Yesterday I opened my inbox and found an email with the subject line “Selfish Husband” waiting for me. “My husband is selfish, selfish, selfish,” the email began.
“I just read your post about family financial meetings,” it continued. “Your family meeting sounds like a great solution for considerate couples, but it won’t work for me. My husband is selfish with his money! All my husband cares about is money! He only cares about himself and his own financial needs. My husband spends money on himself, but not on me.”
This woman’s husband bought whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. He was always putting his wants above the rest of the family. After ten years of fighting about money, she was at her wit’s end. She was mad, agitated, and downright pissed off at her selfish husband.
Why Would a Husband Act Selfishly?
In full disclosure, I’ve never felt this way towards my husband. We began hosting family financial meetings in 2006, and I’ve never felt enraged by his financial choices or purchases. As far as I know, he’s never felt ill will towards my financial decisions either.
For a moment or two, I wasn’t sure how to respond. Did I have any advice to share? I wasn’t too sure. Then I remembered a similar conversation I once had with a former male coworker of mine. I’ll call him D.
D loved to spend money on new technology. He happily plunked down money for video games, new iPhones, and upgrades to old equipment.
“My wife tells me I’m selfish,” he once told me, “but I don’t think I’m selfish at all. I wouldn’t mind if she upgraded her gadgets.”
“These things don’t break our budget, but she says I’m a selfish husband for buying them. It causes a fight every time it comes up. I’m tired of her nagging me to stop buying things I enjoy.”
After a while, my coworker and his wife became locked in a repeated cycle of arguments. D wanted to spend money on techie stuff. His wife said he was selfish for buying it. They got into fights whenever he brought a new device home.
One day I asked D if his partner ever got upset about any of his other purchases. “No,” he told me. “She only gets mad when I buy phones, computers, and other gadgets.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “What if you bought something else?”
“Like what,” he asked.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I just noticed that D only seemed to fight with his wife about technology. Would she be angry if he paid for an expensive trip or spent money on pricey home renovations?
He wasn’t sure, so he went home and asked her.
Is Your Husband Acting Selfishly?
“Your gadgets are selfish because you are the only one who uses them,” D’s wife told him. “If you spent money on vacations and home renovations, it would benefit the whole family. “
D’s wife paid the bills. She wrote checks and swiped her credit card for the children’s clothing, sports activities, and utilities. Month after month, she watched the money leak from their checking account.
After paying the bills, D’s wife couldn’t bear to spend any remaining money on herself. She was angry that D didn’t feel guilty about spending money like she did.
She condemned D’s selfish behaviors and begged him to spend money on the “whole” family. D’s wife made her needs secondary, and she wanted D to do the same.
D argued that they had plenty of money for both of them to spend the way they saw fit. D urged his wife to spend money without feeling guilty about it. “You don’t need to feel guilty either,” he told her, but she wasn’t convinced.
My Husband Says His Money Is His
“I’m not like her friend’s husband,” D said after they talked. “Her husband says, ‘his money is his’. He tells his wife, ‘it’s his money, and she can’t dictate how he spends it.’ Her husband doesn’t share his money. He makes her ask for it. Beg for it, really.”
“I know she thinks I’m like him. She sees me as a husband who makes all the money and is unwilling to share it, but I’m not. I’m willing to let her spend it too,” D said with a sigh.
Money and Emotions
Why were my coworker and his wife fighting? Was it really about the gadgets he was purchasing or was there a deeper issue going on?
As a long time coworker and quasi money mentor, I pushed D to dig deeper into his financial fights. Why did he keep arguing about money with his wife?
One day I asked D to describe his relationship with money. He told me he came from an affluent family where money was never an issue or a concern. His wife grew up in a family that constantly struggled to pay the bills.
Could this be part of the problem? D and his wife approached money from two different sides of the same coin. She wanted to save their money while D wanted to splurge from time to time.
“My gadgets aren’t breaking the family budget,” D told me. His wife disagreed. She called him a selfish husband every time the topic came up. Was he an inconsiderate husband?
Saver or Spender?
This situation was so familiar to me. My husband also comes from an affluent family, but I do not. I need a lot of money to feel safe and secure. I suffer from a scarcity mindset.
D’s partner was afraid they would run out of money. I recognize that fear. I can spend money on my children, husband, and house, but I rarely spend money on myself. It’s a problem that has plagued me for most of my life.
What happens when one partner wants to spend money, and the other wants to tuck it away for safekeeping? The saver feels troubled watching money walk out the window. The spender feels frustrated and trapped.
Talking Openly and Honestly About Money
I talked to D in-depth about my financial frustrations. I told him how hard it was to watch my husband spend money without fear or stress and how much I worried he would spend money without telling me.
D wanted to talk openly and honestly to his wife. He gathered their financial information and hosted a family financial meeting of his own. He documented the family’s net worth, bank account balances, and monthly bills.
Then he created a spreadsheet listing his technical gear and expenses. He wanted to prove that his purchases didn’t impact their budget.
But an interesting thing happened along the way. D’s expenses turned out to be more than he imagined. Suddenly D understood why his wife was calling him a selfish husband.
D’s spending was impacting the family budget. It wasn’t a significant impact, but it was larger than he imagined.
Setting a Budget for Individual Expenses
D and his wife sat down to discuss his findings and develop a way to move forward.
He talked to his wife about the emotional impacts of spending and saving. While he understood his wife’s fear of spending, he did not feel the same. In his opinion, this didn’t make him a selfish husband. He simply wanted to enjoy the money he earned.
As a reasonable man, D realized that he could spend money with a plan. So he approached his wife and explained that he needed more fun in his life. My husband has often said the same thing to me.
D didn’t want to give up the things he loved just because he was a married father. He created line items in the budget for fun money—a fund for himself, his wife, and one for things they would both enjoy.
My Husband Doesn’t Share His Money With Me
The best way to start a conversation about money is to gather the facts. Look at your income and expenses and determine how much money your spouse is spending on items that don’t benefit the two of you.
Search through the credit card expenses and ATM withdrawals to figure out where your money is going.
Then ask yourself. Is your husband selfish? Is he greedy with money? Does he spend all of your money on himself? Think carefully about these questions.
Will your husband share his money with you, because a selfish husband doesn’t share his money with his wife.
A Selfish Husband Spends Too Much Money
Does your husband spend too much money on hobbies? Is he purposefully spending a lot of money, or does he not realize how each small transaction adds up? If your husband is spending too much money on hobbies and habits is he selfishly disregarding other household expenses?
A selfish husband always puts himself first. He often does whatever he wants with little concern for his wife or family. He buys things he wants, then doesn’t have any money leftover. In these situations a husband often doesn’t help his wife financially.
He won’t stop spending money even after you lovingly and tactfully point out that you don’t have enough to pay for his purchases. He will frivolously spend money with little disregard for other family expenses or desires, including your own. In these situations, a husband often wastes money and then doesn’t have enough left over to pay bills.
A selfish husband often spends too much money but won’t admit it or won’t change his ways even though it diminishes the family bank accounts and causes emotional turmoil. He keeps buying things no matter what impact it has on your relationship or your finances.
A Selfish Husband Spends Money Without Telling You
As a couple, you should decide how much money you can spend without discussing it first. Together, you should agree on a spending limit; if you spend more than that amount, you have to talk it over with your spouse. Some couples set the bar at $50 while others agree to $500 or more.
Anytime you or your spouse choose to buy something over this spending threshold, you’ll need to talk about it. A marriage is a partnership, and both partners should have an equal say in large purchasing decisions.
In healthy relationships, couples discuss big purchases before making them. If your husband intends to purchase a pricey item, he should consult with you first.
A selfish husband buys things without telling you about his plans. I’m not talking about a small purchase here and there. I’m talking about big purchases like expensive electronics, cars, trucks, and vacations.
A selfish husband shows up with a brand new car in the driveway or an expensive home theatre system plastered on your living room wall. All high-priced items should be discussed and agreed upon as a couple regardless of who earns more money. So should less expensive, recurring costs, like hobbies, that can drain your bank accounts over time.
If your husband spends all your money on himself, he won’t have enough money to spend on you or the rest of your family. He can leave you feeling guilty for buying things for yourself too.
Is Your Husband Cheap and Selfish?
Sometimes a husband can act cheap and selfish at the same time. He may tighten the purse strings on his spouse’s purchases or belittle her for buying things he doesn’t deem necessary. These husbands are known for asking where all the money went when they know it went to pay for gas and groceries.
A husband like this appears cheap because he doesn’t want you to purchase products for yourself, your kids, or your home, but in this case, he isn’t cheap.
Cheap spouses don’t like to spend money on frivolous items. That makes sense, but if your husband is only classifying your desires as trivial, that isn’t cheap. If he’s further belittling your choices. That’s controlling.
In this case, you must ask yourself an honest question. Is your husband cheap and selfish, or is he attempting to control your relationship with money?
Does your husband limit his purchases or only those you wish to make? If he is truly cheap, he won’t want to buy anything for himself either.
A Selfish Husband Makes You Ask for Money
A selfish husband will often say his money is his. He’ll make you feel bad about paying household bills or buying things you need.
Does your husband make you ask or beg for money? That’s not how a marriage should work. You shouldn’t have to ask your husband for money or feel like your husband won’t give you money when you need it.
Instead, money should be placed in a bank account where you can easily access it via checks or debit cards.
It’s important to set money ground rules for your relationship. As a couple, you should discuss money management issues. Do you maintain joint accounts or separate ones? How much do household items cost? How much do you need for personal reasons each month?
My Husband Doesn’t Give Me Money
A selfish husband will make you ask for money and then not give you any when you ask for it. In a kind, committed relationship, you define the rules for money management so that you can both access the cash you need when you need it.
Unfortunately, financial abuse does happen in relationships. Financial abusers use money as a means to control a partner’s ability to acquire or manage financial resources.
Abuse can take many different forms. Sometimes a wife is not permitted to work. Other times the husband manages all of the money and refuses to allow the wife to access any funds without receiving permission first. These actions are beyond selfish.
Talking About Money
Not all husbands are selfish, like D; some don’t realize how much they are squandering on themselves. To find out if you are married to a selfish husband, you need to talk about your finances together.
Before you schedule a time to talk with your partner, take a few minutes to think about your own relationship with money.
How do you feel about spending and saving, and how does that compare to your partner’s views? Do you need a lot of money to feel safe and secure? Do you suffer from a scarcity mindset? How does your partner feel, and how does that differ from you?
How can you talk about those emotions without calling your partner names? Calling your partner a selfish husband isn’t going to help. He will immediately become defensive. You need to understand your own relationship with money before you can start talking to him.
Once you understand your money mindset you can sit down for a calm conversation together.
Remember that you are working as a team, so try not to focus on the negative aspects of your spouse’s behavior. Instead talk about the comfort and security that money can provide.
If your husband spends too much money try to understand why he overspends. Did he grow up without a lot of money? Is he depressed or anxious? Is he spending to make himself feel better about his looks or life?
Overspending and selfish behaviors often stem from much deeper issues. To stop them you might have to uncover hidden truths about your spouse.
Seek Counseling When Appropriate
Some couples may need counselors or therapists to talk through their money issues together. If calm, rational conversations don’t work, consider seeking help to support you.
How to Stop Selfish Behavior
I don’t know if this information will help the reader who emailed me. Without a whole lot of details, it’s difficult to figure out if her husband is genuinely selfish or if he simply views money differently. Maybe he is a jerk. As an outsider, it’s tough to know. After all, what can I tell from one angry email?
I replied to that email with a ton of questions, but I haven’t received an answer yet. I hope the reader’s husband is a reasonable man like my friend D.
Math is such a small piece of financial arguments. Emotions play a much larger role.
I know the fights have continued for ten years, but I hope this reader and her husband can resolve their money issues together.