Surviving the First Year of Marriage: Breadwinner

Surviving the First Year of Marriage: Breadwinner
Dr. Phil speaks with newlyweds about what they should've discussed before they got married.

Liz and Robert never discussed finances before they got married and now money is their biggest problem.For example, they disagree on what furniture to buy and what restaurant to go to. "I enjoy the fine service, quality food, and a wonderful experience for the evening," says Liz. "He enjoys a buffet because he likes the quantity of food." Emphasizing how frugal her husband is, she adds, "He clips coupons. He keeps track of every nickel that goes out."


Robert, who grew up very poor, says, "I don't think I'm cheap, I think I'm a very choosy and wise spender." But he thinks his wife's tastes are too rich. "When Liz talks about buying anything, I see dollar signs," says Robert.


Liz feels unappreciated because Robert makes most of the money and he gets the final say in the decisions. She asks Dr. Phil for help on how to get her husband to treat her like an equal when she doesn't make the money he makes.

Dr. Phil tells them that they have very different values. For Liz it's quality, for Robert it's quantity. "Did y'all discuss this before you got married?" he asks.


Liz doesn't think so. Robert explains that they recently purchased a house and they're living in a city that is not cheap. They negotiated with each other on the house they bought, but Liz feels there's resentment because they spent more than Robert wanted.


Dr. Phil explains that people are driven by different motives. Liz is driven by the desire for certain things in her life, and Robert is motivated by fear. "I think you've been poor, you don't want to be poor again, and you fear bad decisions putting you back in a bad spot," he says.


Robert agrees: "Being destitute is one of my biggest fears."

"I don't think money is your issue here, it's the topic," says Dr. Phil. "The issue here is that you guys didn't do your homework before you married."
Dr. Phil says they need to negotiate a plan that both of them can be excited about rather than clashing over. He explains that Robin handled the bills when they first got married. He asks Robin, "In all the years, have I ever had a checkbook?"


"Never," Robin says.


"I bet I haven't written a check in..."


"Never," she says. "I paid all the bills, and handled everything that concerned money."


Dr. Phil explains that it's a negotiated thing. He hates details, so he doesn't deal with the money. He also says that Robin is similar to Liz because she likes quality things as well. "Robin said, 'I would rather wait a year to get a really good couch, then get a crappy one today.' I mean, I'd rather sit down now. So we negotiated that over time."

Dr. Phil points out to Robert that because he didn't get married until he was 36, "That's a lot of years of having nobody to think about, consider or deal with on decisions except yourself." He adds that merging lives and finances is hard.


Dr. Phil explains to them that they are in a partnership, and if Robert knew Liz was going to make decisions based on the same goals he had, then he wouldn't be worried. "Can you come to some values that both of you embrace?" he asks.


He tells Robert, "Money in marriage is power. And if you control the money, you control the power, and if you control the power, she's going to rebel."


Dr. Phil tells them that he doesn't really think they have a problem, they just never sat down and tried to look at each other's point of view. "Stop complaining and start negotiating. You have to do that in a marriage," he says.