Hi, Christine. My name’s Alice. I’m 30, and I live with Josh. We’ve been together since our first weeks at university. We both work in marketing. We live in Brighton. I commute to London. Josh works locally.
We’re getting married next year. But I worry that our attitudes to money are totally different. I’m saving for our future. But Josh is always buying some new tecchie gadget or other. He also has two nights out a week with his male friends – and he goes through a hell of a lot of money on those evenings.
I don’t want to rent all our lives. I want to buy a place. But Josh isn’t a great planner. He seems to think things will work out without any effort from him, and won’t talk about money.
Christine: Many counsellors nowadays believe that money has become the biggest issue in people’s relationships. It’s certainly really hard to discuss. Many adults would sooner talk about contentious subjects like religion, politics and sex rather than finance. And yet it’s crucial for couples to sort out their attitude to it before they tie the knot.
Alice: I know! But Josh seems to think that being married shouldn’t change anything.
Christine: Maybe the two of you don’t just see money differently, but marriage too.
Alice: You’re probably right about that.
Christine: What does marriage mean to you?
Alice: I suppose it means growing up and going public about your love, and having children.
Christine: So why is Josh getting married?
Alice: Well, he loves me. And our sex life is good …
Christine: But those things are true now so what difference will marriage make?
Alice: That’s the trouble. He doesn’t want things to alter at all.
Christine: It sounds like you see being married as something different and grown up, and he doesn’t.
Alice: That’s exactly it.
Christine: So is that the big problem, or is it the money?
Alice: Not sure.
Christine: Does he pay his share of the bills?
Alice: Absolutely. And he’s generous. If we go out for a meal he’ll usually insist on paying.
Christine: So what is it about the ‘money conversation’ that he doesn’t want to have?
Alice: He thinks it’ll lead to a row.
Christine: Have you rowed in the past?
Alice: Yes it was awful. I shouted at him that he was like a spoilt child. And he screamed at me that I was nagging him and that he wasn’t ready to live a dull life, just so he could eventually buy a place. He thinks renting is fine, and that it gives you freedom and that if anything goes wrong, the landlord has to put it right.
Christine: And what do you think?
Alice: I resent giving money away to someone else and having nothing to show for it. Also I want to have a baby.
Christine: What is Josh’s view of having a family?
Alice: That’s another problem. He doesn’t want children. But my hope is that once we’re married and our friends start having babies, he’ll be more up for it.
Christine: How likely do you think that is? Give it a percentage. 100 per cent means it’s certain that he’ll change his mind, and 0 means no chance.
Alice: I think 50.
Christine: 50 per cent likely he’ll come round to the idea of having kids?
Alice: Maybe a bit less.
Christine: Well, this is obviously a big issue. I think it’s even more important than your differences about money.
Alice: He’s an only child. Is that important?
Christine: Well, it does mean that he’s not really used to having to share things. And if you have a baby, he’ll definitely have to share you with that child.
Alice: He wouldn’t be good at that.
Christine: How would you describe your love for Josh?
Alice: Well, we’re friends. He’s cuddly and fun …
Christine: You make him sound like a jolly nice Labrador.
Alice: There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
Christine: Not if you want a Labrador! But I think you’ve got to the stage where you want a grown-up husband who’ll be responsible about money, and who’ll be a good father.
Alice: You’re right. I think deep down I’ve been worrying about this for ages. But I don’t want to break up with him. I couldn’t be on my own.
Christine: On the other hand, things might get messy and confrontational if you go ahead and marry while your attitudes to these important things are so different. By the way, how do you know you couldn’t be on your own?
Alice: Well, I don’t know, because I never have been.
Christine: Sometimes when people have big differences and big decisions to make, they take a break from each other. That way they often learn more clearly what they mean to each other.
Alice: Maybe I should stay in London with my sister for a month, and see how I feel.
Christine: Perhaps you should. But you’ll need to agree some rules with Josh, like whether you’re going to have any email/text contact, and whether or not you can date other people. But a break might do one of two things. It could help you to accept that you want different things from the rest of your life, and that you should split up. Or it might help you see that you cannot bear to be apart – and that therefore you need to address your differences and learn to compromise. By the way, compromise would have to come from both sides!
Alice: I think a break will be hard, but I need to do something definite.
Christine: I agree, and no matter how hard it is, it must ultimately be better than getting married, knowing there are problems, and later getting divorced.
Alice: You’re right. My parents divorced, and it was messy. Thanks, Christine. I’m going to give this ‘break’ idea a go.
Christine Webber is a former TV news presenter. Since 1995, she has been an award-winning health writer. She is also a psychotherapist with a practice in Harley Street. She holds diplomas in integrative psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. And she also has numerous coaching qualifications. Christine is the author of 12 self-help and therapy books. Find out more at christinewebber.com.
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