IN OUR book, Love Isn’t For Cowards, we make the argument that the main thing to remember when dealing with finances is that most matters concerning money in a relationship aren’t really about money at all. And without fail, with every couple we consult with that has a financial challenge, we find that the problems they have run far deeper than what is reflected through their finances. What you are in a relationship with is someone’s character and their financial behaviour is a reflection of that character.
SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
Your problem is far beyond finances. What you call “my man” is actually a child. He is not only irresponsible, but selfish, immature and shows utter disdain for you, the relationship and the children. His unfortunate sense of entitlement drives him to think he can be reckless with money in spite of the responsibilities he has. He believes he is not obliged to provide any financial support in the house. And it’s that very sense of entitlement that reveals another attitude – the fact that he has little concern for how you feel about the situation. It seems not to bother him that you’re upset, you’re paying the bills, and you’re on the verge of giving up. This is not good!
We believe that at the point where you were supposed to negotiate your terms in your relationship, you may have fallen into the trap many couples all over the world trip over. You may have underestimated the practicality of commitment in merging two lives together, and subconsciously limited it to just “love” and emotional attachment. Or even more typically, you may have assumed that he is financially literate. You have totally different financial priorities, and therefore attitudes towards money as a couple. Hence, it goes without saying that as your man is financially reckless and a negligent financial planner, it will negatively affect the overall longevity of your relationship. Your man needs to understand that it’s not just money he is throwing away, it’s you; it’s the relationship; it’s the kids and in fact, his life.
It’s understandable that financial struggles can cause strain in the relationship, because how you spend money is never just about the money. Money reveals beliefs and attitudes about what you value most, and furthermore reveals deeper character issues about you. We suggest you have an honest heart-to-heart with him. Perhaps don’t talk about the money problem necessarily. Find out about his background, how he grew up, what his values are, what his family’s attitude towards debt was while growing up, and what his future plans are. The point to this, you want to understand how he frames his attitude towards life based on his worldview. You want to find out what he is short of in his life that he seeks to overcompensate so much for. Many of us overspend to deal with deeper issues.
Try not to scold him, but instead understand where he’s coming from. You may find that seeking therapy for the obvious underlying issues would benefit him and your relationship. Secondly, you also want to find out how he really feels about you, and whether or not you feature at all in his future. Paying lip service in this regard will be unhelpful. At this point, you want tangible plans. He also needs to advise what his action plan is towards taking responsibility for his own children.
You want to find out if he understands the damage he is causing his children by being uninvolved in their lives, thereby dumping the financial responsibility on you. And lastly, it’s important to legally protect yourself. Cohabitation is not recognised as a legal relationship in our South African law. There is therefore, no law that regulates the rights of partners in a cohabiting relationship, unlike marriage. We suggest you engage the services of a family lawyer to talk about a cohabitation agreement. He may overreact to this suggestion. But it is very necessary. If he continues to put your children and the household in jeopardy by behaving irresponsibly with money, you will have to take measures into your own hands to ensure your own financial stability. The other option, of course, is to simply end the relationship.