The two or three times I brought it up, my partner responded with comments about the pressures on women to look a certain way and the objectification of women. Certainly, she is right. I’m not able to really understand what it’s like to be a woman in our society. It’s still a lot of money. Meanwhile, I buy a pair of Uniqlo jeans and wear them like crazy.
On top of not being able to afford those kinds of luxuries (a fraction of her skincare expenses could go towards us and our two young children on vacation, which we don’t do for lack of money), it does just seem that she actually marked this question as out of bounds. It’s about her as a woman, so I have no say. I need a new approach. What do you suggest?
Too: In a quiet moment, discuss finances, not cosmetics. Discuss your family budget, retirement plans, vacation hopes, and child enrichment (art, music, sports lessons?). In this discussion, include discretionary spending as part of the big picture and see if you can agree on what is reasonable for each of you to have.
You can also consult a financial adviser (do you have a will to support your children?). This is a business talk, not a commentary on discretionary spending. It may be useful to open three bank accounts: one for household expenses, such as mortgage, insurance, utilities and food; and one for each of you for the discretionary funds that each agrees not to call into question. You may also want to make sure you have separate credit cards in your name rather than joint cards.
When your partner sees exactly how much money she needs to spend, because it’s in a separate account and not mixed in with what seems like a lot, she’ll realize she needs to learn how to budget or go into debt. on his own credit card.
Too: She hijacks the conversation to stop you with an irrelevant but factual statement. There are plenty of ways for women to take care of themselves without spending $400 a month on skincare. A healthy diet, adequate sleep, exercise and not smoking top the list.
There are also plenty of big drugstore and other skin care brands that don’t break the bank. Do a little research and try to have another conversation. Concede her point of view and shift the conversation to a collaboration to understand why she thinks these skin care products are the only solution to the problem.
Too: As a sleep-deprived mother of two young children, there is very little in my life and the lives of my mother friends that are uniquely for us. Self-care often goes out the window, and it’s easy to feel like we’ve gotten lost.
It seems like your wife’s luxurious skincare routine only gives her a few minutes a day to feel pampered and make room. Applying fancy lotions can be incredibly rejuvenating and, as a bonus, can make us look fresh (requiring less money spent on makeup!) in a world where our social and professional success is often directly tied to how we look.
She set a firm limit on this, and before I approached her again, I would pause; if you think the cost is related to his physical and mental health, rather than a set of products, does that change your view of your ability to afford it?
If you still think that’s too much, then I think you should set aside some time to discuss your budget and priorities. Accept and respect that this is a big deal for her, then decide together what your financial goals are rather than making it your only mission to get her to agree to that one thing. If the holidays are important to you, there may be other things to cut back on to allow for both travel and skincare. If not, she may be able to choose a product to replace with a more generic product, because you’re saving that money for a trip. Yet…be careful here and please avoid a you versus me dynamic when discussing expenses.
Each week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s episode here. New questions are usually posted on Fridays, with a Monday submission deadline. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.