Money isn’t real!
Well I guess it’s real in that it’s not a figment of my imagination. But the money we carry in our wallets and have in our bank accounts is just a representation of something else.
So, in that way, money is NOT real.
But, boy oh boy, can we get wrapped around the axle about it.
A frequently quoted statistic is that money and money related disagreements are the leading cause of divorce in the US. I’m not sure if that figure is completely accurate or not. But, what I can say for sure is that practically every couple I’ve counseled have cited something related to money as an important problem to work on.
Now, every couple is unique, but I’ve come to see some strong patterns. When I work with a couple around the topic of money we usually focus a few key areas.
Men and women experience money differently. In other words, money “does something” different for each gender.
Specifically, women tend to derive safety and security from money. Men, on the other hand, tend to gain power and prestige from money.
So, what does this mean is a relationship?
When a wife tells her husband, “I think we need to have more money in our emergency fund”, what she might be saying is, “I don’t feel safe right now”. If the husband focuses on the “money message” he may miss the “safety message”. This is critical for a husband to hear since safety is such a basic need.
Likewise, when a husband says, “I think we need to have more money in our emergency fund”, what he might be saying is, “I feel powerless”. Clearly this is an important message for his wife to hear.
Of course, couples won’t be able to hear anything from each other if they are not communicating.
In Western culture we are conditioned against discussing money. We need to get over that…especially within marriages. Couples who regularly talk about money (earning, spending, saving, investing, etc.) get closer.
Communication is a skill that can only improve with practice.
So, practice talking about money. I even suggest discussing finances in front of children. The rules are that the conversation needs to be age-appropriate, should not include worries about serious financial difficulties, and should be solution-focused.
For example, you may want to talk as a family about what vacation you would like to take next summer. Do some research and estimate the cost. Then engage the whole family on what needs to be done to save that amount of money. This is a great way to help children see that what they do today (i.e. taking shorter showers and turning off unused lights) leads them to where they end up tomorrow (i.e. hanging out with Mickey Mouse next summer).
Have this conversation while eating dinner as a family. You’ll find it to be a great bonding and growth experience for everyone.
Families who all row in the same direction make progress.
“Working together” looks different for different couples. I encourage my clients to be creative and find methods that work for them. The most important rule is to do the work regularly and consistently.
I teach couples to have a scheduled time to discuss their financial life. For example, maybe every Sunday evening after dinner is your time. When you finish eating you clear the table and get out our financial documents. Talk about wins and mistakes from the past week. Talk about what needs to be accomplished during the coming week.
This habit will pull finances into an important place in your relationship.
These three areas are not all you need to master money, but they are foundational and powerful. Doing these on a regular basis will go a long way to improving your financial situation and solidifying your marriage.