Times are tough at the moment – for just about everyone. Even if you’re not struggling, odds are you’re more aware of your money and more cautious about how you handle it. With the economy in recession and our collective financial future uncertain, it’s no wonder you’re thinking about it – and no surprise that you’re stressed.
However, just because you’ve got money on the mind doesn’t mean it has to ruin your relationship. While it may seem as if the only reason for financial fighting is that there’s not enough money, the truth is much more complicated than that. Even the most comfortable of couples can find themselves in heated arguments about the purse strings.
That’s because each of us has a different relationship with personal finance – one that started long before any of us even knew it. So try this three-step guide to see why money causes trouble in relationships and how to handle it.
1. Perception is key
That’s right, just like so many other areas of life, our parents inadvertently shaped how we deal with money based on their perceptions of it. Whether we’ve grown up to mirror their attitudes, contradict them altogether or more likely, some combination of the two, each of us has long ingrained emotions that relate to the meaning of money and we bring those feelings to our relationships. Trouble arises naturally because no two people have exactly the same feelings.
Before you can address the financial issues that arise in your partnership, it’s important to identify both you and your partner’s emotional attachments to the green stuff and where they came from. Ask yourself, what were my early experiences with money? How did they make me feel?
2. Your money motivators…
Now that you know how you both feel about money, it’s time to assess how those feelings are affecting you now. For instance, one of you may be an impulse buyer who spends whenever they have it while the other analyzes every purchase for weeks and months on end even when cash is plentiful. Your partner may always know where every single cent is spent while you’re the type who finds twenties in your pockets each year when the winter coats come out – even if you were broke all summer!
You may consider yourself a conservative investor with a solid understanding of the market while your mate takes risks you see as equivalent to rolling the dice. According to experts, how you spend, allocate and handle money is motivated by one of the following four objectives: enjoying freedom, enhancing security, showing power and building relationships. It’s vital to your relationship that you and your mate know what motivates each other to pull the trigger and pull out your wallet.
By coming to understand both of your individual objectives, you’ll be able to approach financial issues – before the struggle starts – with a mutual end game in mind. Which is why the third step is the most important…
3. Face your financial issues
One of the most popular definitions of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you and your mate continue to dance around financial issues without being as open about your thoughts and feelings as you are about the bottom line you’re faced with, the vicious circle will never end. As you weather a crisis (or 20!) the same issues will continue to arise when you have an overall difference of objective or opinion – about how to do what with what you have. That’s why it’s important not only to lay out mutual goals and set parameters to achieve them, but to work toward them together, mindful of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Financial harmony doesn’t come overnight – it also requires maintenance and regular check-ins. The goal is to stop fighting about finances and start feeling like you’re on a joint course together. There may be hard times sure, but with open, honest, non-judgmental communication, you’ll be able to support each other through the valleys and emerge successful, with your love intact.
Sound scary? You’re not alone. It’s hard to be vulnerable – after all, so many of us attach money with self-worth. However, by allowing yourselves to be 100% honest with each other, you’re fostering intimacy and giving your relationship – and your bank balance – a chance to flourish for the long-term.
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