Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
How often has money become a deal breaker in your relationship?
It happens a lot, doesn’t it ! Either you don’t agree on how the money should be spent, or who deserves to make the choice.
Money is often the heat that inflames a relationship where there is already some tension and power differentials.
When one partner spends money or gives it to other people in a unilateral fashion, all sorts of insecurities and stresses build up. Conflict becomes a permanent feature of interactions and the underlying motivations are lost. So here are a few of the hidden motivations behind using money to manage relationships.
Giving money to specific individuals within or outside the family can be used to show:
- Favoritism – helping out one sibling to start a business and not another
- Approval – when a child has obeyed you or done what you wished even though they didn’t want to
- Affection – sending money to a family member rather than spending time with them
- Trust – giving money that is to be used for a particular purpose is a sign that you trust the person to do just that
Giving money can also be a way for the giver to:
- Buy friendship and allegiance – give gifts and meals out to get into the good books of in-laws!
- Buy an alliance against another – help out one adult child who then takes your side against a sibling you hate
- Buy silence – give your child money so they don’t tell your partner that you smoked after quitting!
- Buy a way out of having to take on a responsibility – throw money at your partner so you are excused the responsibility of picking up the kids from their weekend activities.
- Buy a lack of criticism – shower expensive gifts during birthdays and anniversaries and avoid being criticized for your lack of romance the rest of the time.
- Exert control – parents give money to their older children to keep them near them and dependent.
Many of the couples I have worked with in couples therapy have used money as the topic with which to beat each other up, shame them into giving up their autonomy and berated them over their lack of selflessness.
You probably wish you had discovered all these thorns in the relationship before you got into a committed arrangement or marriage.
Premarital counseling would have helped – but you have to manage with the reality you are now faced with
So What is the Best practice for discussing financial issues?
1. Don’t wait until there is a crisis or a big disagreement.
You both have to be willing to share your financial values, needs, expectations and spending habits. It’s vital that you both know and respect each others needs – for example if one person feels it’s a necessity to buy lunch out everyday but the other thinks it’s a waste of money because it’s cheaper to brown bag it – then you have a deep rift in personal values and sense of identity.
2. Deal with fights around “i” versus “you!”
If you have a lot of arguments about one partner never thinking of the other, then you are in a place where each of you are concerned about your individual needs. You want your partner to prove that they aware of your needs, separate to their own. Unfortunately that makes no room for a “we” or an “us.”
So deal with the personal issues that get in the way of your partnership or else finances will continue to be the arena in which you fight this battle.
Consider making a “we” thing! Designate a time every day for a 10 minute slot where you both focus on what “we” want the next day, and what it good and healthy for “us.” The smallest things are the most likely to bring instant success, such as “we both want to have a cuddle when we wake up!”
3. Make discussions about finances and your childhood experiences of them a regular part of your routine each week
- Begin when things are calm, like on an outing. Recall and share experiences of what it was like going on outings with your families as children. Issues around parental strictness or otherwise about spending money on treats and entertainment will come up and help you understand the powerful influences your early life experience of money matters had on you.
- Then start discussing how you would like to feel as a family about money, spending, saving and using it.
- Next avoid using words like ‘must’, ‘have to,’ ‘or else,’ that you can’t compromise on. Instead use words like ‘this is important to me”. This gives room for the ‘I’ parts, so that there is now a reduction in hostility and accusations of selfishness or sacrifice. Then the ‘we’ bits have room to form and grow.
AUTHOR OF ‘Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationships.”
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2014
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Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond