Do you have to play 'bad guy'?
It was definitely hard on our relationship for a long time. Tim was the spender; I was the saver. Even after he "converted" to frugality, Tim was rarely active about saving money.
Early on, I suggested that I take over the finances. He definitely didn't protest. He'd never felt good with money, but he also had never felt able to change it. So my offer was a blessing. He let me assume responsibility and never looked back. Which was part of the problem.
In abdicating financial control, Tim took all the responsibility off of himself. He stopped worrying about budget or money left in the account. It's not that he stopped considering them. He still checked with me to okay a purchase. In fact, he checked with me about almost all purchases.
In other words, I became the parent. I had to say yea or nay to just about everything. He didn't really filter. If he thought of something he wanted, he would inevitably ask me if we could get it. It was like being in a toy store with a five year old kid. Kids don't really know anything about finance. They know what they want. And they know that parents have the decision on whether to buy or not.
So I was "the heavy." I had to constantly veto his ideas, reminding him that we were saving money. Or that we couldn't afford it. Or that we could find it cheaper elsewhere. It was exhausting.
It was also hard on me overall. I don't like denying Tim things. And his seemingly constant stream of permission-asking made me feel like all I ever did was say no to him. Even if he didn't see it, which he mainly didn't, it was hard on me psychologically.
I felt backed into a corner: either I deprived him or I hurt the budget. Neither is very palatable, as options go. Because of this pressure, I found myself caving more often. I would say yes simply because I felt I couldn't take saying no one more time. Later, though, I'd be angry at myself for not standing firm; and I would resent Tim for putting me in that kind of lose-lose situation.
Eventually, I did get Tim to see that I was in an untenable situation. It took a lot of arguments and a lot of attempts on my part to verbalize what was wrong. As a result, he did start policing himself more. A lot more, actually. Nowadays, he usually runs something through his own frugal filter before checking with me. The "can we" questions have definitely gotten fewer and farther between, at least.
The change has made a huge difference in my stress level. I don't feel like a mean parent, anymore. Now, when Tim has a question about spending, I feel like I'm talking to my partner about finance. Not telling a kid he has enough toys already.
I think that the "bad guy" role is an easy trap for couples to fall in. Even when it's not a spender/saver meld, one partner is usually more frugal than the other. When people with two different standards come together, something has to give. If each of you are judging the other by your own benchmarks, no one ends up happy.
What about your relationships -- past or present? Have you ever felt like the bad guy? Or have you ever felt that your spouse was depriving you unnecessarily?