Love & Money
MONEY STRATEGIES FOR A HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIP
A Special Series from Dr. Terri Orbuch
This month we are excited to share advice for couples on a variety of money topics from trusted relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch. Check back each Thursday for the rest of June to read her expert posts.
Money represents different things to people: power, control, security, self-esteem, and even love. The personal meaning we attach to money affects how we talk to others about it, whether we’re speaking with our partner, friends, children, or parents. It is important to be honest with yourself about how you view money – because it will help you reduce and resolve conflict in your romantic relationship. My research finds that the “buck” starts with you, in a happy money relationship.
For example, you may view money as a sign of security and stability. You like to save for emergencies, and when financial problems or money debt arise, you become very concerned and worried. You also become extremely anxious about spending money on items your children or partner may not necessarily need.
Alternatively, you may like to take more risks with money and see it as a source of your self-esteem and confidence. The more money you acquire (or earn), regardless of the personal or relationship sacrifices, the happier and better you feel about yourself. You enjoy taking big risks with your money and you work hard to display your well-earned money.
These are just two of the many different ways people can view money.
Your personal approach to money has most likely been influenced by how your family dealt with it growing up and the dynamics of past relationships. Once you identify how you approach money (and its meaning), you can more effectively alter your behavior and keep money from being a hot button topic in your relationship.
What does money mean to you? Ask yourself these three questions:
1. How did your parents deal with money? Did your parents discuss money in front of you? Were your parent(s) savers or spenders? Did they spend the majority of their money on themselves, the house, the kids or on recreation?
2. What did money mean to you when you were growing up? Was it something you took for granted, because your needs were always provided for? Was your family struggling to make ends meet, and you’ve spent most of your adult life worried that you’ll never be financially secure? Did you receive an allowance, or did you work to contribute to the household or your personal expenses?
3. How did you deal with money in your former relationships? In your past relationships, were you responsible for your own expenses, or did you both contribute to expenses? Did you ever feel you couldn’t do something that cost money because your partner didn’t approve? Was your relationship great when money was good, but terrible when money was tight?
If you are currently in a relationship, after you identify what money means to you, make a “money date” with your partner. Share and discuss your answers to the above questions. Then, ask him/her the same questions to get a sense of his/her personal meaning or view of money. Too often, disagreements about money have little to do with the money itself, and more to do with the underlying different meanings of money between two partners!
Money is not always an easy topic to discuss or manage with your partner. We all come from different backgrounds with various ways of saving and spending money. Give it time. Identify what money means to each of you, respect your differences, and be an equal-partner team in all big financial decisions. Talk regularly and do not be afraid to seek out financial assistance from others (e.g., books, online articles, a financial advisor, or couples therapy). Being fiscally responsible will show your partner that planning a future together is a major priority in your life. Regularly taking advantage of coupons allows couples to save money and pocket those savings for the long-term. And remember: savers, not spenders, are the new sexy!
Dr. Terri Orbuch (also known as The Love Doctor®) is a trusted relationship expert, author, professor and therapist. She is the director of a landmark study called “The Early Years of Marriage Project,” funded by the National Institutes of Health, and author of five books including “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great” (Random House).