Finances - Relationships - Mental Health
Jan 16, 2020
Finances, often a dirty word in relationships. No one likes to talk about their finances, especially when they’re trying to develop a romantic connection. A question like “What’s your philosophy about money?” doesn’t tend to come up in conversation. Do we, even for ourselves, know what our philosophy is about money?
As we venture into the New Year and many people reflect on their past or future, finances often are a topic we think about. January is Financial Literacy Month. When counselors hear this we think: how are people talking about money? How is money affecting relationships? How does this show up on clients at our mental health clinic?
Finances/Money Problems are often reported as one of the top reasons couples argue, as well as, one of the top reasons couples divorce. Couples need to know how to communicate with one another in order to have productive conversations about money. Counselors can help couples create and practice specific ways to have good, productive conversations together.
In Dr. John Gottman’s work with couples, he found one of the components to a sound relationship is ‘Love Maps’; gaining a deeper understanding of your partner by knowing things about your partner and building a friendship with them. Kyle Benson, 2016, began using the phrase ‘Money Maps’ in this same way – gaining a deeper understanding of your partner’s money values, and where they came from.
Finances represent more than just money. Think about it. What does financial security mean to you? To your partner? I’m not just talking about the dollar amount here. Look deeper – what does money mean to you, what’s the value of it, and why? Money represents power, our dreams, and our fears. It also can represent freedom and security (Benson, 2016).
Oftentimes, couples that come into our clinic report “being totally fed up with their partner because of money.” This often looks like one partner is a saver and one is a spender, or one is wanting to live life now and one is wanting to make sure they’re secure in the future. By creating a safe place to discuss a gridlocked problem (Gottman) couples are able to explore the reasons behind why they want to spend or save. They are able to develop a deeper understanding of one another and build upon their love (and money) maps.
FamilyMeans counselors are able to help facilitate conversations and will often say there is no one right way to set up your finances as a couple. The goal is to work together as a team to achieve your financial goals, whatever they might be. Counselors can help strategize in how to cope with the stress, anxiety, or even depression that sometimes that comes along with money matters. FamilyMeans is especially unique in helping couples with financial strain as our mental health counselors can help you to work through the tough conversational aspect, and Financial Solutions counselors can help you to put a plan in place.
So, as you’re embarking on the New Year and getting to know your significant other, at any stage of your relationship, why not ask the question about money? Bring that dirty word into the relationship and make it talkable. If you get stuck or want help with these conversations let a FamilyMeans counselor help you.
Written by Erin Rowlson, LMFT
FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy Clinical Director