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Why Can't You See This My Way? - Part 1

Janice asks, "How much interest are we making on our savings account this year?" It's a simple question, but the reply from her partner of 13 years and now her wife could inadvertently start World War III.

"I don't recall. But why do you care? You asked me to handle our finances. I'm handling them. Are you supervising me now?" The question hit a real nerve for Katy.

At this point, Janice has a few choices:


  • Defend her question as an innocent one with no intent to challenge Katy

  • Assert her right to know what interest an account with her name on it and her money in it is earning

  • Assure Katy she wants her to handle the finances unsupervised and appreciates the effort involved

  • Dismiss her request and check with the bank to be sure Katy is not mishandling their money

  • Give Katy information she might not have about a new bank in town with interest rates that might be higher


If Janice is human, the one she picks first will likely have nothing to do with the real reason behind her question. Instead, it will be a reaction to what Katy's reply triggers in her. For this, reason, I am not going to reveal right now what Janice really hoped to get. But I am going to ask you to pick her best response and tell us why you think it's best.

When we have at least 3 comments, I will post part 2 of this tale.

Comments

#2 and #4 strike me as really bad choices, since both of them are likely to make Katy feel even more supervised or mistrusted. #3 might reassure Katy, but whatever it is Janice wants, I don't think this will get it for her. The same with #1. If her intention was to make sure they are getting the highest possible interest, then #5 is the way to go. In fact, it might have been better for her to lead with that information, rather than just asking how much interest they are earning, since this is a sensitive issue for Katy.

I think Katy's reaction to the question indicates there is something more going on for her than the surface question. So the response for Janice I would prefer would begin by validating Katy's feelings and then seeking to understand what was behind them. To put the relationship first, Janice would do well to get her own emotional reactions under control and respond from the heart.

  • So it's not okay to ask.
  • You want to make the financial choices by yourself.
  • It feels intrusive to be asked.

I would recommend that Janice continue to validate what is going on for Katy until the underlying issues are revealed (as I believe they will be). They may have nothing to do with Janice, or they may be something she has been doing that has been bothering Katy for awhile.

Only when Katy is feeling heard and understood will she be open to hearing any of Janice's thoughts.

Oh those triggers. They are STILL the hot buttons my ex and I have to negotiate carefully, like minefields, even five years post-separation, even though we are truly the most amicably divorced parents I know. Great post - and my answer is the last one - "Give Katy information...." Non-challenging, non-confrontational, reinforces the team component of marriage, reduces the "adversarial" atmosphere. How'd I do?!

I'm going with:

"Assure Katy she wants her to handle the finances unsupervised and appreciates the effort involved."

As an opener to anything else she may say after the above is shared.

Hmmmm....Or maybe

"Give Katy information she might not have about a new bank in town with interest rates that might be higher." Maybe in a way that tells Katy you value her hard work though.

As I read this, another possible answer to Katy's response occurs to me. Janice could ask Katy a question, "Katy, you seem upset by my question about our finances. Is something bothering you about my wanting to know about them?"

As I read this, another possible answer to Katy's response occurs to me. Janice could ask Katy a question, "Katy, you seem upset by my question about our finances. Is something bothering you about my wanting to know about them?"

Oh the triggers financial discussions can bring up. I would be inclined to reassure Katy that you are just checking in to be supportive and work together. Katy may initially take such questions personally. It depends on the history in the relationship and the trust in place. I think option #5 would be one least likely to further upset Katy but it still may not lead to a closer connection.

This is a tough one because Katy sounds very sensitive where money is concerned. Janice may simply be making a factual comment but Katy is in feeling mode. The last comment is the least likely to further upset her. When things are calm they may find a way to discuss money based on a history of trust and respect or it may be a sign that they need to support each other more.

The last response: Give Katy information she might not have about a new bank in town with interest rates that might be higher. But, preface it with, "Today I heard of a new bank opening in town and I wondered how our interest rate compared with theirs.

I'd go with #1, but considering my history with money ANYONE yelling or reacting defensively to a question like that will put me in an angry funk for a week. The smart reply would be, "You seem upset by my question. Can we talk about it?" A lot depends on the existing relationship and how able we are to communicate at healthy levels.

Well, since this IS the assume love website, we should go back to the original question. Janice posed a loaded question to start, which on the surface seems innocent, but its also very loaded and leading. Katy should assume that Janice is asking the question out of love and respect, but I don't believe thats where the question came from. The question comes from a place of doubt and angst and mistrust. So before a question like this is posed, the asker needs to better phrase the question and "give away" what he/she is getting at/driving at by asking the question. Katy's job is to assume love and respect, and if there is confusion about the question, probe further before losing it completely. option #3 is the only option that gives the benefit of the doubt and assures the spouse of trust.

Just responding to Matt's comment. Sometimes a question like that might come from doubt and mistrust. But in my experience that is usually not the case. I handle most of the bank accounts in my marriage, and my husband trusts me completely. But now and then he gets to wondering where we stand and he asks me for an update. I'm not offended. It's possible that he might be thinking about a bank with better interest or a different kind of investment. Or he might be wondering how many more years before we can retire securely. We are partners planning for a future together, so his interest and input is always appropriate.

Rosemary, you have a generally very nice and healthy marriage type of sentiment. However, the way the original question was phrased did not come from the place of trust and truth and love and respect you describe. I will be SHOCKED if Patty Newbold posts the next article and it came from a general place of mild curiosity. In general I fault the original question, not the reply, though I think the reply was obviously calloused, takenaback and from a place of hurt. Again, this is the assumelove website, so I'm going against the grain here, but clearly the only proper answer is #3 because it is the only one that is genuinely generous.
#1 option to defend the innoquous nature of the question is silly because such a question is not innoquous
#2 "assert" is a bad word here, so this is obviously not the right choice
#4 dismissing a spouses request for anything is foolhardy and the 2nd part of this is very untrusting
#5 uses the "club of inadequacy" which I hate ...

I haven't read the next post ... lets see where this leads :)

1 - Defend her question as an innocent one with no intent to challenge Katy

Followed by explaining why she did ask -- is there a new interest rate? does she want to talk about refinancing? taking a vacation? just checking in?

Some mention of how Katy does a lovely job paying the bills, etc. would be good too.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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