Bella Vida Therapy

Molly Papp, MS, MPH, CSAT, LMFT #88196

Bella Vida Therapy

Molly Papp, LMFT

You deserve a beautiful life

Sex, intimacy, and relationship therapy

Money Money Money Money.....MONEY!

They say the four 'off-limit' topics are sex, money, politics and religion. Couples tend to fight most about the first two: sex (when to have it, how much to have) and money (when to spend it, how much each person has). The funny thing is that both topics are not so simple as they seem. Money isn't just about the number you have in your bank account and sex isn't just about how often you "do it." Today I want to focus on all the meaning behind money, and how I've seen it destroy relationships.

First of all, our attitude about money is shaped in our childhoods. If you were raised by a single-parent who worked 12-hour shifts to buy you name-brand cereal, you won't have a relaxed view of money. To you, money means sacrifice and it's not to be taken lightly. You may pinch pennies or spend freely as a reaction to living so frugally growing up. If you were raised in an affluent home where money wasn't really ever discussed (you just had it), its value is less. You won't think twice about buying 'real' Fruit Loops or anything else you want.

Another dimension is how money ties into our view of ourselves. Individuals with high self-esteem are able to spend money on themselves but also don't spend in excess because they know it would hurt them in the long-term. Those with low self-esteem either live in deprivation and feel guilt spending money OR they overspend with no thought of the future because they don't pay attention to the chaos that living beyond their means will bring them.

In working with couples, the number one thing I've noticed is that when they fight about money, it's not about money. It's the meaning behind the money. When one spouse makes more than the other, it brings up questions about value. What value do you bring to the relationship when you stay at home and your spouse works 60+ hours a week? This is a conversation to have together or else resentment is bound to grow. I may sound like a broken record but communication is 100% the key to resolving these differences. I've talked with women who felt invisible because all the work the put in raising children was ignored (in their eyes) by their partners. On the other hand, their partners have told me that they felt unappreciated because they felt pressured to work full-time and help out at home whenever possible. 

Couples need to talk about what they expect from one another, and how they want to spend their money. After all, when you're married it is no longer YOUR money; you're a team now. That also means you cannot dictate how you're going to spend the money, even if it's you that makes it all. Compromise is necessary in order to both be happy with how you live as a couple. There will be times when you will have to bite your tongue if your spouse buys another pair of shoes or doesn't want to go on vacation because it's too expensive.

Finally, remembering that when you talk with your partner about money, you aren't just talking to them. You're essentially talking to their parents too, and every message that was taught to them throughout childhood. So have those hard discussions and continue to check in with each other about the state of your finances. Perhaps you can grow and heal with each other, balancing each out out as you balance the checkbook.