Money Meltdowns Can Expose Hidden Relationship Issues




There is probably not a topic in the world that holds as much energy for people as money. Belief systems run in every conceivable direction based on what we have been taught by our parents, what we experienced as a child as a result of having it or not and what we have bought into based on how our country, culture, and the world acknowledges the almighty dollar.

Belief systems around money are often the culprit for our uneasiness. We love having money, but we also say in the next breath that money is the root of all evil. We’re excited when we strike a big business deal, and then we say that money makes for strange bedfellows. One only needs to look at the floor of the stock exchange to get an idea of how stirring the reality is of winning and losing. Bring those highs and lows into a relationship and what plays out is not often pretty.

Money problems: Getting out before going under?

The current financial challenges that we face in this country are clearly impacting the institution of marriage and relationships in more ways than one. For some, the loss of financial security has exposed otherwise dormant gaping holes in their relationships that carry some over into the divorce column, while others stay together because they can’t afford to get divorced. It is a mixed bag all the way around, and it’s causing many to consider getting out before going under.

From my seat, I view what is currently playing out as a crisis of consciousness rather than one of finance. Why? Because I see it as how you relate to the issue is the issue. Don’t get me wrong; you have real financial responsibilities that need to be addressed. The question is are you reacting to it from a place of panic and watching your relationship crumble, or are you responding to it from a place of partnership and seeing your relationship thrive?

If you want to keep your relationship intact, there are some things you need to do to give yourself a fighting chance. Letting things play out may work in certain scenarios. Money requires a delicate balance of being and doing, of knowing what you are feeling inside before taking action in the outside world. Here’s my two cents, no pun intended.

Understand that your partner did not turn on you or turn into someone you don’t recognize once his or her 401(k) turned out to be anything but OK. Many couples share the same values around money, yet their belief systems about money in a crisis scenario can be significantly different. Yes, you both want the same things, but how you believe that you achieve them can convince some that they married a complete stranger. Don’t flip out.

Money issues: Time to begin a dialogue

Start talking about what money means to each of you and the messages you, directly and indirectly, received about money as a child. Just having a basic understanding of the lens each of you has been looking through is enough to calm the urge to call your attorney.

Equally important is the understanding that the fight about money is, more often than not, not about money. Because our money stuff is so highly charged, it creates the perfect camouflage to issues that have been troubling the relationship for quite some time. As I indicated earlier, money is often the issue that takes people over the top. It is the ideal candidate for finger-pointing and blame because we are filled from day one with stories about the right and wrong ways to make money.

Make a conscious decision to move into partnership, which will entail compromise, embracing a different choice and agreeing to disagree. Couples who sit at the table and crunch the numbers together have a far greater chance of working through the specifics and deciding together what the path forward needs to look like.

Don’t buy into the energy of what you may be hearing other couples are going through. Stay present in your relationship. Nobody really knows what goes on behind other people’s doors.

Spending time thinking about it is simply a way to distract yourself from your own scenario.

And one last thought: Make the time to laugh and have fun. That doesn’t cost you anything but the willingness to make that choice.