One of my biggest pet peeves is budgeting. Well it’s not really the budgeting part, it’s when I set a grocery shopping budget and Nate and I set out to follow it and suddenly somewhere along the way Nate asks me for something more. Up until this weekend I had no idea why it frustrated me so much.
Was it the thought of having to say no and disappointing him?
Was it the shame or guilt I felt for not having enough?
Both were feasible reasons, but when it happened again this weekend and I tried to connect the emotional dots – there was nothing there. Sure the rationale made sense but, I felt disconnected from the reasoning. Besides, even if there was some truth to it, it was hardly enough to make me overact and go flip mode.
Anyways, thankfully it didn’t erupt into an argument :).
Here’s the play by play:
We were down to the last few dollars of the budget and heading over by $5 with our purchase of the last item – the protein shake. I felt like we could’ve done without for the week, but Nathan absolutely must have his protein ($30 of our grocery budget *sigh*). I didn’t make an issue of it though, especially since he was willing to compromise by buying one type instead of two.
So, we’re standing in line when he suddenly realized that one container wouldn’t do. He was reading the package and noticed that it only had 17g per serving when he needed 30g (the amount in the Raw meal version he usually buys for himself). I’m thinking ok, that’s not so bad, at least we’re getting some, right?
But nooooooo, what on earth was I thinking? It was obviously under his 30g daily quotient which was unacceptable, so the question came. “Can we get this extra container too? It’s only $20.”
I stood there for a moment a bit confused. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the question. It was that I couldn’t comprehend why he was asking me. Did he think that some extra money just magically appeared in our account in the last few minutes? Or maybe it was because the last item already took us 5 bucks over, so what the heck why not another 20? I guess you know what my answer was. “Um….no.”
And that was it.
Well at least for him it was – not me though.
For 10 minutes I sat in the car silent. Fuming for the first 3 and then for the remaining 7, I wondered what was wrong with me. (Oh yeah I almost forgot, there was that one brief second where I wondered if I was married to an idiot –ooops!)
Why the heck did his question bother me so much? It was hardly the end of the world.
To be honest, I was the idiot. He didn’t force me to buy the item or make me feel bad for saying no. He simply accepted my answer and we walked out.
But for me, it wasn’t quite that simple because his question exposed a bigger issue. One I wasn’t willing to let go of this time because I couldn’t let one question have that much power of me.
So the rest of the drive home, I sat there combing through all the possible angles – asking myself, ‘what meaning was I ascribing to this?’ And like I said, all my attempts at answers sounded logical, but yet I wasn’t getting any freedom from them. Nothing felt right until suddenly…I saw an image.
A piece of paper on a kitchen counter that I saw as a child like clockwork every two weeks. It was my mother’s handwriting with some numbers adding up the weekly bills.
That was the extent of my parents money discussions – a piece of paper. She would tally up everything, split it in two and then my dad would leave his portion of the expenses on the counter.
When it came to handling the finances in my family, my dad was relatively absent. He always seemed a bit clueless to me and my mother seemed to have all the control and I hated it. It wasn’t the only thing I disliked about their relationship, but it was a reminder. Everything always felt so separate and I swore that when I got married my husband and I wouldn’t be that way.
Money and all our decisions would be made together.
When I reflected on that picture, I realized that it was the root of what was bothering me.
It wasn’t reality, it was the interpretation I chose to see.
My perspective was this: If Nate and I already discussed our budget and we made a decision together, then we were on the same page. But in that moment, I guess the meaning I was ascribing from his question was that suddenly, he wasn’t.
My conclusion: I was the only one carrying the responsibility of the budget. I was the only one to have the discipline to say no.
And that, unreasonably so, made me feel like my mother and I was looking at him the way I pictured my father without even realizing it.
He was clueless and I was the one in control.
The truth is, our relationship is soooooo far from that. It’s almost laughable that I could come to that conclusion. But that’s what emotions do sometimes. They take actions out of the context that they’re in and place them inside stories of the past. And suddenly something so innocent potentially becomes the most pain inflicting experience in the world.
Anyways, no harm done this time 🙂 and my perspective is much clearer thanks to a little internal work and the willingness to ask this question instead of overreacting.
‘What meaning am I ascribing to this?’