18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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The Spendthrift Wife    

The Spendthrift Wife

An emotionally-satisfied wife that gets the love and attention she needs from her husband won’t hunger for the ersatz thrill of impulse buying and spending money…


Dear Rabbi,

Please can you help me? My wife and I are having serious financial difficulties; my work does not bring in enough income and her work also does not and together our incomes do not nearly cover our monthly expenses and we have to rely on family to assist us. The tension about money makes me very tense all the time and I try and ask Hashem to help me be calm, but my prayers don’t work.
I work out our monthly budget very carefully, but my wife just does not know how to manage money. She is a very caring warm person, but she does not know how to say no to anybody. I give her money to spend every day, but sometimes she goes over the limit by asking the shops to put it on a tab. Today she took the children and one on an outing and spent the money I gave her as well as then running up the tab for a huge amount of stuff at the cafeteria because my sons kept asking for sweets, chocolate, etc and my wife does not know how to say no. In the end, she ended up spending more on an outing that we can afford for groceries for an entire week.
All this results in me getting very tense all the time and I come home and get upset at the smallest thing, because even though, I know I should have more emunah, it is hard for me to understand that if the money is wasted like this, how will we get through the month. I need some advice please and was hoping you could tell me how to work out a situation like this where it is not going to put added strain our marriage and family life. Many thanks, Stanley from USA
Dear Stanley,
We fully sympathize with the difficulty of your predicament and walking the tightrope between finances and marital peace. Needless to say, you have to be very careful. I direct you to Harav Arush's book The Garden of Riches.
Stanley, understand that women oftentimes spend money and buy things because it gives them a temporary surge of joy. One couple came to me with a shalom bayit problem and the husband complained that his wife owned 355 pairs of shoes. I explained to the husband that she buys shoes as a source of surrogate happiness because she isn’t getting the happiness and attention she needs from him. Since the joy of a new pair of shoes lasts only for about 4 or 5 days, then at least 5 or 6 times a month she is back in the shoe store.
I'm not a prophet Stanley, nor do I have a crystal ball, but out of sheer experience with this type of situation, many times you can solve the problem of a compulsive spending wife by simply spending daily quality time with her and giving her attention. If she gets the love and attention from you, she won't have the hunger for the ersatz thrill that she gets from spending money.
If the marital bliss is OK, then we can go further. However, these subsequent points will only help solve the problem once we’re sure that the above problem is taken care of. Remember that Rebbe Nachman teaches us that our income is derived from the illumination of a wife’s soul. Anyone without a happy wife is bound to have financial problems. Once again, a wife’s happiness depends on daily attention and quality time with her husband. Once this improves, you’ll see big miracles in the area of your personal finances – this is guaranteed.
Rebbe Nachman tells us that needless material things block spiritual light. You’ll find that teaching in Likutei Moharan, Part 1, Torah 172. Never say no to your wife, but in the event of a sweets-and-chocolate binge like you describe in your email about the outing with the kids, tell your wife (not as a lecture, or criticism, but simply as a point of care) that this is really detrimental to the kids’ health. Suggest she take a cooler bag filled with fruits and whole wheat cookies for example. The things you take from home are a quarter of the price and 10 times more nutritious than the garbage bought elsewhere. I know this is a small detail, but it is symptomatic of a larger picture. Maybe you can arrange to go shopping with your wife – not that she feels like you're there to be a policeman, but that you are sharing her burden. While you're shopping together, you can gently suggest the good bargains and the healthy foods, but under no circumstances should you argue with her. Rather than commenting and criticizing, help shoulder her burdens and with gentle suggestions try and mold better spending patterns.
Next, realize that if Hashem gave you such a wife, He will give you the wherewithal to support her. Once again, a wife doesn’t look to spend money. The most important thing in her life is that she is #1 in your life and that you love her unconditionally. Oftentimes, a wife’s spending is a subconscious test of her husband’s love. When she sees you anxious and angry, she tells herself that you don’t really love her. Think about it.
Stanley, you said that you don’t believe that your prayers work; if you don’t believe in the power of prayer, you won’t pray. And, if you don’t pray – every day, 3 times a day plus an hour of personal prayer – it’s not likely that you’ll see much financial relief, despite whatever efforts you make.
Please don’t blame others for your tribulations; specifically, don’t blame your wife for what seems to be her blatant mistakes. Strengthen yourself in emuna, and turn to Hashem for help. But, there is something you can do for your wife: If she hasn’t read Women’s Wisdom – The Garden of Peace for Women she should certainly do so. There is an entire section on finances that will be enlightening for her. Also, there is the Emuna Income Kit from Breslev Israel ’s store online – I'm sure you’ll find that useful.
In your hitbodedut, thank Hashem for this challenge because it beats health issues any day of the week. There is an old Yiddish expression: “if it’s only money, it’s not a problem.” Since the Gemara in Tractate Shabbat says that there are no tribulations without transgression, make sure that you devote a significant portion of your hitbodedut to self assessment.
Blessings always, LB

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  Spendthrift wife
Anonymous,8/24/2010 3:18:32 AM

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