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- For Love & Money is Insider’s bi-weekly column that answers your questions about relationships and money.
- This week, a reader wonders if it’s worth buying “frivolous” flowers for a spouse who loves them.
- Our columnist says: If gifts are your wife’s love language, just buy the flowers.
- A question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.
Dear for love and money,
My wife’s love language is to give and receive gifts, but I find it hard to buy items like flowers and cards that seem frivolous to me. I want to make her happy, but I also don’t want to spend our funds recklessly. What should I do?
Not a happy giver
Dear not a happy giver,
Let me begin by highlighting an element of your letter that I found particularly revealing. You have categorized the purchase of “flowers and cards” as “reckless spending”. Unless you’re trying to pull yourself out of crushing debt and poverty, and from the tone of your letter, I don’t think you are, spending $6.99 on a card and $30 on flowers (if even that many) is miles away from “recklessly spending” your money.
That said, I recognize that’s your point of view, so rather than just telling you you’re wrong, I think we should instead work on aligning your financial goals with your values. The best way to do this is to reframe how you feel about the purpose of your money.
You need to challenge your own ideas about money
You used the word frivolous to describe buying your wife gifts. The term “frivolous” implies that something is stupid and unnecessary. In a way to you, flowers and cards are silly and unnecessary.
But you also recognize that the most effective way to love your wife is to give gifts. Do you think loving your wife the way she needs to be loved is stupid and pointless? In a way, you answered that question in your letter by writing, “I want to make her happy, but I also don’t want to spend our funds recklessly.”
According to the wisdom of “Game of Thrones”, “Nothing someone says before the word ‘but’ really matters.”
I’m sure you mean it when you say “I want to make her happy,” and yet the word “but” still serves as a boundary between your competing ideals. If you want to make your wife happy, it seems you know what to do: buy her gifts that you personally think are silly and unnecessary because your relationship with her matters more than money.
On the other side of your “but” is your second option: protect your finances, to hell with your wife’s emotional fulfillment.
I have a feeling your best case scenario is when your wife goes to bed as a demanding princess and wakes up the coolest of the coolest girls – one who considers a bouquet that will wither in the garbage in five days to be a ridiculous present, one who would gladly trade a romantic card for an evening spent together on the sofa.
And yet, your wife won’t be waking up another person tomorrow, and you’ll still be forced to choose between loving your wife and saving money.
The Princess isn’t morally or intellectually inferior to the Cool Girl, but to believe that, you have to challenge your own ideas around money.
Is there anything wrong with spending money on things that are not necessary for our survival? If I told you that spending money on washers and dryers in a world where running water and antique washboards exist is frivolous, you’d guess my sanity. And yet, washers and dryers are technically unnecessary convenience items for our survival.
Now, if I say good dinners aren’t necessary, you might find yourself nodding your head in reluctant agreement. Yes, they’re nice, but they’re probably best viewed as a treat. But a treat that you still like to indulge yourself from time to time. And as we know, you think buying your wife a handful of sunflowers at Trader Joe’s for $5 to show her you like to see her smile is a frivolous expense.
That’s because how we rank the conveniences and pleasures of modern life is relative to our personalities, circumstances, and finances. Thus, there is no one correct way to prioritize our “fun” money. There is, however, a correct way to love our partners, and that is in the way they want to be loved.
just buy the flowers
Now you know the ins and outs of your finances, just like your wife. Since you both have this knowledge, I understand that you might think she should come to the same conclusion as you about what financial responsibility looks like in your specific situation. Feeling like the only one recognizing your financial reality is probably tough. But this is where you have to challenge yourself to believe that your wife understands your financial reality as well as you do, and yet she’s still come to the conclusion that you can afford to buy her flowers.
This means that when you choose to cut corners rather than love her the way she has expressed she would like to be loved, your wife doesn’t feel like you’re asking too much; instead, she probably feels unloved.
You asked me what you should do. There you go: Buy your wife the flowers. When you’re at the grocery store and you see her favorite cookies, put them in your shopping cart. Get a card that tells her how much you love her and fill every inch of it with your own love letter.
And when you make those purchases, instead of thinking, “What a frivolous way to spend money,” think of them as a cash deposit into the most important relationship of your life. Because that’s it.
Rooting for you two,
For love and money
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