Advice from A-Z
Business Expenses - Should I Lie?
by Azriela Jaffe
I attended a lecture by Dr. Frank Pittman at the 1999 Smart Marriages and Happy Families Conference in Washington, D.C.. The theme of his talk was marital infidelity, a topic I didn't think I needed to hear much about. My husband Stephen and I have the kind of marriage where it's the last thing either of us could imagine doing. Plus, we're too tired and committed to our children to have time for an affair! Still, I listened with interest, thinking that I could always use the information when people write to me for advice.
Little did I know, he had more to say to me than I realized. One of his most critical points was that a marital affair is much more about deception than about sex. The question to ask when one occurs isn't just "how could you have sex with another person?," but even more significantly, "how could you lie to me?" Frank shared some scary statistics about the rate of marital infidelity and stressed that in his long term practice, seeing close to 10,000 couples over many years, he has learned: No marriage is entirely protected from the possible intrusion of a marital affair - even marriages like mine.
I took his message seriously. That's the last crisis I want to deal with in my marriage. And so, this morning, I made a subtle but significant change in the way that I responded to a "no-big deal" moment in our marriage. Stephen and I have regular conflict over his perception that I am not frugal enough, and that I waste resources in the house. He's a thrifty guy, able to stretch leftovers a week longer than I would. This particular morning, he asked if I had thrown something out of the refrigerator. I had, believing that it was too old to eat. Not in the mood to deal with his irritation with me, I lied to him and told him that I had finished it.
Such a lie is a far cry away from having an affair - but it's closer than we'd like to believe. The point is that I am capable of lying to him, and since he probably knew that I was lying to him, he will begin to say to himself: "I can't trust her. She lies to me." After listening to the marital infidelity lecture, I couldn't lie to him, even about some old grapes. I told Stephen that I had lied, and apologized for both throwing away the food and for lying. Stephen was grateful and relieved that I had come clean. He knew that I had lied and it was upsetting to him as well.
So what does this have to do with business? It determines how I respond to the following question:
"My husband is not supportive of my business. I don't want to hear him complaining about how much money I am spending on it so I've started to hide the credit card bills from him. I think he'd throw a fit if he knew how much I'm spending on this business, without the profits to show for it. I just know that he'd tell me not to do the business if he knew. What do you think I should do? Should I tell him? What if he tells me I'm out of business?"
You have three choices and the first one I don't recommend. You can continue to lie to your husband, hoping that he never happens to notice the drain on the household bank account, or sees a credit card bill lying around. You think he's not supportive towards the business now? Wait until he finds out that you've been lying to him - you'll have a hard time ever convincing him that this business is a good idea. It will drive a wedge through your marriage. He will stop being able to trust you about other matters, and you will start developing more and more elaborate schemes to hide your business expenses from him. Ironically, your profits will be lower because too much of your energy is going into deceiving your husband, and worrying about how to keep your secret.
So, that leaves two other choices. If you will be depending on joint household money to support your business, you must not only tell your husband, but have his permission to spend the money. It's his money, too. If he is contributing money to the household, he has a right to determine where it goes. Devise a joint budget together for your business that he agrees to. Then stick with it and don't overspend and hide it from him.
If the two of you have some arrangement where you each get individual money to do with what you wish, then you can use your "allowance" for your business. Your husband must also have the right to use the same amount of money every month for whatever he wants. If you are married but don't pool money that you earn for household expenses, use money that you bring into the household from an outside job for your business.
Second choice - your business pays expenses from income derived from the business. Then, you listen to your husband's opinions only if you believe his perceptions are valid. To do this, you'll have to reduce your expenses until your profits increase and enable you to support your business endeavors without your husband's help. Consider getting a part-time job to pay for your expenses if the income isn't there yet. Even better, figure out why you aren't profitable yet.
Bottom line: If you value your marriage more than your business, stop lying to your spouse. There isn't as much distance as you think between hiding the credit card bills and being in divorce court, when one of you had an affair.
Azriela Jaffe is the author of several books including Honey, I Want to Start my Own Business, A Planning Guide for Couples (Harper Business 1996), and Let's Go Into Business Together, Eight Secrets for Successful Business Partnering (Avon Books 1998) and Starting from No, Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business (Dearborn, April 1999). Also, check out her newly released, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt. Check out her books at http://www.azrielajaffe.com/