Your money stories and beliefs start with your Family-Of-Origin, which encompasses everyone on your family tree, even great grandparents and step-relatives. It is possible these people were deceased before you were born, or have been absent from the family, and yet, they can have an impact on your money stories and beliefs. How? Think about a river. The water starts upstream, and flows downstream, leaves and twigs are picked up along the way. At some point, everything it picks up will be deposited, it may get stuck on a rock or washed ashore. Those leaves and twigs are the money stories from those who influence your life, those that came before you.
Passed down, these stories are saved in your memory, they create the feelings and beliefs about money that you live by. When partners come to a relationship with their own set of stories, and those stories don’t align, the tensions, frustration, and fights over money begin. So what can you do to ensure you create a bright financial future together? You have to examine those stories together, come to understand and communicate your emotions, find empathy for your partner, and then form a shared plan that works for you both as you move forward.
Understanding How Your Money Stories are Formed
The feelings and emotions we have regarding money, how we view it, how we feel it should be used, comes to us on an unconscious level. We hear and see things that others do, how they handle money, and form stories that we then use to make decisions about our money. These money beliefs drive our actions in handling money.
As an example, let’s talk about a hypothetical couple, Mike and Barb. Happily married and in their mid-40’s, Mike and Barb live a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle. They have two kids (a boy and a girl) that will soon be considering their future, perhaps college or some form of further education. Mike and Barb usually agree about their finances, what is important to them and how to spend their money.
Mike comes from a family of blue-collar workers. With a family of self-made people, higher education was not something his family aspired to. He, like his dad and grand-dad, found a trade and he has been working as an electrician. The women in his family didn’t have careers but would work off-and-on; nothing long term. It was common that when the kids left home, whatever they did was up to them, financially as well, and dad then took up a hobby, usually an expensive one. For Mike, he wants to restore a classic car once the kids are out of the house.
Barb’s family valued higher education for the boys in the family. Though they valued education, they didn’t fund them as they pursued a degree. Barb’s parents helped their kids find scholarships, loans, or grants and helped some with living expenses as they could. For Barb, it was not expected she would attend college but pursue a traditionally female trade. Barb became a hairdresser in a local salon.
Now as talk in Mike and Barb’s home turns to their children’s further education, Barb feels they should do all they can to help both their son and daughter. Barb feels she was slighted that her education was not a priority to her family and wants her daughter to have the same opportunities as her son. Barb wants to contribute even if it requires a loan, to get them started in their careers. Mike says their children need to learn to sink or swim on their own. These varying viewpoints have led to several money fights. Mike and Barb feel they are at an impasse on how to move forward.
How to Move Forward to Find Common Ground?
This impasse between Mike and Barb is a difficult one. One that is affecting them and their children. What is their next step? How do they come to a shared agreement on how to move forward? A great start is to sit down and individually complete a Family Money Tree. This tool is not unlike a traditional family tree. It’s very similar in that you map out your family members and how they are related to you, but it includes financial information. With all the information in front of you, you get a clear picture of where your money stories come from.
A Family Money Tree is something everyone can benefit from, particularly in cases like Mike and Barb’s. The open communication and discussions about members of the family and their money behaviors and beliefs will open them to discussions that will lead to financial intimacy with one another. When you can understand how your partner’s money stories have been shaped, you can develop better empathy for where they are coming from. Through empathy and understanding your partner’s perspective, you can learn to better communicate about the conflicts. If it’s still difficult for a couple to find a way to communicate with each other about their money-related stress, Financial Therapy may be the next best step. But having a completed Family Money Tree is an incredible tool to begin in uncovering the root causes contributing to the financial tension between partners.
Now, On to Your Brighter Financial Future!
It goes without saying, no one wants to be at odds about their finances like Mike and Barb. Fortunately, you don’t have to be. With open communication and working to understand your partner, how their money stories impact their beliefs and actions, you can create financial intimacy with your partner. This intimacy will provide you a safe space to discuss your differences and develop your financial path with shared goals. The bright financial future you hope for is attainable when you work together to reach it. You can begin today by completing your own Family Money Tree. I walk you through how to do this in my mini-course.
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