Money, Conflict and Control of Finances
When you are married you are tied financially to each other, every decision and transaction affects the other whether you like it or not. That is why finances and control of them is a big area of conflict in family relationships and marriage.
You will never agree on everything when it comes to what to spend money on or what to save, however not agreeing is very different from someone holding all the financial power in a relationship.
Many women who give up work to have children for some time feel a huge lack of control and independence when it comes to finances. Even if a husband is generous when they are out together and tells them they can have what they need, the asking all the time can often lead some women to feel controlled financially.
Michelle couldn’t stand having to always ask her husband for money for a haircut or to buy a friend a birthday present or even to get herself a coffee and magazine. She also hated the way she had to report on every single purchase she made and hear her husbands’ comments. He was always so negative and thought everything was expensive, so she began fearing to ask him for money and instead of asking for things she held resentment against him instead.
Presuming he would react badly without actually asking him. That was until we devised a new plan for the way they structured their finances and cleared past resentments they both had. Resentment needs to be let go of as it kills passion and closeness in relationships.
One of the biggest areas of resentment and conflict I come across when it comes to finances is how much one person is spending on their family. I have had couples fall out over money sent home to pay for a brother or sisters education, family medical bills or paying for their parents home and expenses.
When there are stepchildren and families involved it can get even more complicated and tense. Some husbands and wives believe the money they earn as a unit (couple and children) needs to stay with and be spent on that unit only. Others feel obliged to help their family and want to treat them and look after them.
These issues have to be worked through and agreed upon because if they are not, anger, jealousy and negativity will implode the relationship. Ideally, these are the kind of things that need to be addressed before marriage, in my pre-marital coaching, we look at financial beliefs and expectations in detail as it prevents disappointment and conflict later on.
Let me ask you some questions:
– Are finances causing conflict in your relationship?
– Do you feel resentful at the financial choices your partner makes?
– Do you feel controlled or free financially?
– Is it time to change the way your finances are working in your relationship?
– Is there respect and appreciation when it comes to how money is managed?
In my experience, the key is helping couples manage finances differently. I am a big believer in transparency and financial education. The more both in the relationship take an interest in the finances and work as a team, the better equipped they are to deal with life and it’s unexpected costs.
When the couple feels happy about the way finances are being controlled and organised in the relationship the more peace they have. Sometimes people tell me that finances shouldn’t be important in love and a marriage, yet to me, that is not living in the real world.
Financial agreement is key because not having enough money and financial insecurity causes fear and stress. We are the only species that has to pay to survive no other species has to pay to live. That is why it is critical to have enough money to live. Money is also important to find a middle way upon as best you can because it is highly emotional.
Many of us have ideas and dreams about what we want to achieve and have, many of us have rules for what we do not want when it comes to finances. And all of us are affected either positively or negatively by our childhood. This includes how we saw money being managed growing up, how much money we had, what beliefs were passed on to us about having or not having money.
I grew up in a household where we didn’t have much money. I saw my mum working nights when my dad got in from work because we were struggling as a family. We had very little and it was a stressful time for my parents, they used to fight over money a lot.
As a child you remember the small things, I remember my mum cutting the toothpaste tube with scissors when it was finished to get the remaining bit out of it, as well as using soap until it got so small you couldn’t hold it anymore, it kept slipping out of your hands. I remember I was not allowed to have cheese and marmite in a sandwich because they were two expensive fillings, I had to choose one. I also remember hating feeling so cold because the heating was not always put on enough. I resented it.
So, for me personally, extreme tightness is very unattractive and at the same time, too much extravagant spending concerns me, especially if done on credit. I want to make sure that I am never in a situation when I don’t have enough money to eat good quality food or put the heating on when it’s cold, like most people I guess.
That’s why if I was in a relationship where my partner was not transparent about money or did not see the value in saving, it would be a challenge for me to have peace. This isn’t about me not trusting a partner, this is because of years of living through financial pain and stress and seeing my parents fight over it.
It has nothing to do with love either, I can love someone but if financially we are polar opposites the likelihood is we would be in conflict and it would cause tension between us. I have had to do a lot of work on myself to undo my financial fears and thankfully with some powerful hypnotherapy tracks and meditations I am far less controlling, less anxious and live in peace.
I still have rules that I believe are sensible and protective but I am flexible on them.
What are your rules around money and saving?
Are you a fake it before you make it, kind of person or live within your means? What about your financial dreams? Do you have any, and is your partner aware of them, are you aligned? Are there things that currently frustrate you about the way finances are run in your family?
I work with some men and women who are different to me, they hate the thought of budgeting and want to be free to spend everything they get. They see something they want and get it, even if it’s on credit as they are not worried about the future or saving, they feel confident they will get by.
I admire them in many ways, I will never be able to be that free and I am not sure if I would want to be. We all have our own relationship to money and that is why sharing financial concerns and dreams early on benefits couples. All money issues are control issues. Even if it appears there is no control.
For example, Tony came to me to change a few things in his relationship. He wanted to know what to say to his wife because she was dwindling all of their savings. She loved to shop and go on holidays and he wanted to please her.
Tony didn’t know how to bring it up and feared her reaction. He also felt as the provider and man of the household; that his wife and children should have whatever they wanted. For years there was no financial control on his part. She had all the power to buy whatever she wanted and when he was out of work for a year, it was no longer sustainable.
We made a plan for him to give her a budget and responsibility to pay things out of it. She could keep what she saved so that incentivised her to cut back on the things she wasn’t bothered about and prioritise. He also gave her access to see the savings grow and discussed the pension and his retirement dreams.
They now have a set amount of play money each month and she enjoys using it. Her first reaction when Tony told her was aggressive, but after a while, with the right words and approach, she came round. They are excited because they have a big plan to travel the world when they reach retirement and want to drive through New Zealand, The States and Mainland Europe.
As with all things, the key to connection and commitment is involvement. The more you involve your spouse in your financial decisions and make them together, the closer you will be.
It doesn’t matter what the financial conflicts are about, you need to listen to each other wholeheartedly, without judgment, be honest about what you can and cannot afford and find a middle way.
Whilst that might seem so obvious you will be surprised how many couples are desperately frustrated about how money is dealt with and say nothing.
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