How to Improve Your Relationships with Financial EmpathyAug 04, 2020
If we are honest, we all want to improve our relationships. We have an idea of what the perfect relationship may be. It could be someone you know personally or from a favorite television show or movie. It’s important to remember though, what you see in others may be what we call the ‘highlight reel’ of their lives, the parts they want others to see. Reality just might be a less rosy picture. As to those characters you connect to on-screen, they along with their stories were created by writers for our entertainment and are probably entirely fictitious.
To obtain the kind of relationships and financial success you want in your life, you need to focus on you, your money beliefs, and that of your partner - not the fictitious representations of people across the airwaves. Examine the emotions and stories that developed from your earliest money memories. Understanding each other’s money history is a part of financial empathy and a key component to your future financial (and marital) success.
Through financial empathy, you can find common ground, and develop shared goals with your partner. Which then lends itself to building the financial future of your dreams, together.
How to Improve Your Financial Empathy
To begin to develop financial empathy as a couple, you must first start by individually looking at how you relate to money, and what helped form those ideas. Understanding how your family system worked and your first money memories bring clarity to how you each feel about money. Did you come from a home where there seemed to never be enough money? Was there a fear of not having food on the table or a roof over your head? Or was your home one where there was enough, where you never lacked for anything and received what you wanted without question? Can you see how as individuals your understanding and expectations of money may be different based on how you each grew up?
When you form a partnership and home together, a suitcase of money stories, emotions, and expectations come right along with you. You each unpack them, putting them in the closet. Maybe in that back corner. Out of sight, out of mind, yes, but still a very much a part of that new relationship you have whether you can see “that baggage” or not. At first, you may not even recognize your stories may be different from one another. Or you ignore them. After all, differences are not a big deal, until they are. Until you start talking about things way bigger than that new pair of designer shoes your partner just bought or whether you can go out to dinner together again (for the umpteenth time this month).
When the discussion turns to say owning a home, or if one of you should stay home to care for the kids, or when to retire, the hidden stories are moved to the front of that closet and you find out if those stories are different, or possibly similar. At least so long as you’re willing to actually look at the stories.
Your Successful Path to Your Shared Financial Dreams
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to take a deeper look at these emotions, stories, and beliefs about money and fully understand how they affect each of you and your relationship. This will guide your understanding of each other and nurture your financial empathy. Ideally, you have already begun the process, but the good news is it’s never too late if you haven’t. This is where a Financial Therapist can guide you through the steps and bring clarity to what you and your partner feel and understand about money.
As you listen to what your partner says, don’t just hear it but truly listen. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see it from their perspective. Learn to understand why they feel as they do. You may not agree with them, because you had different experiences in your family system, but the key is to understand why they feel as they do.
Financial empathy is reached when you can reflect back to your partner the experience they’ve had with money and when they feel heard. Now, with your shared empathy, you can begin to talk about those important financial decisions, such as when and where to retire, how much you want to work, etc. and begin to create the life you want to lead together.
Finding the Magic and Joy in Your Relationship Again
As a Financial Therapist, I have worked with couples who have lost the joy and wonder around their money. They’ve allowed the possibilities of what their financial resources can do for them, simply cease to exist. When you each remember that individually you have a financial history, and stories that impact your life, you find financial empathy, you can move forward. There will be a renewed financial intimacy so, together, you can create shared goals and dreams for your future and find the magic and joy in your relationship.
That rosy relationship you are looking for can be yours if you simply take the time and do the work. By listening and understanding your partner, their stories, beliefs, and emotions around money you can develop the financial empathy and intimacy needed to create shared goals for your future. What could be better than finding the magic and joy in your relationship again?
Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,
MBA, MA, MS, CFP®, CFT-I™, LMFT
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