We come to marriage with stars in our eyes, but often with blinders on when it comes to finances.
As a money coach, it’s no surprise that I see many couples where financial problems could lead them to end the marriage. If money conflicts are getting in your way, try these strategies to chuck the blinders and start seeing stars again.
It’s a big topic, so this is Part One. More discussion to come next month!
Do the ground work:
1. Understand Your Money Beliefs
You and your spouse almost certainly have different beliefs and behaviors about money. Do some serious introspection to figure out what drives each of you. You need to know yourself before you can be part of an integrated team. Here’s a great resource from Olivia Mellon, a pioneer in the field of financial psychology, to explore your money personality.
What does money mean to you? Love, security, respect, status, freedom? Those are just a few things to consider. What is your history with money? What did you learn from your parents? Your beliefs and experiences with money fuel your behavior. Are you a saver, or a spender? Do you save because you are fearful you will never have enough, or spend because it fills a void?
Money conflicts aren’t about money as a means of exchange, it’s about what money signifies to you. What it represents for you may not be the same as your partner. Dig for answers and you will see how each of you can have legitimate, but different perspectives.
2. Be vulnerable and share
Money is a way in which we love and care for each other. It requires intimacy and vulnerability. That takes courage and communication. You have to step up to the plate and talk. And talk. And talk.
Share your feelings about money issues (based on Step 1 above!). Instead of anger that your partner is spending too much, understand why spending might trigger fear that your success is fleeting. Did you feel deprived as a child because you had little? Realize that overspending on expensive clothing might relate to shame you felt because of the deprivation. Look for the real emotions at play.
After 4 years of marriage, my client Amanda discovered that her husband, Jason, hadn’t revealed some pre-marriage debt. Conflict and anger over this pushed them both to consider divorce. It was scary for both of them, but they started expressing their feelings and frustrations.
Jason realized that in his “high expectation” family, it was taboo to talk about money, yet having a ton of it was their definition of success. He was embarrassed to disclose his debt to Amanda prior to marriage because he felt like a failure.
When Amanda understood the root of his lack of disclosure, she felt much less betrayed and could feel compassion for Jason’s behavior. They then were able to work together to eliminate the debt.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. It might not be possible to change entrenched values and beliefs about money, but you can increase your compassion and acceptance toward one another. Search for common ground (and sometimes agree to disagree). Remember, this is not about winning a battle.
Come from a position of love and good will, try understanding (vs. judging) your partner’s emotions and beliefs, then the stars will continue to glow!
Next month I’ll continue with some practical steps to help you steer clear of potential marital money troubles.