There are so many different attitudes and values associated with money.
In my previous Insight, “Soul and Money” you learned of some of the mysterious psychological underpinnings to our attitudes to money.
Here, in “Money-talk: yours, mine, and ours ” I present a pragmatic approach to the money issues you encounter as a couple. However, I also include the psychology of those issues as well, and why they are important. Your attitudes around money will directly affect your direction or telos, as you discovered in Soul and Money. How you earn and use money is an expression of soul, it is not merely economics.
Before you start, however, an understanding of your attachment styles will smooth the money-talk. A relationship between money and attachment style, you ask?
See what you think.
Attachment style, and money
The problem with yours, mine and ours.
Diane Poole Heller, the expert on attachment, explains that you have a particular psychological “attachment style” you formed as a child. This dictates how you give and receive love in a relationship, whether it’s from romantic partners, friends, or even your own children. Attachment styles are unique ways in which you form bonds with others. How might your attachment style show up in your attitudes around money?
If you have an ambivalent attachment style you will likely be alternatively distrustful around money and overly optimistic, reflecting unpredictable caregiving and emotional inconsistency. If you or your partner are ambivalently attached, you often look for the negatives in your relationship, especially around money. You find it hard to be confident around money-plans, often imagining the worst-case scenario. You might have little faith in your own capacity to earn or manage money, so you find it easier to hand over the responsibility.
If you have an avoidant attachment style you enjoy work and earning money because you have most likely been validated for doing stuff, for work. So your work-ethic is very strong. However, this can lead to work-life balance issues, as you struggle to form connections with people on a deep emotional level. Partners who have adapted toward an avoidant attachment style are likely to repress their own needs and desires even while fulfilling those of their partner. Money conversation is likely to be painful because expressing what you want, feel and need does not come easily.
If you have a disorganised attachment style you probably grew up in an erratic household, where nothing felt safe or predictable. Any conversation around money is likely to feel unsafe and even dangerous. This doesn’t mean that money is dangerous, but it certainly feels that way.
Secure attachment style and money
If you have a secure attachment style you will be confident around money-talk and have few doubts around your ability to earn and control money. If your partner has a secure attachment style, they are likely to be well attuned to your needs, as well as expressive in regard to sharing their own. Communication around money is likely to flow easily.
Can see how your actions around money show your attachment style? Don’t judge your partner based on their attachment style, but rather show compassion and understanding and find ways to work together around money. The very good news is that anyone, regardless of upbringing, can learn a secure attachment style. What better way than through learning how to manage money safely and confidently.
It’s important to note that people with secure attachment are trustworthy, and are also able to trust. However, they are not pushovers and are alert to deceptions which would threaten their safety and security.
Scott Pape, The Barefoot Investor, provides good strategies for money-management for any age, stage or attachment style. Good planning deals with the present and the future. He guides you to short, medium and long-term goals to keep the money-monster tamed. Well, tamer.
Sorting out what is yours, mine and ours takes heart!
Love and money; yours, mine and ours
Believe me, being in love is not enough. For one thing, in the “in love” stage of a relationship, you easily glaze over and hope for the best and put off money-talk till later. It’s too unromantic, you think! Sooner or later, though, you will need to pay attention. Because you each hold different values around money, money becomes one of the major tools of differentiation for a couple. Money helps define you as individuals and as a couple; “Yours, mine and ours”. How much separateness and how much togetherness is negotiated by you as a couple, through money?
The days when the bloke brought home the pay packet and handed it to his wife to manage are passed. That scenario represented a certain set of values but our values have changed.
Most of our values and attitudes around money are inherited from others: the culture, the family, advertising and commerce. Fighting about money is often fighting about different values. Do you actually recognize what values you hold? Do some of your values conflict with each other?
Money-talk: the values conversation
So, if fighting about money is actually about different values, why not sort out the values first? In other words, what do you hold dear, and what is worth sacrificing or saving for? What if he wants toys and she wants to own her own home?
The values conversation helps you to grow as a couple and as individuals. It is not really about problem-solving. Keep in mind your attachment styles, though.
Is saving for a house together an agreed financial priority?
The following topics are examples of what you might disagree about.
Owning your own home.
Maternity/paternity leave – how long do either of you take from work to raise children?
Pro-bono work or does everything you do need to bring a financial return?
What money is yours, what money is mine, especially during maternity/paternity leave?
Is the money yours – or the banks?
The debt-averse business-man
An up-and-coming young man considered investing his new-found prosperity in the stock market. After all, that’s what everyone does with a bit of spare cash, don’t they? So, he reasoned, if others can do it, I can too. But he quickly learned how debt-averse he actually is, and the deeper he dabbled the less sleep he got. He felt increasingly less secure and increasingly more worried.
In many ways, this young man was fortunate to identify the stress which debt caused him.
Debt stress is a major contribution to relationship dissatisfaction, though often we don’t recognize it because we are brainwashed into believing that there is something called “good debt” and that we can’t get ahead without it.
What we are courting, however, is a constant level of anxiety that interferes with our ability to enjoy our life, our partner and our family. The more debt you have, the less of a buffer there is between you and the ups and downs of the financial market, world trade trends, climate variables, and other countries messing about with their currencies. Plus unexpected events in your own lives.
The more debt you have the more vulnerable you are. Drowning in debt gives little breathing space for your relationship. Once again, be mindful of your attachment style when undertaking ANY debt. Follow the principles of secure attachment around money, ie Scott Pape or someone similar though I am a dinky-die fan of his approach.
What portion of your income is yours, what portion is your partners and what portion is sequestered in debt.? Let’s face it, couples fight a lot about debt. And a lot of relationships break because of debt.
So, how does money-talk get you on the same page?
Start with attitudes. Attitudes about money vary widely and are deeply embedded in the fabric of generations of adaptation to change. The biggest problem is that we don’t stop to examine why we think the way we do about money. At the same time we are VERY emotionally attached to our money – and the attitudes around it. You understand this better because you now consider attachments styles.
The Great Depression showed us how fragile the economy actually is. Climate change adds to this financial uncertainty. To what extent can you sustain financial security in good times and bad?
Financial security means different things to different people. It’s very subjective. About 30 years a colleague in Perth did his Ph.D. research on elderly people and published “Die Healthy” with his findings. The healthiest people reported sufficient financial support, whether they were in the lowest or highest income brackets. The emphasis is on sufficient. What does financial support look like to you? What does sufficiency mean to you?
Yours, mine, and ours… at last, money-talk
Things to talk about so you are on the same page.
Who is the spender and who is the saver?
What was the financial situation of both partners on entering the relationship?
Who controls the finances in the relationship – both, or? Is one of you “better” at handling money, and if so should that person “control” the relationship finances?
Do you have both names on contracts such as loans and services? If not, why not? Not that you should, or must!
Credit cards. Scott Pape says to dispense with them completely and replace with debit cards, so you are in charge of your spending. What do you think?
Should you have joint or separate accounts or both? Do you feel more secure or less secure? Or trapped? (Attachment style again).
Does one of you have a higher appetite for risk than the other? So?
Does one of you have a much higher income than the other? How does this influence how you allocate bill-paying, etc?
Do you talk as equals about money or does one presume to have greater knowledge or responsibility? What are the advantages of making joint financial decisions? Or not?
What are your personal and joint financial goals? Does having long-term financial goals give a solid foundation and substance to your commitment to each other? Or do you feel stifled as if your freedom is gone?
Financial strategies; spending, saving?
What if you have done shameful things around money?
In my work with couples its common to hear about money-behaviour that is hard to fess up to, because it is shameful. To confess your dark money secrets to your partner is very difficult, no doubt. But I can say this: relationships crack and fail because of things that were not confessed, but discovered later. Or, even worse, exposed by someone else.
Toxic secrets sap energy and spontaneity from your relationship. If you understand that money is a numinous trickster, can you give yourselves a break, fess up and work together for a more transparent relationship with money – and each other?
One small thing…
Take one small segment of this post and have a date night – Scott Pape’s suggestion – to begin a regular conversation about money. Remember the money+soul connection. Overcome your avoidance, embarrassment, shame or attachment style and give it a go.