Tuesday, September 03, 2013
A little infidelity, a little cheating, is OK in a marriage -- or even protective of it -- if the sneaking is just about money. Note the emphasis on "little."
Take handbags. Some time back, The Wall Street Journal reported on a woman who kept a secret stash of cash so she could buy very expensive handbags without disclosing the prices to her husband.
"He just wouldn't understand," was her explanation. And he probably wouldn't have.
Men in my experience think paying more than $100 for a handbag is extravagant, and besides, how many do you need? They certainly can't wrap their minds around "it" handbags costing thousands (nor, frankly, can I), which this woman felt she had to have.
Her husband, meanwhile, might well have been collecting the latest in cameras, computer stuff, TV screens, sound systems and other nonessentials of life. He would have his rationales.
I know a man who marvels at the money his wife spends on clothes but saw nothing extreme in his buying a second car, a roadster. The car is transportation, he insists. Right. Like an $85 bottle of aged balsamic vinegar is food.
They don't fight over it. He has his bank account and credit card. She has her bank account and credit card. Never the twain need meet.
I know this discussion will disgust some of you for its cynicism and passive acceptance of consumerism running amok. Also, it seems to ignore the plight of financially struggling families for whom discretionary income is close to nil.
Make moral judgments if you wish, but there remains the right to blow one's own money in whatever (legal) direction one chooses. Furthermore, low-income people also need some luxury for relief, even if it's a $3 cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Many therapists and advice columnists reject my view that couples should not work on what is, in effect, a rift in values. But there is an alternative to flogging old resentments and harming a relationship. It is to look the other way. A recent study at San Francisco State University found that older couples in long-lasting marriages handled conflicts over money by changing the subject.
If hiding some purchases keeps the peace, is that so awful? Those engaged in the practice don't think so and offer their strategies.
Mail-order boxes can be delivered to the office. Others limit their luxuries to experiences that leave no trace. No one need know you had a hot-rock massage.
And when caught red-handed with something new, one can engage in lawyerly parsing.
He: Is that a new dress?
She: Oh, I've had it for a while.
The truth: She bought it three weeks ago, which could be construed, one supposes, as "a while."
But back to the word "little." There have been cases of spouses quietly invading their 401(k) retirement plans to cover heat-of-passion big spending. That's very bad. There must be some meeting of the minds on certain goals, retirement being one of them.
A happy medium might be to reach an accord on covering the basic costs of living -- and saving. After that, everyone is on his or her own.
The notion that leaving room for mild financial dalliance promotes healthy relationships is shared by no less an expert than Dr. Phil.
"Everyone should have some financial freedom," he wrote. "Whether $5 or $500, discretionary income is a must for any partnership. If you want to run it through a shredder, it ought to be your right to do so."
Clearly, when a mate sneaks off to buy a shiny new thing the other half sees no point in, there's an alternative to "fight or flight." It's "ignore."
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @fromaharrop. To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2013 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentary.
See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.