“What shall I spend money on this month?” I asked my husband. He’s been wholly supportive of my Shopping for Happiness project — but this time, instead of weighing in on, say, shoes versus gym bag, he had a critique for me.
“If you’re having trouble finding something, the problem may be that you’ve restricted your project to spending just on you, and ruled out anything that would involve me.”
Hmmm, I thought (and said). That was the point: spending the money on me, not buying stuff for you or the kids.
He clarified. It wasn’t objects he was talking about, but experiences we might undertake together – like enjoying a meal out or buying a great bottle of wine or taking a romantic vacation. "For whatever reason,” he said, "you’ve decided that if I’m taking part in it, it’s not a treat for you."
"I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of women felt the same way," he added. "But imagine how it would sound if a guy said he only could only really enjoy himself if his wife wasn't there."
That stung — and obviously if he was bringing up this perceived policy of mine, it stung him too. So after my inevitable, knee-jerk denials (“That is not true at all!” “We already do a ton of stuff together!”) I had to ask myself: was there any truth to what he was saying?
Well, yes. We do go out about twice a month (and spend a ton on babysitters), so I don't think we're date-deprived, but there’s some truth to the idea that I don’t consider things I do with my partner to be “for me."
I enjoy them, I have an equal say in what we do – but it’s very different from planning something to enjoy alone, or even with a friend. When I go out with my husband, my enjoyment is contingent on whether he’s having a good time. I’m not sure if it’s a female thing or just my personality, but even though I’m no martyr (obviously!) and I’m a feminist, plus he’s a great guy, it’s a habit I can’t seem to shake. (Can anyone relate?)
In my admittedly weird way of thinking about money, I categorize date-night spending as something I do for “us” or “the family,” not for me – which is a bit self-serving when you consider it’s not “us” enjoying that pint of hoppy craft ale at our local pub. (His tastes run more to Kolsch.)
So while I never consciously ruled out spending Shopping for Happiness money on splurges with my husband, he was right: it wasn’t on my radar.
I was at an impasse. I wanted to stay true to the original spirit of my project (which meant spending only on things I'd denied myself before) but I also saw the absurdity of cutting my life partner out of the equation just because we already spend money together.
Then it hit me: dance lessons!
We started taking lessons in the Hustle before our wedding, in preparation for a first dance (to Andy Gibb) that left our guests more baffled than impressed. We continued until our kids arrived, then went back once or twice eight years ago…and then stopped. With a growing family, we just couldn’t justify the cost.
Of course, that’s the kind of dilemma my Shopping for Happiness project was designed to solve. So, I called my old studio and bought five lessons with a chunk of my January money. I can safely say that I won’t be worrying if my husband is enjoying himself, partly because I know he will be, but also because I’ll be too busy timing my spins to worry about anything at all.