We’ve been married for 14 years, and my husband still has difficulty understanding that as a woman I need to shop—sometimes frequently—so I can remain sane. I refer to shopping as retail therapy. Of course, he complains about how much money I’m spending on useless stuff that we could be saving or investing to have a more secure financial future. The bigger tension we face, however, is how much time it takes for me to shop when I go to the mall and ask him to come with me. What he forgets is when I ask him to do stuff around the house and he’s in the middle of watching a football game, he claims to still have five minutes of play left; but it’s often 30 minutes or more before the game actually ends. So, we really could use your help.
Your story is very familiar to us. In fact, we’ve heard it many times from couples in many parts of the world. The truth is, we also experienced similar incidents in the early part of our marriage. What’s happening with you and your husband, though, does not have to continue to remain a tension point in your relationship. The conflict that exists with your husband about your differences can disappear by gaining a greater understanding of each other and the choices you make each day.
The differences between men and women are well-known and established, despite often being simple stereotypes. In the West—as in many other parts of the world—women are known as shoppers and men as sports fanatics. It doesn’t mean men don’t like to shop or that women hate sports. It merely indicates women are more likely to want to go shopping, and men are more likely to want to watch a football game.
Tips to Try
We want to be clear that we believe no one should spend money they don’t have, especially on things they don’t need. And for this reason alone, every couple should set up a realistic budget early in their marriage that is based in reality and on the values you both have as God’s stewards. As responsible adults, married couples should also agree on how they will manage discretionary funds and how much time will be spent on sports, so there is understanding between them and peace in their home.
What we know, however, is that many of the arguments between married couples about the wife’s affinity for shopping or the husband’s penchant for watching sports is not so much about the money or time being spent or wasted. The issue is more about a lack of understanding of each other’s world and developing a clearer appreciation for why the other person is doing what they’re doing and how much it means to them.
We would encourage you to agree on a time when you can spend uninterrupted moments listening to each other about what makes you happy and the things that help you to relax. The more aware you are of what the other person is doing and feeling, the easier it will be to not feel anger toward your spouse.
The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient and kind.”* Embracing these virtues and integrating them into your marriage will help your relationship go from good to great. Of course, always remember to ask God to give you the strength and desire to bring peace and contentment into your home by the choices you make each day.
Willie Oliver, Ph.D., C.F.L.E., an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist, and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, L.C.P.C., C.F.L.E., a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist, and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.