Hey Ms. Vicki,
I have an important issue to discuss because the holidays are just around the corner. My wife is always trying to compete financially with her sister who is very financially independent. Her husband is a medical doctor with a specialty in neurology.They are really rolling in the dough.
We cannot compete with that. I’m not going to say we are barely making ends meet or anything, but come on now, I’m not going to try and compete with a doctor’s salary. I chose to be active-duty Army and accepted everything, including the pay.
Ms. Vicki, my wife tries to buy everyone in the family gifts. She also buys new furniture for her mother, vacations for her parents, expensive electronics for our children and for her nieces and nephews. She even buys presents for aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
Here is a good example: My wife’s sister will buy her a Christmas gift that costs $700 or $800. Guess what my wife will do? You guessed it -- she will go and buy her sister a gift for over a thousand bucks. I can't continue to tolerate this competition.
My wife even lies about my income. She tells her family I’m bringing home a salary well in the six figures. Now we all know who brings home that kind of money -- it’s a general officer, not a company-grade officer.
My wife works and earns a good income in the medical profession. I know she deserves the best, but I don’t know how to stop her competitiveness. This is very petty. I’ve tried talking with my wife, but she did the same last year for Christmas. Do you think this is a counseling issue?
Man With Overspending Wife
This could be a counseling issue, especially if your wife is trying to use money and gifts to fill a void.
Instead of showing genuine love for her family, she uses money that she does not have. It also appears that she is competing and trying to measure up to someone else’s standard. In other words, she wants to “Keep up with the Joneses.”
This isn’t good because it will surely cause financial difficulty if it hasn’t already.
Your sister-in-law is a wealthy woman. Your wife has to realize that she has all of the “things” that she needs. Conversely, what is important is for family to come together and enjoy each other showing genuine love and concern without the need for financial competition.
It’s also interesting that your wife exaggerates your salary. I’m wondering how you feel about that? You have to know that you are doing a great job with a great profession. Moreover, you are serving your country. In my opinion, you should be the one who makes the tremendous salary.
This situation could definitely cause marital problems and financial problems, too. Here are some suggestions for you:
First, I think she needs some individual counseling to explore why she finds a need to lie about who she is, lie about her husband’s salary, and compete with your sister-in-law who is financially way ahead of her in the starting block of the race. Marriage counseling would be beneficial because you would receive support and also have the opportunity to discuss how you feel about your wife’s behavior.
Second, your wife works and you can’t stop her from spending her earnings. You, however, must take more of a lead over the family finances or you will be facing a massive amount of debt and other problems that would be detrimental to your family.
Third, suggest other projects to your family for the holidays like volunteering to feed homeless people or even adopting a family for the holidays. It will make everyone feel great because giving to others is very important. This could also impart great lessons for your children.
Finally, instead of trying to buy presents for everyone, some families will pick one name and buy a present for that person. They will even put a limit on the amount of the gift, like $30 for example. In the meantime, you have to keep talking to your wife. She has to know that you do not support her excessive spending. Let me know how you are doing when you have time.
Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.
Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.