Money Talks: My Dream Budget Meeting Goes Flat

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Money Talks: My Dream Budget Meeting Falls Flat

As promised, this post is about my first budget meeting with my darling husband, Virgo Man –  a major milestone on the road to my dream of mastering my personal finances.

I wonder how many times I have written the following sentence in previous posts:

As in the way of all things, our money talk did not go exactly as planned.

I was ready – physically and emotionally. I had done all the work of gathering our individual and shared financial data. I had set up the software. I had learned how to produce the printed spreadsheet-like reports that Virgo Man prefers.

When the poor man got one foot in the door after his 45 minute commute home on Tuesday night, I said:

Are you ready? Because I’m totally ready! How about you? Should we just sit down and get it done? Let’s go!

I was like a slavering hound, really.  I failed to notice that Virgo Man didn’t seem so ready. Onward I forged. I would not be stopped.

I got him a beer, I got him a chair.

I walked him through the whole budget, detail by detail, stopping to ask if he had any questions, answering his questions when he had them.

And then – after a scant ten minutes – it was over. That was it. Done.

There was a brief pause, and then I said, brightly,

I think that went really well, don’t you?”

And Virgo Man said,

Sure, except I have no idea what I’m looking at.”

What could he mean? I whipped out the spreadsheet and said,

“But look! I made you a spreadsheet, and you LOVE spreadsheets!”

And he grumbled,

“I was used to the old software, and now you changed it again.”

What the…?

We haven’t had a budget meeting in nearly two years, and that’s the last time he saw that old software. Plus he intensely disliked it, which is partly why I changed to this NEW software. Why, I actually went shopping for software to find something that would suit his preferences.

The ingratitude of it all. I caught the whiff of a sulk coming on.

And then I stopped and realized something.

I have not been the only one avoiding money conversations.

That’s right, Dreamers! This is actually not all…about…ME!

Virgo Man has been right there with me. He and I colluded in our lack of money communication. I’ve even written about that several times (here and again here) – so I knew that going in.

Meanwhile, I have had you Dreamers to talk to. I have been able to puzzle out my personal list of financial obstacles and dysfunctions, take apart the machine, get it cleaned up, and start putting it back together. I’ve been in a process since December.

By contrast, Virgo Man walked in the door one Tuesday evening after a long day at work and a long commute home and got subjected to a finished product: Jayne’s Budget Meeting. And he wasn’t really in the mood to fall in love with it.

Later, after a solid restorative dose of Sharks hockey on TV, Virgo Man apologized to me for being grumpy. He thanked me for putting in the effort and for not escalating his grump attack by rising to the bait. And he said he wanted to try again next Tuesday night, and he would be more ready if I could be patient with him.

Here’s the thing about having flaws. It’s good that we have them, because they allow us to have compassion for others. We can feel the pain and frustrations that others feel about their own flaws, because we’ve felt something like that same pain and frustration, ourselves.

I said to Virgo Man,

“Of course I’ll be patient. Haven’t you been patient with me over this very same issue?”

I was glad to have the opportunity to say that. For the last month, ever since I confessed my financial sins to Virgo Man, I have been laboring to remember how saintly he is for not blaming me. I have not been able to get aggravated with him for leaving the toilet seat up, because, after all,  he forgave me.

I have felt constrained from complaining that he didn’t clear his place setting because, don’t forget,  he was so kind to me over the money thing. Thank God I’ve been able to pay that back so I can return to normal discourse.

In all seriousness, I’m glad we ended on an up note, but here’s partly what I learned from Jayne’s Budget Meeting. Just because I have begun to heal myself doesn’t mean Virgo Man is on the same page at the same time.

He’s got his money issues that he needs to work through too. Compassion reminds me to give him some space and time to catch up.

And here’s the other part:

  • Jayne’s Budget Meeting is actually not what a mature conversation about family finances should be.
  • Jayne’s Budget Meeting was my attempt to show up perfect, in an effort to make up for my previous failings.
  • Jayne’s Budget Meeting had no space in it for Virgo Man. He was just the audience at my show.
  • Jayne’s Budget Meeting was a reasonable first attempt, but there’s more work for us to do.

Chalk another one up to live and learn, and back to the drawing board.

Anyone out there have any suggestions for how to have a money talk as a conversation between two people, instead of a dog and pony show for one?


Jayne Speich is a small business coach/consultant who writes, thinks, and coaches extensively on customer service, business finance, and ways to thrive in the new economy. She is the owner of Onsys21 Dental, a coaching/consulting firm for dental practice owners. You can sometimes find her at Jayne’s post day is Saturday.

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  • Lisa

    @Jayne, great post ~ loved this quote: “Here’s the thing about having flaws. It’s good that we have them, because they allow us to have compassion for others. We can feel the pain and frustrations that others feel about their own flaws, because we’ve felt something like that same pain and frustration, ourselves.”

    Thank GOD our partners aren’t perfect right because then (*gulp*!) would we have to be too?!? I loved Rayne’s comment too about “it’s just money” ~ let’s talk about how scary it is then eat ice cream! Woohoo! ;)

    Very brave and honest on all sides here… I love you women :) And am learning from this as I am dating now and ready to step into a long-term partnership again sometime soon ~ looking at my OWN finances very honestly, and being ready and willing to have that conversation with someone else again is important (*gulp!* ;). I can do it too :)

    Love to all of you!

  • Rayne

    I love this post. Juicy! and honest! I went into my second marriage with financial secrets. The funny part is they were secrets I kept from myself! I really didn’t know what I owed – I was afraid to look. My new husband uncovered my sins pretty quickly and that was the biggest crisis we’ve ever had. It wasn’t really the debt, it was the secrets. We’re really a team now and have no debts and things are pretty simple. But I think key to attaining some level of peace on the topic of money in a marriage is that you have to be individually present and responsible first. Each has to face up to everything, really study it, be aware of what you are doing with your resources. Then you can have discussions and planning sessions without it getting all scary and emotional. It’s just money. A pile of dollar bills. Let’s talk about what goes where. Let’s talk about how frightening investing is. How scary the mortgage is. How scary rainy day funds are. Then let’s watch a movie and eat ice cream.

  • Okay, I’ll quote John Grey here from Women and Mars/Venus thingy –

    Why Men Go Into Their Caves

    Men go into their caves or become quiet for a variety of reasons:

    1. He needs to think about a problem and find a practical solution to the problem.

    2. He doesn’t have an answer to a question or a problem. Men were never taught to say “Gee, I don’t have an answer. I need to go into my cave and find one.” Other men assume he is doing just that when he becomes quiet.

    3. He has become upset or stressed. At such times he needs to be alone to cool off and find his control again. He doesn’t want to do or say anything he might regret.

    4. He needs to find himself. This fourth reason becomes very important when men are in love. At times they begin to lose and forget themselves. They can feel that too much intimacy robs them of their power. They need to regulate how close they get. Whenever they get too close so as to lose themselves, alarm bells go off and they are on their way into the cave. As a result they are rejuvenated and find their loving and powerful self again.

    Because I certainly can’t help you in the husband part! lol

    Congratulations on how far you are coming with this — great stuff!


  • Remy Gervais, Top Photographer

    you got me! the only person Ive really had that meeting with is myself. My second husband managed the data, and told me when he was displeased that I would spend on things like “extra packs of socks” – cause why dont you just buy what you need. now that my son is older we’ve had discussions about money in the context of chores and allowance but never planning. Great idea and patience is key! xox Rem good luck Tuesday. :)