By Julienne B. Derichs LCPC
Turn on the television or radio, read a newspaper or blog and you’ll get bombarded with messages about something that you may already know: we are in an economic slump. The relationship between love and money is challenging during the best of times. With rising unemployment, unmanageable debt, and no new credit to speak of, it is understandable to question whether or not love can survive through these troubled economic times.
Most couples imagine that if they made more money, their money troubles would go away. They do not. The problems often become more expensive. So even if you and your partner make loads of money, why is it that you can still have so many conflicts around money? Let’s take a look.
I love you...I hate you...Your always there...You’re never around...
What is your relationship with money? Is money a kind friend or something that you only think about when it’s time to pay the bills? Picture the family you grew up in, what did you learn about money from the way your parents or caretakers managed money?
It is important to understand your own relationship with money. Ask yourself:
- Am I a spender or a saver?
- Do I spend more if I am bored, angry, or depressed?
- What did I learn about money when I was growing up?
- Do I think focusing on money is “self-serving” or “greedy”?
- What is the primary feeling I have when I think about money?
Compare your answers to these questions with your partner’s answers. Are they same or very different?
Not Every Dollar has the Same Value
In any healthy relationship, there is a pattern of harmony and disharmony between all the working parts, and your relationship with money is no different. Problems arise not only in your own relationship with money but also because your partner has his or her unique relationship with money that may or may not be compatible with your own.
Relationship with Money: Five key elements.
Directing – how you manage taking care of your money as it comes in and goes out. This includes everyday emotional and intellectual choices about spending, paying bills, tracking deposits, balancing the checkbook, and keeping a budget.
Spending - how you spend your money, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
Earning - how you earn money.
Saving - how much money you hold onto.
Investing – how you get your money to make you money.
We all have attitudes about money that may hurt our ability to make wise decisions. Ask yourself:
- If there isn’t ever enough money, how do I save and invest?
- Do I manage my money, or is my spending or saving causing me to spin out of control?
- Even though I save will there ever be enough money?
- Do I tend to over spend which causes me to under save and invest?
- Do I want to make more money so that I don’t have to examine or change my relationship with money?
Why We Fight Over Money
Many fights take place not because of the amount of money spent, but because of the expectations couples have that they never really talk clearly about. Whether it's conflicting styles, or misaligned agendas, couples get rooted in their individual beliefs about money. These views make it difficult to see that their partner simply has a different history and relationship with money.
Money is just pieces of paper which can represent power, a high or low self-worth, safety, and love. Put two people together with different ideas about money, and you have an unavoidable recipe for conflict. Here are some key reasons couples fight about money:
Daily Financial Decisions: Since financial decisions have to be made almost daily, they can be a frequent source of disagreement. Let’s face it managing money can feel like a burden.
Power and Control: When it comes to money, one partner may be more focused on saving every penny while the other is focused on spending every penny. Both
the saver and the spender often view money as a means of control and may believe that the person making or holding the most money has the last word on financial decisions. Buying into the idea that money equals power in a marriage can only cause greater conflict.
Keeping Secrets, Financial Infidelity
What information about money do you keep hidden from your partner? Many couples that I see in my practice report that they didn’t fully talk about the dept they were carrying into marriage. This means they never talked about income, debt burden, student loans, inheritance, savings and credit status. Without full and open financial disclosure couples engage in maintaining secrets in the relationship that are damaging to the glue, which is trust, that holds the relationship together.
Hiding leads to disconnection, dis-connection leads to resentment, resentment leads to unresolved conflict. Unresolvable conflict leads to divorce.
Couples are often afraid to talk about money. They fear that major changes may come; they will feel deprived, or that the conversation will erupt into a huge fight.
When fights about money come up between you and your partner, it is always good to ask yourself: “Are we still talking about money, or is the real issue something else?” If you find yourself at an impasse over money issues, consider consulting a counselor who can help you deal with financial and communication problems.
Navigating the Ups and Downs Ahead
Relationships are facing more and more stress during this economic slump. Many relationships are seriously hurting because it is often difficult to adjust our lifestyle as quickly as salaries are declining. The hope is that our partner will provide a safe place to fall... a place to de-stress and be soothed…especially in such
troubling economic times. Yet sometimes that isn’t the case in our love relationships.
Here are a few tips on keeping your connection strong while handling economic stress:
The Precious Present: Focus on today, right now this moment. Future thoughts create anxiety and stress because of the unknown. Be mindful not to get caught in that trap. Keep your mind on what you have now and what you are doing now.
Free Date Nights: Make your relationship a priority and schedule date nights. Be creative in finding ways to connect with one another without spending any money. Embrace the frugal “less is more” lifestyle. Visit frugal living sites like Frugalliving.com on the web and see what you two come up with!
Create a Plan Together: One of my favorite sayings is “life hands us many opportunities to act without a plan (which can be very stressful) so when you can plan...Do!” Creating financial, work, life, or stress management plans helps to create a sense of direction and lowers anxiety. Sit down with your partner and make a plan together.
Talk to Each Other: Difficult times often cause couples to isolate themselves from one another and keep quiet for fear of rocking the boat any further. During tough times it is more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open. It is okay to be fearful or upset…so hold onto one another, face the struggles together and talk. Getting confirmation that you aren’t alone can ease the stress and make the obstacles more manageable.