Aspects of Healthy, Generative Relationships
Ah, yes, dealing with the issues of money in relationships. According to a study compiled by Wakefield Research for LongVest , as many as 25% of relationships end due to unresolved money issues. And maybe even more importantly, “a 2015 MONEY magazine poll found that across the generations, couples that have greater financial trust in each other and fewer money conflicts reported having better sex lives.” I hope we have built a case for the importance of resolving money issues.
“Money may not buy love, but fighting about it will bankrupt your relationship.”— Michelle Singletary
Financial issues can be one of the big areas of conflict in relationships. Unresolved disagreements about all the differing aspects of money are a huge cause for stress. According to a study at Kansas State University: “Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce,” said Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning. “It’s not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It’s money — for both men and women.” The study also suggests that unresolved money issues leads to “poor relationship satisfaction.”
The range of money issues can include things like being in debt, being secretive about spending, inequity in income, disagreement on how to spend, and not having enough money to pay the bills.
Like all the other aspects we are talking about in these blogs, most all of us bring a big suitcase of money issues with us into our primary relationship. Resolving these issues requires skill. Mostly it is the skills of commitment, generative communication, the ability to be in generative conflict, and connection. So if money issues require attention in your relationship, it may be useful to develop these skills before an attempt at resolution, or use the effort towards resolution as a way to practice these skills. And you don’t want to wait too long. Once you know you are partnering with someone, deal with this issues around money, get clear about how each partner deals with money. It is not a taboo issue, it’s just sometimes hard to talk about. Resolution around money offers the possibility of a secure and trusting foundation for the relationship.
A person’s attitudes, skills, habits, and behaviors related to money are shaped very early in each of us. The shaping is a combination of several factors:
- How did money issue shape your family of origin?
- In what socio-economic strata did you grow up?
- How was money reflected within the institutions you lived in?
- Social norms? How are you “supposed” to deal with money issues if you are a woman? Man? Rich? Poor? Red, black, white, yellow?
Some of the things to get clear about with each other regarding money includes knowing each other’s historical leanings, clarify spending habits and agreeing on what works for this relationship, is “my money, your money” going to be an issue, is saving a desire and/or a possibility and how will that be done, and having a family budget or not. This is the beginning of the list. What else is up for you in your relationship around money?
True freedom is freedom from our inherited past, freedom to respond related to our conscious choices, not our historical automaticness. Resolution of money issues and relationship satisfaction related to finances comes so much more easily when we deeply know ourselves and bring a willingness to partner on these issues early in our relationship.
Face into disagreements about money. First, name the issues. This requires a commitment of honesty and a willingness to hear and accept what one’s partner needs to bring up. If an issue is important to one person in the relationship, it is important to the relationship. Then prioritize the issues, that is, what is the most important issue(s) to address first? Use the practice from the “Communication” section to begin to address the issues. No practice will work perfectly, there will always be bumps and issues. Holding each other’s dignity and integrity in speech and action will assist in returning, repeatedly if necessary, to any difficult conversation.
If you see a recurrent issue that is difficult or seemingly impossible to shift, the practice is revealing a place for your continued self-work.
We love hearing about your experiences, questions, and comments.