Relationships and Money

Is Money Causing Relationship Problems?

We would all have a difficult time finding someone who hasn’t been affected by divorce, either their own or a family member. During the hundreds of classes my fellow financial educators and I do each year, we often hear from individuals who have been struggling with excessive consumer debt or even bankruptcy that can be traced to the actions or inactions of their ex-spouse (or soon-to-be ex-spouse).

Too often, however, money and the stresses related to it are blamed for insurmountable marital problems and challenges. Some of our students share how they argue regularly about money and debt, which ends in anger, frustration, and possibly even the splitting up of their family.

Unfortunately, money and its household management (or lack thereof) can be used as scapegoats for other, more pertinent issues in our relationships.

While I am not a family counselor, I do know that money, in and of itself, is just a financial tool or means of exchange. Without the trust that someone else will accept it for the same value we ourselves place on it, money would simply be a piece of paper (actually, it’s mostly cotton) or an insignificant chunk of metal. And it’s that trust that imbues money with extraordinary worth. It is only when money is used as a means of control or power or security that it becomes divisive.

The views about money that we develop in our formative years generally follow us into our relationships. Dealing with our own one-on-one relationship with money can be very beneficial to our family relationships.

We must learn to see money simply as a tool to achieve meaningful goals, rather than something to flaunt, to fear, to envy, or to covet.

To determine the stability and soundness of your own relationship with money, answer the following questions as honestly as possible.

  • Do I feel that having more money would make others respect me more?
  • Do I ever think that just having more money would solve my financial problems?
  • Do I constantly worry that I don’t have enough money to take care of my financial needs?
  • Do I wish I could live the “millionaire” lifestyle, with mansions, fancy cars, parties, world travel, etc.?
  • Do I believe that the rich are “too rich” and should share more of their wealth with people like me?
  • If I’ve ever received a substantial windfall (e.g. lottery, inheritance, or even a big tax return), was it spent within a month or two?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, might I suggest you to take some time to get to know your own finances better? Perhaps as you grew up, there was constant financial insecurity because a parent was a spendthrift? Maybe you were never trusted with money and still haven’t allowed yourself the confidence required to make a few financial mistakes and learn from them?

Whatever the case, it is likely that you have some work to do. We all do. There is no such thing as a perfect money manager. Financial success is not a destination. If we can just accept that financial success is working on a daily, weekly and monthly basis with our income and expenses in order to reach goals that are truly important to us, we’d all find greater satisfaction in our various relationships.

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