Meets Under-Earner

A woman meets a man at the tennis courts...they’re both in the pro shop purchasing balls.

They date.

They fall in love.

On the surface, this looks like a dream come true; opposite money habits that fit like a piece of a jig-saw puzzle, but it’s actually a train wreck waiting to happen.

How can one tell during the dating dance, which is whom?

He impresses her with his late model BMW, takes her to fancy restaurants where the waiters wear long aprons and bow ties. He gets box seats for the theater, and floor seats for the Lakers. His job title sounds impressive, although she’s not clear exactly what it entails. She doesn’t ask. She’s swept away by his gallant manners and thoughtful gifts. She’s in love and is relieved that he appears to be financially stable, and this confirms her desire that having children and being home with them will come true.

What she cannot see are his feelings of shame and inadequacy, his feeling of never being “enough,” so he works hard, spends more, and lives right up to that edge which neither of them can see, yet.

She, on the other hand, went to an Ivy League school and now does marketing for a small company. She drives a modest car, lives in a charming pre-war building, and seems to have a low-key lifestyle. She knows she has shame about money. All of her friends are further along on the on the corporate ladder. She feels undeserving, and like him, nothing she ever does feels good enough.

They decide to marry and side-step the pre-martial money chat.

She thinks she’s safe now. He’ll provide financial security and they’ll live the life of luxury while thinking about when to start a family.

He’s in love. He feels he has won the lottery; she’s gorgeous, sophisticated; all the men want her; he loves showing her off and feels pride of “ownership” as one could say. She’s a “catch.”

They start a family, and the financial reality starts to kick in as their lives shift, expand and get more complicated. They have expenses they never had before, diapers, doctors, and daycare. And yet, he keeps spending as if their disposable incomes are still from two people; he now is the only earner.

Another child is born two years later, and the stress keeps climbing.

The irony is: they both have self-esteem issues played out in the financial arena. They are two sides of the same coin. When the financial fireworks start, he will be angry, covering up his shame. She will retreat feeling fearful, covering her vulnerability.

How to fix the conflict: TALK

Poor communication is the #1 reason people fight. When people lack the trust to talk, lack the correct words to use and lack the desire to really preserve what they have built, divorce is not far behind.

Catch the frustration before the meltdowns start and the search for a divorce attorney becomes a sport.

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