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Money Out the Window

When Money Flies Out the Window, Love Flies Out the Door

Is Arguing about Finances Hurting Your Relationship?

Through experience on our Mars Venus Coaching line, it’s a well known fact that couples argue most about two issues:  money and sex. While the latter might be a much more titillating subject, the recent April 15 tax deadline, and its subsequent possible tax debt, has most couples thinking more about bills than thrills.  Money is a frustrating issue over which to conflict, since we are all taught that “money can’t buy you love”. Yet the same band that made that old adage popular is also responsible for the lyric Your lovin' give me a thrill/But your lovin' don't pay my bill/Now gimme money….” 

A recent study from Brigham Young University resulted in some very telling findings regarding couples and finances. Turns out that financial problems have more to do with how we think about money than how much money we actually have. The groundbreaking study examined 600 couples and discovered that couples deemed  “materialistic” experienced more conflict over money, no matter how rich or poor they were. The more emphasis there was in the relationship on possessions, the unhappier the couple was. Furthermore, it seemed that the heart of the problem was not actually money but expectations.

Let’s say you go into a marriage expecting to maintain the same income level as your parents. This can become a problem if one partner was raised in a single-income, middle-class household, and the other had parents with dual incomes and a high standard of living. One partner may grow frustrated that her partner is pressuring her to work when she’d rather raise their children; her husband may resent that their children will not be able to attend private school or live in the “right” neighborhood since his wife does not want to contribute to the family income. The root of their conflict is that they entered into the marriage without communicating their expectations to one another.

This may lead to constant arguments seemingly about money, but the truth is that only 10% of our arguments are actually about what we think they are. The other 90% is about past hurts and repressed anger – and not necessarily having to do with your current relationship. In Mars Venus philosophy, we call this the Trash Can Theory. Like a trash can, we have a place inside of each of us where we store our unresolved feelings from the past. The lid on this trash can is lifted when we feel emotionally safe – so the irony is, the more loved and safe we feel with our partner, the more likely we are to be affected by the feelings stuffed in our trash cans.

Money may be an emotionally fraught issue for you due to a painful financial past, but regardless, when you argue about finances, it can open old wounds about appearance, pride, desire, envy, responsibility… and the list goes on. Also, it isn’t a coincidence that you fight more fiercely with your partner than you do with anyone else in your life – the more intimate we are with someone, the higher the need for his/her approval, so anything your partner says is taken to heart, quite literally.

So, while they say that money is the root of all evil, you can’t really blame the coveted green paper for your relationship woes. As the BYU study found, even when a couple is swimming in debt, if they communicate well and approach their problem as a team effort, the financial stress need not affect their marital happiness.

We live in a materialistic society; and money, let’s face it, will always make the world go round. But by examining your own feelings about money and its implications, you can start a dialogue with your partner about the real problems – that good old 90% from your personal trash can – hiding behind the money issues. In order to successfully negotiate a resolution to money problems, you need to understand why you are unsatisfied, what role you can play in the solution, and how you can help your partner participate in the solution in a way that causes the least amount of hurt and anger on his/her part.

This is hard work, especially when you are feeling hurt or angry. Sometimes an impartial party can help clarify your thoughts, and our Mars Venus Coaches are specifically trained to guide you towards a better understanding of yourself and your relationship. Learning to communicate your needs can help make you rich in love, which is the one thing no amount of money can buy!

Do you have questions about this article? Do you need help understanding how this information can change your life? Talk to one of our expertly trained telephone coaches today and get the answers you are looking for. You can call from the privacy of any phone, and our operators are available to assist you with processing your call.

Call 1-888-627-7836 for details and a personal message from Dr. John Gray.


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