My husband heatedly argued that it’s not fair that I “get to spend so much more of our money” on my family. But in my mind, now that we are married we both share one big combined family. And by using his arrangement we are saying his brother is worth more and deserves nicer gifts than my siblings. On a side note, I actually constantly get the feeling from him that my family members as well as my friends aren’t ever as good or as important as his. He always has something negative to say about each of them, and, while one of his friends can drop by and spend the night on our couch without it ever being mentioned to me, it can turn into a huge heated debate if I even ask to have one of my friends over. It’s really starting to hurt my feelings and my self-esteem.
Am I out of line here? Is it selfish to want to spend the same amount on each of my siblings as he does on his, when I have four times as many? Or is he being unfair by segregating our families like this? Help! — Our Families Our Worth the Same
Nope, you’re not out of line. Your husband is being unreasonable here. You’re right that, once you’re married, you combine families. His family becomes yours and vice versa. To continue segregating your families of origin, even in the symbolic gesture of allotting gift budgets “per family” instead of “per family member,” you send a statement that you, as a married couple, are segregated. And where do you draw the line with the family segregation? Sure, it’s just a gift budget you’re talking about here, but gifts aren’t the only financial (and time) obligation that might pop up in terms of your families (and friends) over the course of your married life together.
Do you have a budget for how much money you’ll spend traveling to see each of your separate families (and friends)? Do you budget your time with each of them? What if, God forbid, something were to happen to one of your immediate family members that put him or her in a position of requiring physical or financial support (like a loan to pay off a big medical bill, for example)? Is there a cap on how much support you give one spouse’s family before you have to make sure you are investing the same kind of support in the other spouse’s family even if the need isn’t the same?
Throw in your comment about your husband always having something negative to say about your family members and friends and the fact that any time you want to invite a friend over it turns into a “heated debate,” and this becomes much, much more than just budgeting for gifts. Your husband is not treating you — and the each of people you are closest with — as an equal. He sees your circle of support as separate from his inner circle and, more troublesome, he believes his family and friends are worth more. Does that mean he thinks HE is worth more, too, then? One might surmise so.
I would recommend using this budget disagreement — and the more general decision to save for a house — as an opportunity to have some discussions about the state of your relationship and some of these issues that bother you. It wouldn’t hurt to seek the guidance of a marriage counselor to help nip in the bud these problems that could potentially grow larger than either of you can manage and that threaten to cause real and lasting damage to both your marriage and, as you said, your self-esteem. As I said, this is about more than just making a gift budget for family. I hope, despite disagreeing on that particular point, that you can at least both agree that your marriage is every bit as worth investing in and sacrificing for as a new house.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].