Honest Conversations about Money and Relationships
Authors: Alyson Jones MA, RCC & Ida Harvey, MACP, CA, RCC
Money is often a “hot topic” in a relationship. Clinical Director Alyson Jones and her Associate Ida Harvey, who is both a CA (Chartered Accountant) and a Relationship Therapist answer some tough questions about money and relationships. At Alyson Jones & Associates we believe in honest conversations and the sharing of practical information.
1. Why is talking about Money taboo?
Money and status have always been linked – but historically the upper classes felt they were above money matters. There was an investment in keeping a divide between culture and money – but much of this changed with the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. We are left with remnants of this old thinking, and “money talk” can be sometimes seen as impolite or crass. Unfortunately, this has left us without a traditional blueprint when it comes to conversations about money. There is also the concept that money is the root of all evil. Easily said, but it has always been about people and not money. The people behind the money were the ones making the choice – not the money!
- Money for many is still a taboo subject because of its psychological and cultural effects on people.
- We often tie our self-worth and our success to how much money we have.
- Many emotions could be tied with money that makes if harder for people to talk about such as: shame, fear and lack of confidence.
2. Why do so many couple find it difficult to talk about money?
Money and romance have often been seen on opposite ends of the scale. The practical verse the romantic. Many people still want the fairy tale romance in which everything ends up happily ever after. Money has not been associated with romance and relationships – but rather with banks, pay cheques and responsibilities. Some people see this as a “downer” – something to be avoided. But we know the more you avoid something the more it becomes a problem.
Money is part of every relationship, and our ability to talk about money and future goals is a healthy measure of a relationship and can enhance the depth of a relationship. We need to learn how to talk about the things that make us feel vulnerable in life and in a relationship – thus it is important to learn how to talk about money in a relationship. This can be difficult if were not taught how to have these conversations in our own family of origins. The more we can do this, the more we can enrich our lives and our relationships though honest conversations, increased critical thinking and common (and negotiated) goals.
- We often have this belief that “once we get married, we’ll figure things out” and unfortunately don’t discuss our beliefs about many.
- Unfortunately, nothing destroys romance faster than a power struggle over money.
- Many people don’t even know how much their partner make and some don’t even know how much investments they have themselves.
- I have met many women in their 40’s and 50’s that have just separated from their partner and have extreme fear of talking about money. They feel lost and afraid because they explain that their partner was the one in charge of their finance.
- If we are able to discuss our finances the more we learn about the beliefs and values around money the better chance of having a successful relationship with out partner.
3. Is gender an issue when it comes to talking about money in a family?
The reality is that most of the world’s wealth is still controlled by males. True economic equality is still a work in progress. We all have our conditioned beliefs about reality and life. When it comes to money there are fears that many women experience in a relationship. Even in Canada the financial shift is still quite recent and a work in progress. Women finally got the vote in Canada in 1919, and many women could not get credit in Canada as recently as the 1970s. As a therapist I have worked with many successful women who have the “fraud syndrome,” where they think they do not deserve the success they are experiencing and that somebody somehow will find out that they are faking it. I have also worked with many women who feel they do not have what it takes to be financially successful. There are also those who are suspicious of success and power. Often women will avoid talking to their partners about money as these fears silence them.
- As Alyson mentioned unfortunately the world’s wealth is still mainly controlled my males. That being said even in many marriages the man controls the finances in the house.
- Many women have a lack of confidence talking about money because they feel they don’t know enough knowledge about finance because their father was in charge of the money in the house and once, they got married their husband took over.
4. What are the underlying fears associated with conversations about money?
Money and power have been cousins all along – and power imbalances are often associated with money imbalances. This plays out on a global scale, as well as in relationships and families.
- Many people feel shame about the financial situation so they don’t like to reach out and talk about. Especially men, where many feel they should be the provider and they shouldn’t worry their spouse about their finances.
- Also, as I mentioned before many tie their worth and success to how much money they have. Therefore, when they are in a financial situation that they are not proud of they tend not to talk about money because of the fear of being judged by others.
- On the other hand, people that are well financially in their view, may fear that if people or their spouse would know how well they are financially they could take advantage of them.
- And lastly, many fear that they don’t have enough financial knowledge and if they would talk about money people would judge them .
5. Limiting beliefs that shut down financial conversations in a relationship
- Wealth means power, and power is bad. Money is the root of all evil – so it must be very bad.
- My partner knows all about money, so it is their job to handle it.
- My partner knows nothing about money so there is no reason to share this.
- I am jealous of other’s wealth, and it upsets me to think about what I don’t have.
- If I talk about money my partner will withdraw from me.
- There is never going to be enough money, so I must hang onto it with an iron fist.
- It feels good when I buy something new, it would be a downer if my partner brought this up. I better find a way to hide my spending.
- I am so angry at you because you never listen to me when I try to talk about the consequences of your spending.
- I need more money to be happy. The more money I have the happier I will be.
- I am too busy to spend time on financial matters.
- It is improper or rude to discuss wealth and finances.
- I don’t know anything about money or numbers, and I would look stupid if we talked about money.
6. Beliefs that allow for financial conversations and growth (the beliefs we can plant that will lead to true empowerment and success).
- Wealth creates freedom for us and allows us to experience life in a fuller way.
- Money is a currency that is symbolic and is a part of our society that deserves our attention.
- It is healthy to discuss money and share perspectives and knowledge.
- Wealth is meant to flow.
- We are worthy and deserving.
- I can share my success and contribute to others through my wealth and financial knowledge.
- Financial health is part of overall health.
- It is courageous to have honest and respectful conversations about money.
- I can learn from others and feel joy in their successes.
- I remain curious and open to growth in all areas of my life – including financial.