Part 3: Partners & Money

In this post, I am going to give you tips from my own and others’ experience, strength, and hope about how to maintain your spending plan, abstinence, and sanity when you have a partner and are working the DA program. But please note that this is not the only way to work your program. You must ultimately find what works for you. These are just suggestions.

Tips for Those with Partners

  1. Take responsibility for managing the household money. By this, I mean that you should maintain the spending plan. In my home, my husband and I have separate accounts and each pay our own bills, so this is easy. However, in homes where money is combined, there will be a bit more complexity, which I will get to shortly. Let’s face it, if your partner has been handling the money and it was working out well, then you wouldn’t need this program, would you?People with whom I’ve spoken and sponsored take over managing the bills. This provides them with clarity and often, the partner is relieved to let go of this task.

    At first, partners who do not share this illness are excited and hopeful that life will become balanced and the insanity will come to an end. However, inevitably, there comes a point of resentment where the non-recovering partner feels threatened by the new behavior shaking up the relationship or wants to purchase something and the partner in recovery has to set boundaries (especially if the non-recovering partner is the only one working). Sometimes, I’ve heard that the partner simply takes the money and uses it anyway.

    This is an opportunity to practice patience, remembering that our partners have put up with our addiction for years. I, personally, do not consider this a slip or loss of abstinence or solvency if you have done your part. One thing we learn in program is that we cannot control others (see pages 66-67 in the AA Big Book). In cases like this, though it may evoke panic, we work together with our sponsor or PRG if a big purchase to adjust the spending plan, and pray for acceptance.

    There is really nothing else to be done. Again, we can only work our program to the best of our ability.

  2. In cases where you have told your partner how much was available and the partner goes over, the same principles apply. For instance, if the partner takes your children out to lunch and you say there is $30 in restaurants, but they spend $45. You report it the next day in your usual call. This is not a break of abstinence because you did not make the purchase and your intention was to have kept the spending under $30. And again, you work out with your sponsor how to adjust your spending plan.
  3. When reporting our daily spending, we only report our part. For instance, most people allocate specific money to their partner, such as with an allowance. We would report the day we allocate the entire money for the month, disregarding when or what the partner spent it on.
  4. When our partner pays for something we normally pay for, such as taking the dog to the veterinarian, some people do not report it at all, though they account for it in their spending plan. Others just prefer to report all joint spending.
  5. I strongly recommend that your partner attend all pressure relief group meetings (PRGs) with you. This is invaluable for helping the partner gain understanding of what you are doing and see, first hand, your commitment to living in reality with money.Usually, partners feel relieved when attending a PRG because they can express their anxiety and fears, and have their own spending pressures and concerns addressed. I once was part of a PRG where the partner, who was the sole earner, needed a new computer for his side business. Though had had received a hefty bonus, he was afraid the PRG wouldn’t “let” him buy it. Instead, we encouraged the partner to get his ideal computer and not just the “it’s good enough” machine because he certainly had earned it and we were able to address all other financial concerns perfectly fine.
  6. In my household, we have an arrangement that my husband and I each pay for certain items during the month. On the first of the next month, we “settle up” our accounts and I give him one check to cover everything. This is a pre-arranged payment arrangement that works for us and keeps me in clarity. For instance:
    • He sends a check for the utilities and I pay my half afterwards.
    • I buy all the food and he gives me a flat amount to offset my payment for the utilities.
    • We may alternate who buys stamps.
    • I bought air filters for the air conditioner and he paid his half afterwards.
  7. If you are divorced or separated, with separate checking accounts, and your partner pays certain bills or half the bills, you would only report the part for which you are responsible. This keeps your side clean and clear, which will mean for easier record maintenance. (It may also help you create stronger boundaries when he or she doesn’t pay his or her part.)

What if Your Partner is Also a Compulsive Debtor

If you realize, as you work your program, that your partner is out of control with money in some way, maybe lying about spending or continuing to sneak money, you have to continue to focus on your own recovery and not give up. This is where 12th step work comes in. You may want to read Chapter 7, Working with Others in the AA Big Book.

However, please be mindful of not hammering your partner, as you must know from your own experience that this does not work. We will not come to a spiritual solution until we are ready. All you can do is to keep your numbers and spending plan to the best of your ability, work your program to the best of your ability, and continue to pray for your partner to find peace.

Resentment and Prayer

Here are some resentment prayers from the Big Book that will work well in this situation:

  • God, Please help me to be free of anger and to see that the world and its people have dominated me. Show me that the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, has the power to actually kill me. Help me to master my resentments by understanding that the people who wrong me were perhaps spiritually sick. Please help me show those I resent the same Tolerance, Pity and Patience that I would cheerfully grant a sick friend. Help me to see that this is a sick man. Father, please show me how I can be helpful to him and save me from being angry. Lord, help me to avoid retaliation or argument. I know I can’t be helpful to all people, but at least show me how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. Thy will be done.
    (From Friends of BillW website, taken from pieces of pages 66-67 of the AA Big Book).
  • If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free…Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.
    (From the Big Book, Freedom from Bondage)
  • Dear God, I have a resentment towards a person that I want to be free of. So, I am asking you to give this person everything I want for myself. Help me to feel compassionate understanding and love for this person. I pray that they will receive everything they need. Thank you God for your help and strength with this resentment.
    (From Friends of BillW website)

In my next post, I will provide tips for those with children and for those who have money issues with their own parents.

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