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Money, power balance, personality difference!

(14 Posts)
errormessage Wed 06-May-15 10:35:18

I would really like some objective opinions.

DP and I have been together for 17 years. We met at 25. At the time we both worked in low-paid service industry jobs and earned similar salaries. Everything was split down the middle- food, bills, entertainment etc. We lived within our means and the relationship felt very "equal" IYSWIM.

Over the years I have struggled with depression and anxiety issues, mainly due to abuse I experienced as a child. My DP had a rough idea of what happened but I didn't discuss it with him in great depth because I'd got into the habit of burying it. So it manifested itself in other ways. I struggled with self-confidence and assertiveness and this affected my working life. I continued to work in fairly low-paying jobs and over the years my salary didn't really increase that much.

In contrast, DP's career has soared. He has worked for the same company since we got together and has risen through the ranks to the point where he now earns about 40K more than me. He has therefore been able to save a lot, he pays for our holidays and most (not all) of our meals out, etc. It also means that when things need replacing, mending etc he finances it all. I pay most of the utility bills and vet and cattery fees and he pays the mortgage and a few other things.

Three years ago I had a breakdown. I had been going to counselling sessions to try and resolve my past, and these had stirred up very painful memories for me that ended up affecting my working life to the degree that I made a few huge errors at work and was fired. My DP was very supportive; it wasn't easy for him to have to listen to the things about my past that I now needed to talk about, but he was loving and patient.

I was unemployed for over a year. During this time I was in a kind of slump, coming to terms with my childhood issues and sort of wallowing, I suppose. Our relationship became completely imbalanced. I was totally dependent on him; whereas we'd been equal partners, I became like a child and he was the parent. Of course it also meant the entire financial burden was on his shoulders, with all the stress that entails.j

18 months ago I found a new job. Still a fairly low salary but higher than I've earned before and with lots of opportunities for promotion. I love it. I have had CBT and have come out of the slump I was in. These days I am much more confident and I feel "back in the world" again.

My DP has always been a bit "tunnel visioned". If something needs doing, he will focus completely on that to the exclusion of everything else. Which can be a useful trait. By contrast, I am admittedly a bit crap at noticing things that need doing. Over the years it's been a source of frustration for my DP and I have tried to be more focused.

We now have a situation where we both need new cars. He is buying them both and I am going to pay him back via a standing order. I have researched models, prices etc but because of how things have always been with us, and because of his tendency to always assume the burden for everything, he has decided that he is buying 2 cars and it's causing him a lot of stress. We've also just had our bathroom renovated and he paid for this.

Last night we had a row because he was getting so stressed out about the car situation, and the fact that he pays for all the big things and feels he has to sort out everything and manage every situation. I was trying to explain that I do what I can, I'm not the person I was a few years ago, I very much appreciate his high income and I am always grateful to him.

For most of the time we have a good relationship. We have a lot of fun together, shared interests, great sex, and a very deep friendship. But this money thing keeps cropping up and I don't know what to do.

Sorry for the length! Opinions welcome!

MatildaTheCat Wed 06-May-15 13:10:24

Difficult one. Within marriage or very long term relationships there will always be some financial inequality unless you both earn exactly the same. However, it shouldn't matter because both contribute different things to a relationship.

You've been unwell and for that reason your DP had to shoulder all the responsibility. Now you are well you need to regain some responsibility in your partnership. Are there areas you can step up and take more control? Planning household running, researching holidays, looking at alternatives to two new cars? He needs to let you become a functioning adult again.

I don't earn at all but we share and DH doesn't resent that at all.

errormessage Wed 06-May-15 14:08:13

Thanks Matilda. I think a huge part of the problem is that, in his words, I "disappeared" for so long that he got used to having to run everything. He's also told me that he finds it hard to "trust" me again, because the breakdown I experienced was pretty scary and he struggles to accept that I've come through it. However, it is definitely part of his personality to shoulder responsibility, deal with things himself etc.

I take care of a lot of the household running- I always deal with the cat (vet, cattery when we go on holiday), I remind him of his relatives' birthdays, I do the lion's share of the housework and cooking. I suppose I feel uncomfortable having much of an input regarding decisions on big expenditure because it's not my money. So I will do things like research holidays, but I give him the responsibility of rubber-stamping every big decision.

pocketsaviour Wed 06-May-15 15:11:38

I'm not sure I fully understand the row . You said "he has decided that he is buying 2 cars" - but that is exactly what he's doing, isn't it?

Is he stressed because you're expecting him to decide what car you want? Sorry if I've misunderstood.

errormessage Wed 06-May-15 15:17:56

Hi. Sorry, I didn't articulate that very well. The problem is that he feels not only is he buying himself a car, he has to buy me one too. Because I can't afford one on my own. But instead of just transferring the money to my account he feels he has to take on the entire buying process as well. Because he feels I am incapable of doing it myself, mainly due to how I was during my period of mental illness. Despite me actively researching car models, prices etc.

Isetan Wed 06-May-15 16:38:17

I think you need to start taking back some responsibilities of making the bigger decisions. He is not the parent and you are not a child, your past difficulties were an obvious contributory to your current relationship dynamic but your recovery has greatly diminished the necessity for that dynamic. However, old habits die hard and couples counselling could be an excellent opportunity to look at your current dynamic and negotiate a new one.

pocketsaviour Wed 06-May-15 18:40:30

OK that makes more sense, thanks for explaining smile

Maybe this car purchase could be a good opportunity for you to start stepping back into your adult role? Or at least provide a stepping stone for discussions about how you're going to do that. It's obviously stressing him out, and I can't imagine it's doing much for your confidence?

errormessage Thu 07-May-15 09:44:32

Thanks for the replies. Isetan, I have considered counselling but I've had so much of it over the last few years that I feel a bit "counselled-out", IFSWIM! And my DP wouldn't go. He would hate the idea of it. But I may consider it and try to persuade him.

Pocketsaviour you're right, this really does nothing for my self-confidence! I rang the car showroom today to get more info and when I rang DP back he was talking over me a lot and there was this general feeling that he didn't believe I had all the facts and figures. Even though I had. I think I need to sit him down and come up with some sort of plan whereby he covers the big financial stuff and he lets go of the reins and learns to leave me to deal with the minutae.

It's just proving so hard for him to trust me with things.

Quitelikely Thu 07-May-15 10:42:49


Do you know what car you want?

Buying one isn't hard at all. Me and dh went to look at cars for me. We choose the model, paid a deposit then I went back another day and the saleswoman completed all the paperwork by asking me questions.

There really isn't a lot involved.

It will be good for your esteem to do this yourself.


Congratulations on your new job and lease of life. Keep plodding onwards and upwards

YDdraigGoch Thu 07-May-15 10:46:23

We don't have his and hers money - never have and have never understood couples that do. Over the years each salary has fluctuated quite considerably, but we both take the view that whatever we earn is for the common good, and not belonging to an individual. That's the vow you make when you get married.
Can you get your DP to see it that way?

WhoNickedMyName Thu 07-May-15 11:02:56

You say you do the research, etc, but then hand over the responsibility of 'rubber stamping' your decisions to your DP - you need to stop doing that.

You need to decide what car you want and stop bothering him with the minutiae, my DH would go berserk if I phoned him at work (I'm presuming he was at work?) about something like this. Couldn't it have waited until this evening when he was at home, (hopefully) more relaxed and open to a conversation about this?

You can't have it both ways. You can't complain that he feels he has to manage every situation - when you're the one asking him to manage every situation.

errormessage Thu 07-May-15 11:50:05

WhoNickedMyName you have given me pause for thought there. He had asked me to ring him today because he wanted the information and also he was going to transfer money to me. But I should have told him I would get all the info myself, that he needn't concern himself with it and that I would tell him what I was going to do when I saw him after work. You are quite right, I am in this habit of doing the groundwork and then handing it all over to him for the final decision and I MUST stop this.

Car has been ordered, all documents in my name and I will be sorting out my own insurance, as I should. For the last few years DP has paid my insurance.

chelle792 Thu 07-May-15 11:57:55

Just a small comment. I was in a relationship and had some MH problems. OH took on the "burden" and never quite let go of the parental role afterwards. I viewed it as a trust issue. He wanted to make my life easier afterwards, he didn't trust me to 'remain well', etc. Would couples counselling help or for him to have individual counselling? MH can have a massive impact on the other partner. He saw you suffer and 'had to be supportive' when it was probably really hard for him to see you experience that.

paddlenorapaddle Thu 07-May-15 12:05:38

Well take the decision out of his hands then, find the car you want within a reasonable budget and say "i've found the car I would like it cost x come and have a test drive with me. Will you please transfer the funds for me. So if i like it then I can buy it.

If you stop asking for permission he'll stop having to give it, it'll be rough at first but you can do it.

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