Have you ever stopped to think about how your childhood experiences can affect your romantic relationships?
Of course, nobody grows up in a vacuum and we’re all affected by the people and experiences we have.
But did you know that our upbringing can affect the way we behave in adult relationships, including how we handle our finances?
While your parents might not have known what an attachment style was, they were shaping yours anyway!
Read on to learn more about attachment styles and how they influence financial intimacy in marriage, with information from world-leading research from The Gottman Institute.
Achieving Financial Intimacy
According to Dr. John Gottman’s famous relationship study, relationships with a high degree of empathy tend to be healthier than those with low empathy.
To increase your financial intimacy with your partner, you’ll need to understand their attachment style.
There are two primary types of attachment styles: secure and insecure.
Securely attached people feel comfortable sharing personal information with their partners because they trust that their partners won’t judge them negatively or reject them.
Insecurely attached people fear rejection, judgment, and abandonment.
The Insecure Attachment Styles And Your Finances
The Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style
Those who have an anxious attachment style feel worried or threatened by their partner’s spending habits.
They want their partner to demonstrate their commitment by financially protecting them from any potential threat.
One great way to handle a partner with an anxious attachment style is to show how much you value security and how important it is for your family. Showing that you’re working hard to provide financially will help ease their worries.
The Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style
Those who have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style don’t see money as a big deal and aren’t interested in talking about finances at all.
They like to keep things light, so don’t bring up serious topics like money unless it is absolutely necessary.
If your partner has a dismissive-avoidant attachment style you might try asking questions that seem unobtrusive. Things like where they would go on vacation if money were no object or what kind of car they would buy if money weren’t an issue.
This will give you some insight into their dreams and allow you to connect on a different level.
The Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style
Those who have a fearful-avoidant attachment style worry that having open conversations about finances could lead to conflict.
Instead, they prefer to avoid discussing these issues altogether and hope everything works out fine without discussion.
If your partner has a fearful-avoidant attachment style you might try approaching money conversations from a place of empathy and ensure the conversations are as stress free as possible.
Communication Skills To Improve Financial Intimacy
If you recognize yourself in the descriptions above, know that there is nothing wrong with you.
Everyone has an attachment style, but knowing yours will help improve your communication skills and make achieving financial intimacy easier.
Here are some things you can do to improve your communication skills and make financial intimacy easier.
Don’t underestimate trust as a foundation for intimacy—and finances are a good place to start.
If you have an insecure attachment style, it may be very difficult for you to achieve financial intimacy with your partner.
This is because insecurely attached people fear rejection, which can lead them to make poor financial decisions out of shame or embarrassment.
It might help your partner open up if you share your own money history with them and how it has impacted you.
Another way to build trust?
Acknowledge each other’s contributions financially, even if they aren’t equal.
If one person makes more than another does at work, that doesn’t mean he or she contributed more overall to paying bills and saving money. Recognize what each of you brings to the table.
Even if you don’t contribute equally on paper, remember that each of you has your own way of contributing.
Appreciate those differences and use them to strengthen your relationship rather than allowing them to create distance between you.
For example, maybe your spouse isn’t earning any income right now but manages to save $500 per month while caring for children full time. That’s worth recognizing!
Respect Each Other’s Choices
Often, couples will make financial decisions together.
For example, one partner may ask their partner if they’d like to contribute towards a new television or dishwasher.
However, not all financial decisions need to be made as a team.
While you should consult your spouse when making major purchases, such as a car or house, it’s important that each of you are able to spend money on things that interest you without feeling guilty about it.
In other words, respect each other’s choices—even if those choices differ from your own.
For example, while some people might feel good about purchasing a $5 chai latte every morning like I do, others might prefer to buy an expensive espresso machine and enjoy fresh-brewed coffee at home instead.
As long as both partners feel respected by these differences, there’s no reason why they can’t coexist peacefully.
Own Your Money Problems
One of the most common reasons couples fight about money is that one or both partners have a fear of being controlled by their significant other.
One way to work toward financial intimacy is for you and your partner to adopt an open-book policy—meaning you should share all of your spending, debts, savings goals, investments, etc.
You don’t have to tell your partner exactly how much you spend on food or Starbucks each month—but anything that impacts future financial decisions should be disclosed.
If you can’t bring yourself to do it at first, try writing down everything you spend over a few weeks and then handing it over.
Your partner may not go through every receipt with a fine-tooth comb (though they might!), but simply having access will help ease some fears.
Over time, you can slowly build up trust as your mate proves he or she isn’t going to become controlling over finances.
Don’t forget to add a dose of financial empathy as you look at each other’s spending.
Go Deeper and Learn About Attachment Styles
An attachment style is how you approach relationships, particularly romantic ones.
The importance of getting to know your partner’s attachment style before and during marriage cannot be understated.
If your personalities clash—if one of you is anxious or avoidant, for example—you could have a hard time building an intimate relationship with each other or learning about money together as a couple.
It’s important to understand that people can change their attachment styles over time towards secure attachment.
If you have different styles now than when you first met, it doesn’t mean there’s no hope for your marriage. But it does mean that if you want things to work out between you two financially, it will take some work on both sides.
To get started, check out our attachment style quiz to understand your own attachment style and identify your partner’s attachment style.
Then read up on ways you can bridge gaps between different attachment styles in my book, The Healthy Love & Money Way: How The Four Attachment Styles Impact Your Financial Well-Being.
And remember: No matter what your financial situation looks like right now, the future of your relationship and finances can improve with intention, learning, healing, and growing.
As always, make sure you discuss anything significant regarding money (or anything else) with your partner before moving forward.
Would you like more 1 on 1 support? Then perhaps Therapy Informed Financial Planning is for the two of you. I invite you to schedule your free 30-minute discovery call today.
Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,
MBA, MA, MS, CFP®, CFT-I™, LMFT
Curious About Your Attachment Style?
Take the Attachment Style Quiz now and learn how it impacts your relationships, finances, and life!