Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand and all your money differences and financial resentments would disappear between you and your spouse?
I certainly have. I know there are no magic wands but there are keys to fostering financial intimacy which softens money differences and financial resentments.
Sadly as couples, we are sent into marriage and money blindly. Many of us grow up in homes that do not role model healthy or helpful patterns of love and money—leaving us making risky moves as we navigate the dangerous intersection of love and money together. Sometimes not even realizing how risky it is what we are doing.
Trying to sort through love and money can be challenging. In most cases we are then left to figure it out on our own. There was no college course called Healthy Love and Money. Instead we turn to friends, other family members, religion/spirituality, and maybe even ChatGPT. For some, finding the path towards financial intimacy is worse than navigating the Amazon Jungle and more deadly for some couples.
The good news is that we have science on our side. I know science is not perfect, but it has revealed some remarkably consistent findings about psychological well-being, relationship health, and financial well-being.
There Is More Than Meets The Eye When It Comes To Money Conflicts
These are just A Few of the Many Money Differences and Resentments.
You told your partner that starting that business was a bad idea. They didn’t listen to you, and now your financial life is a mess. Yes, you had some great years, but if only they had picked the safe career, everything would be okay.
You try to address your partner's constant spending without regard for how much stress and anxiety it is putting on you to work harder and longer, only to hear that you are never home and working too much.
Finding a way to a shared purpose and vision for your life together and a financial plan to follow can be challenging. But it can be eased when you know how to work with the major keys that are impacting both you and your parter relationship with each other and money.
Ten Keys To Unlock Money Differences and Resentments.
Sometimes we need to go deeper before we can go further. My own journey into trying to foster financial intimacy with my wife and working with countless couples has shown me the power of psychology to help couples expand their perspective and deepen their ability to engage in mutually beneficial financial decision-making.
Key 1: Great Communication
This one goes without saying. We all think we know how to communicate, but when is the last time you read something about effective communication in intimate relationships? Developing great communication skills takes reflective effort and learning new ways of communicating.
One trick of the trade to build increased communication is to write down everything going through your mind before you say it. This helps you to see what you have to say before you say it. It gives you a chance to reflect on where you are currently at and what you would like to actually say.
Key 2: Your Attachment Style
This is going another step deeper into psychology. Your attachment style (Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, Disorganized) will impact your relationship expectations automatically. Knowing your attachment style is a must for opening up more effective communication.
Our attachment styles don’t change easily but can change with self-help resources and therapy. Each attachment style has different relationship expectations about our willingness to engage in relationship closeness and how we expect our partners to engage us in intimacy.
Take this attachment style quiz to learn more about your attachment style.
Key 3: Knowing How Your Brain Works
Don’t worry. You don’t have to become a brain scientist. But learning the fundamentals of how the brain works will change your perspective on why you and your partner make the money decisions you make.
When we become curious about how our brain works, we start to realize that many of the things we think are being done intentionally to hurt each other are actually automatic functions of the brain that are happening faster than we realize.
What do you think neural pathways have to do with financial decision-making?
They are the bedrock of our financial decision-making as they store the wide range of experiences we have had with money. There is no surgically removing these experiences that shape our financial decision-making.
Key 4: The Essential Role Emotions Play
I am well aware of a wide range of attitudes and beliefs about the nature of emotions and what we should do with them. What I do know for sure is that we all have them, and they do impact how we make financial decisions.
The more important question invites you to reflect on your relationship with emotions and how that impacts your intimate relationship and your approach to money.
Take some time to notice and name what emotions show up for you while talking with your partner about money. How do your different emotions impact your partner? How do your emotions impact you?
Key 5: Our Family History Matters
There is no escaping the reality that our families profoundly shape our starting relationship with relationships and money. What we do as adults is a whole different question. We must become conscious of how our families have shaped our relationship with money to achieve deep financial freedom.
Many people are stuck either in loyalty to how their family managed and navigated money or they are reacting against their family's patterns with money and overdoing it on the opposite end of the continuum. There is a middle zone between financial polarities that the two of you can create for yourselves.
I can all but guarantee no family navigated money perfectly. Your family did not do money right as much as they did it differently than your partners. There is and was a mix of good and bad financial patterns more likely determined by generation, location, gender, religion/spirituality, and other cultural contextual realities than some objective measure.
Key 6: There is Money Maturity
What comes to mind for you when you think about money maturity? Stop and think about it.
In the field of psychology, there are many models for what maturity means and looks like. I am less concerned about the exact right definition of maturity and more interested in you considering the concept of financial maturity and asking questions about what that could look like in your own life?
Each stage of maturity brings new challenges and opportunities psychologically, relationally, and financially.
Key 7: Social Class Has An Impact
Couples partner across social class lines and within the same social class, and either way their experience of social class impacts their attitudes, values, and emotions related to money.
This is not about saying one person’s social class is better or worse than another, while that is common. When it comes to social class and intimate relationships, it is essential to understand, respect, and grow in determining what lessons you learned about the meaning of money through the lens of social class and how your partner's lessons were similar and different than your own.
When we approach social class differences with compassion and non-judgment, we can discover the good and limiting realities of each experience.
Key 8: Mental Health & Trauma History Matter
Managing your money together is impacted by your and your partner's mental health and trauma history. The two of you may become either overly mired in your own mental health and trauma history or excessively focused on your partners, but the reality is that most couples partner at similar levels of psychological differentiation, and there is a need for a balanced perspective and approach.
Increasing your levels of differentiation can have a positive impact on many mental health concerns. When it comes to your shared financial life, differentiation helps you see that you are both autonomous individuals with your own thoughts and desires about money. At the same time, you are intimate partners with shared desires and goals.
Increasing mental and relational health helps couples balance and allocate money in a way that honors both autonomy and togetherness.
Key 9: Pursuing Financial Planning Together
Seeing all the pieces of your financial life in one place can be an incredibly liberating experience. It can also help you to identify where there are gaps in your financial plan and life.
Engaging in comprehensive financial planning helps couples sort through decisions that benefit today, tomorrow, next year, and many years down the road.
Partnerships of equality include both people in the financial planning process, and both partners recognize that financial planning impacts both of them. There is a mutual interest and recognition of the value of working on your finances together.
Key 10: Integration and Connection
As a couple, using each of the keys at the right time and in the right way is a learning process. It can take time to practice using each key to unlock a significant part of your shared financial life together.
However, the more you focus on fostering and developing the keys you will create increasing financial intimacy in your life. Financial intimacy is one of the most profound ways a couple can be with each other while navigating their shared life together. Leading towards increased financial security with both financial and relational confidence.
Making A Bigger Commitment to Financial Intimacy
Fostering financial intimacy in your relationship is no small task but one with many rewards. I created The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy which takes couples deeper into the ten keys and provides couples with the knowledge and skills they need to help them unlock their most frustrating financial realities.
When we start building a healthy financial foundation together, we can solve the money problems in front of us.
Wishing You Financial Intimacy,
Ed Coambs - Therapy-Informed Financial Planner™
MBA, MA, MS, CFP®, CFT-I™, LMFT
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