What Your Attitude Towards Money Says About You and Your Relationship

Renowned emotional authority John Gottman once expressed that irrespective of whether one’s savings are ample or stretched thin, finances stand as a pivotal catalyst for conflicts within romantic partnerships, with work and the pursuit of wealth assuming the role of an intrusive “third party” in intimate relationships.

Numerous surveys have consistently demonstrated that money and intimacy reign supreme as the primary factors leading to the dissolution of marriages, and the crux of these two quandaries lies in the dearth of trust and feeble communication.

Discussing matters of finance is widely detested, and if one aspires to be the most vexatious individual at a social gathering, inquiring about each person’s monthly income shall suffice.

Our disposition towards money may be encapsulated within three words: clandestine, reticent, and covert, even between spouses.

Psychoanalyst David Krueger, the author of “How Much Money Do We Need,” discovered a common thread among the individuals he assisted, be they corporate CEOs, affluent individuals, or middle-class families: their predicament concerning money is not solely about pecuniary concerns, but rather the sentiments and significance that lie beneath monetary transactions.

Some individuals expend wealth to satiate their basic needs, while others utilize it to regulate their emotional well-being; some deploy it to enhance their self-esteem, while others employ it as a tool for exerting control over others…

Our perception of money and the manner in which we employ it constitutes everyone’s unique “money narrative.”

Research evinces that familial conflicts pertaining to money are often not rooted in numerical figures, but rather in the symbolic implications of money.

In other words, the magnitude of expenditure on a particular item does not constitute the crux of the conflict; rather, it is the underlying reasons behind the expenditure that possess the greatest potential to ignite disputes.

“How Much Money Do We Need” postulates that conflicts between couples regarding money can be categorized into three types:

Firstly, disagreements concerning income disparity; secondly, discord regarding financial standing; and thirdly, divergent interpretations of the very nature of the dispute itself.

For instance, should the individual who generates a higher income assume a dominant role in making significant family decisions? Can the financial circumstances of our household support our children’s education abroad? When engaging in a dispute over a holiday gift, are we able to comprehend the significance the gift holds for the other person?

Within these conflicts, two individuals often assume opposing roles as spendthrifts and frugal individuals, each with their own clear stance.

Spendthrifts ardently believe they possess the acumen to employ money astutely, enabling them to lead a contented, respectable, and wholesome existence while bestowing happiness upon the entire family.

On the contrary, frugal individuals perceive spendthrifts as prodigal, impulsive, and capricious, given to extravagance and waste. They maintain that their own conservative approach is not only pragmatic but also wise and composed.

In truth, whether one adopts the role of a saver or a spender is inherently transitory. We oscillate between these roles at different stages of life.

Merely reproaching the other party as being extravagant or stingy shall yield no favorable outcome in resolving the conflict.

Only by comprehending the significance money holds for one’s partner and understanding each other’s distinct “money narrative” can we contribute to problem-solving.

For instance, when selecting gifts, men prioritize practicality, while women place greater emphasis on the thoughtfulness conveyed through the gift.

A friend expended a substantial sum to gift her husband a camera on his birthday. However, his initial reaction failed to align with her anticipated surprise, instead manifesting as a methodical analysis declaring his lack of necessity for the camera.

My friend was infuriated that her gesture of spending such a significant amount on him went unappreciated.

The husband maintains that the money could have been allocated to more pressing needs, and this matter holds no bearing on their relationship.

Although he acknowledges the sentiment behind the gift, he believes it can be transformed into something more utilitarian, thus fostering happiness for both parties.

A divorce survey reveals that 80% of divorced men and women attribute the demise of their marriages to a sense of estrangement and the absence of intimacy between spouses.

Emotional alienation and financial estrangement often coexist.

Wu Jiezhen, a lawyer specializing in divorce cases, observed, after handling numerous divorces, that individuals with differing incomes possess distinct concerns pertaining to property during divorce proceedings:

The affluent fear substantial asset division;

The middle class and white-collar workers dread the exorbitant costs of remarriage and the challenges accompanying second marriages;

Those with low or no income fear losing their dependable support systems.

The fewer concerns an individual harbors, the greater their proactive involvement within the relationship. Consequently, one’s financial circumstances and attitude towards money heavily influence their proactive engagement in matrimony.

It is often said that a successful couple must navigate conversations about money effectively.

But how does one engage in such discussions?

David Krueger, author of “How Much Money Do WeNeed,” suggests several strategies for couples to improve their communication and resolve conflicts surrounding money:

1. Establish open and honest communication: Create a safe space for discussing financial matters. Both partners should feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns, and goals regarding money.

2. Understand each other’s money narratives: Take the time to understand each other’s beliefs, values, and emotions tied to money. Recognize that these narratives may differ and be willing to empathize and compromise.

3. Set shared financial goals: Work together to establish common financial goals that align with both partners’ values and aspirations. This can help create a sense of unity and purpose when making financial decisions.

4. Create a budget and financial plan: Develop a budget that reflects both partners’ financial priorities and responsibilities. This can help allocate resources effectively and reduce conflicts over spending.

5. Practice transparency and trust: Be open about income, expenses, and financial obligations. Build trust by maintaining honesty and accountability in financial matters.

6. Seek professional help if needed: If conflicts persist or become overwhelming, consider seeking the assistance of a financial advisor, marriage counselor, or therapist who specializes in financial issues. They can provide guidance and facilitate productive conversations.

7. Find compromises and common ground: Understand that financial decisions often involve trade-offs. Look for solutions that satisfy both partners’ needs and find common ground where compromises can be made.

Remember, financial conflicts are common in relationships, but they can be managed and resolved with effective communication, understanding, and a willingness to work together towards shared goals.

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