When Your Man Gets Upset About Money

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In my surveys, the vast majority of men said the responsibility to provide for their family was constantly pressing on them; they were never free of it.

Have you ever seen your normally laid-back husband suddenly become uptight and just a little crazy when you come home with a trunk full of grocery bags? I mean, he needs to eat too, right? Where does he think his favorite chips come from? The budget is balanced, the bills are paid, there’s money in savings, and yet he gets tense when you take money allocated to groceries and … go buy groceries.

Or maybe it’s a pile of shopping bags from the mall.  Or the consignment store down the street. Maybe he’s even more of the spender in your family– and yet your purchases still seem to bother him!

Before you lose it, whack him with that bag of groceries, and accuse him of being unfair (Or judgmental. Or controlling.) take a moment to understand a secret pressure that is there inside. Here are four secrets about why he responds the way he does – and what you can do about it.

Secret #1: The shopping bags aren’t the issue – the pressure to provide IS 

Believe it or not, under that sensitivity to spending isn’t the heart of a control freak. Most likely, those shopping bags feel like psychological lead weights … because your man feels immense pressure to provide for you, the kids, the household.  And every dollar spent is a dollar he feels he has to make up somehow. Is that a fair feeling? Maybe not. Is it likely? Very.

The truth: your husband would likely feel the pressure to provide even if you spent hardly anything.  In my surveys for For Women Only the vast majority of men said the responsibility to provide for their family was constantly pressing on them; they were never free of it. Even when expenses were low, and even when a wife made enough money to support the family all by herself, 78 percent of men said they still felt this constant compulsion to provide.

Secret #2: Underneath the “Control” is . . . FEAR

If your man isn’t controlling in any other area but has those sorts of tense reactions to a huge pile of groceries or a set of shopping bags from the mall, his reaction probably isn’t about control but about fear: a deep and visceral fear that he won’t be able to keep up. It’s a fear that he will not measure up, not be good enough, and ultimately not be worthy of you.

There is probably far more insecurity wrapped up in your man’s compulsion to provide than you realize. In your man’s mind, providing is one of the key areas where he experiences the ongoing risk of failure. Most men are constantly, subconsciously, evaluating their current and future earnings prospects. There’s a deep-seated need to provide “enough” to support the family and make their wife and kids happy – and yet a deep-seated doubt that they are up to the job.

To you, all that fear may not seem logical. You have money in the bank, you’re sticking to your budget, the bills are paid — but the fear, to him, is real.  And is common to the vast majority of men.

Secret #3: He may not realize that money is not the only thing that matters to you

I know this sounds very weird, but bear with me. Deep in a man’s heart, there’s something that believes you primarily love him for what he can provide for you. As if being a great husband, great father, great listener, humorous story-teller, godly leader… none of that will matter to you if he doesn’t make enough money to provide the big house, the two-car garage, and the weekends at the lake.

In a man’s mind, “providing” means one thing: providing financially. Period. And for him, those hours of sweat and worry are a key way he feels he can say “I love you” to you and the other members of your household. To bring home the bacon, as they say, makes your husband feel worthy of you. So he sees you walking in the door with shopping bags as both an affirmation that he’s loving you well – and as confirmation that yep, this is what matters to her. He thinks, Okay, good to know: I have to keep the money churning along. So he takes more shifts at work, or stays more hours on the road, in order to do so.

Yet those extra hours often mean time away right when you most want him involved in the life of the family. What men often don’t realize (but we prove to them in the survey data of women from For Men Only) is that time, closeness, playing with the kids or being there to do the dishes usually matters just as much to women as all those extra things a man is working to provide financially. Guys have a hard time believing that we women mean it, but it is liberating once they grasp that we truly want them more than what they can provide. Which leads to our final secret.

Secret #4: If you share with him how you feel… he can be reassured. 

The most important thing you can do for the provider in your husband is to show him, day in and day out, that you appreciate all he does — whether that is providing income or providing closeness as a family — and that you want him more than all the stuff he is working so hard to provide.  Talk to him and ask about the pressures he feels.  Ask what you can do to make the pressure better.  Tell him what matters most to you.  And once he sees that you mean what you are saying — that you are totally willing to forgo the expensive vacation this year if he can work fewer evening shifts — he’ll start to believe that maybe, just maybe, you really mean it.

You won’t know how he feels — or be able to share how you feel — until you sit down and talk about it. Most likely, hiding beneath the behavior that is driving you nuts is a man who wants desperately to provide a good life for you, and to love you well.

 

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