Dear Emuna,

Every month when I balance the books, I’m appalled by the amount of money my wife spends. I react in a negative way, she responds in kind and we are both hurt and angry. The pattern repeats itself every time. What should I do?

Broke Husband

Dear Broke,

In my experience, men complain about the amount of money their wives spend every month, whether it’s $500 or $50,000, whether they can afford it or not. There are many factors at play here – expectations about money, childhood experiences connected to money, emotional response to money – as well as just plain practical issues.

Since it is frequently the women who do the grocery shopping and clothes shopping and outfit the home for the family, many men are unaware of the real costs of many standard household items. They also may not have updated their sense of what these items cost since the day they got married and turned these responsibilities over to their wives. But whether this is true or not, complaining about your wife and fighting with your wife over these issues is definitely not the correct approach.

The Torah suggests that you should honor your wife more than yourself, including with your money. The assumption is that these externals are more important to her and you should indulge her where possible (and within reason of course – which is very personal and certainly connected to your particular budget). If the challenge is that you would actually like to do that but you don’t have the resources and that’s what leads to the negative interaction, then obviously the issue needs to be addressed. And equally obviously, not in the ineffective and very possibly destructive style you have been using until now.

Begin with understanding that some of the expenses may be necessary and just not what you expected and that even the ones you deem unnecessary may be important to your wife. In addition, assume good intentions on her part. It is unlikely that she wants to bankrupt the family or even push your buttons.

Next, you need to refocus yourself. You want to give to her. It gives you pleasure to give to her. Therefore, if it is impossible to support her in this lifestyle to which she has become accustomed, tell her that gently – with love and regret, “I love you so much, I’d give you anything and everything your heart desires if I could but at the moment our expenses are greatly exceeding our income. “ And make her a partner in the solution. “What do you think we should do about it?” If you approach the situation with love and caring and an assumption of good will instead of frustration and recriminations, then I’m sure you can work it out. Again, remember that you want to give to her, that nothing gives you greater pleasure.

Depleted by Work

Dear Emuna,

I’m under a lot of pressure at work. There are a few big deals that are all coming to fruition around the same time and I’m very involved in all of them. When I get home I just want to go to my room and lock the bedroom door and lose myself in a book or a television show. I have no energy left for my husband and children. Needless to say, they are not happy with my goals and clamor for my attention. I feel like there’s nothing left of me to give. What should I do?


Dear Depleted,

I certainly understand what you’re saying. I think one factor that’s crucial here is the time frame. Are you describing a short, discreet amount of time during which you will be preoccupied with some big work projects or is this the way you live your life?

If it’s the former, then I think your family will be fine. They can tolerate your temporary emotional absence. And they may even learn some wonderful self-sufficiency in the process.

If, however, this is a description of your “normal” life, then something has to change. Not only are you being unfair to your husband and children, you’re not being fair to yourself. You can’t do it all and you can’t live in such a way that you never get quality time with your family. The lifestyle you’re describing sounds extremely unhealthy for you – the overworking, the stress – and I bet you’re not exercising or eating healthy either! And I cannot state more clearly that it is destructive to your family. They need you, more than your company does.

Once in a while, an emergency at work may arise or a deadline may loom but in general, it should be more controlled and not controlling. It may help if you set some boundaries for yourself – a fixed amount of hours you will work, refusing to bring work home, a regular lunch break etc. These are necessary for you to maintain your equilibrium and some sense of good cheer. A job is a means, a tool to help us provide for our family. It is not the goal of life and we hurt ourselves and everyone around us if we make that mistake. So, start a little later or leave a little earlier, stop at the gym or have snack on the way home. Do whatever you can to ensure that your family gets the best of you. Not only do they deserve it; you do as well.