5 Rules for Having a Constructive Conflict Conversation About Money

5 RULES FOR HAVING A CONSTRUCTIVE CONFLICT CONVERSATION ABOUT MONEY

Kyle Benson

How do you fight with your partner when money is on the table? Do you argue with them over how to budget or criticize them for their “uncontrollable” spending habits?

As we’ve learned so far in the Managing Money in Marriage column, conflicts about money in a marriage aren’t really about money. Most arguments are about what money means to each person in the relationship. It is those differences, not the dollar value, that are often the root of financial disagreements.

So how do you work on those differences?

The Destructive Nature of Money Conflicts

Have you ever felt like your partner was the enemy when it comes to money? In 1969, George Bach felt that way when he published The Intimate Enemy. Bach believed that relationships failed because partners didn’t air their resentments, so he encouraged couples to “let it all out.”

He gave couples foam rubber bats and encouraged partners to take turns saying what they resented about the other person. One partner might say, “I resent you for spending our money on a stupid boat we never use,” followed by a whack with the bat. Then the other partner might say, “I resent you for spending thousands each year on clothes and heels,” accompanied with a whack.

It turns out this method only made couples feel more resentful toward one another. “Letting it all out” over money is not the solution.

It’s important to reframe your approach toward conflict. Happy couples start conflict conversations gently and allow their partner to influence them. They work with each other to compromise and find a solution. In this way, anger and frustration about money can actually be a catalyst for profound growth in a marriage. Like building a Sound Relationship House, money conflicts can be used to reconstruct the way we love each other over time.

How to Have a Constructive Conflict Conversation

Before you even start to discuss conflicts about money in your marriage, we recommend reading The Meaning of Money to discover your money laws. Below are five guidelines for making conflict conversations work:

1. Be on the Same Team

People often perceive their partner as dissimilar to them, especially during conflict. They believe they have all the positive qualities and their partner only has a few or lots of negative traits.

When you give your partner a negative quality in your thoughts, try to see that same quality in yourself. And when you identify a positive quality in yourself, try to see that same quality in your partner. The assumption of similarity is what keeps The Story of Us focused on we-ness, not me-ness.

2. Stop if You’re Flooded

Couples can only have a constructive conflict conversation if they can manage their own physiological flooding. At its peak, flooding can cause couples to verbally attack each other. Any conversation you have while being flooded will be useless, if not damaging. Regrettable words will be said and partners will put up walls as they defend themselves against one another.

Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that a simple 20 to 30 minute break can really help you calm yourself down. During that time, do things that help you relax like taking a walk or listening to your favorite music.

3. Postpone Persuasion

Trying to persuade your partner to compromise before both of you have stated your position will lead to resentment and an unfair solution. If your partner feels unheard, they will unlikely to be motivated to open up and hear your side of the story. It is only when both partners feel understood by each other that you can begin to work together to find a compromise.

If your partner does not feel understood and accepts your persuasion, over time they may resent you or undermine the solution you set.

Slow down, understand each other, and the solution will last.

4. Express Your Needs

As a speaker, it’s your responsibility to express your needs in a way that your partner can do something about that will be successful for you. The trap most people fall into is only expressing how they want to feel: “I want to feel more loved.”

The problem is that it gives your partner no clue how to help you feel that way. A better way to ask for more love is, “I need a romantic date night once a week and an overnight to a bed and breakfast every two months.” Be as specific as you can.

5. Believe Both Points of View are Valid

When partners believe there is only one truth, they argue tooth and nail for their own position. That belief is a dead end.

There is only one essential assumption that will make the conversation about hurt feelings or the aftermath of a fight workout constructively: that in every disagreement or miscommunication, there are always two points of view, and they are both valid.

Once you accept that idea, it’s no longer necessary to argue for your own position. Now you can focus on understanding and validating your partner’s position.

Note: Validation and understanding are not the same as compliance or agreement.

This process will only work if both partners agree that there are two valid viewpoints, and if BOTH are not focused so much on “facts” as on understanding the other’s side of the event.

These five rules will guide you to stop fighting about money and start connecting in your relationship.

Arguments About Money Aren’t About Money

ARGUMENTS ABOUT MONEY AREN’T ABOUT MONEY

Kyle Benson

One of the most common sources of conflict in marriage is money, how to spend it, and how to save for things that really matter.

It doesn’t make sense when you think about it logically. Money is simple. Keeping a budget is something an 8-year-old can do.

For a marriage to be wealthy, a couple needs to have more money coming in than going out. It’s just addition and subtraction. Debt needs to be eliminated, and money needs to be saved and invested for the things we want. You know, toes in the sand with a drink in our hand.

If you and your partner follow this rule, you’ll have no financial issues for the rest of your lives. But it doesn’t feel that way, does it? It feels like we need a Master’s degree in Finance and Wealth Management.

But do we?

Dr. John Gottman wanted to find out, so he went to a group of 8-year-olds and asked them for money advice. He told them he works with moms and dads who are fighting about money, so they can stop fighting and love each other more. All the kids understood this.

He told them a story about a couple.

The husband’s story went like this: “I don’t want to save for tomorrow. I want to live for today. I want to spend money enjoying life. Uncle Jack saved up millions of dollars living in a one room condo and he never went out. He never truly enjoyed life. I don’t want that.”

The wife’s story went like this: “My family grew up poor. We never had any money when an emergency came up or if somebody got sick. We never had enough to plan for the future. When my parents got older and couldn’t work as hard, they had nothing. They couldn’t retire. I don’t want to be like my parents.”

One wants to spend now. The other wants to save for later. They are stuck in financial gridlock.

Dr. Gottman looked at the kids and asked, “What should this mom and dad do?”

A hand shot up. “Save some and spend some.” The other kids looked at each other and agreed.

The 8-year-old believed that the couple should work out a compromise with each other. The best option would be to work hard for a while, put some of the extra money in savings, and use the rest of it to enjoy life so they don’t end up like Uncle Jack.

That’s all it takes. Kids are totally logical.

So what’s wrong with us adults? Why do we struggle with money when an 8-year-old knows what’s best?

Money Isn’t About Money

Money, to a degree, defines us. It determines how we dress. How we eat. What social groups we join. Whether we like it or not, money influences what we can and cannot do with our lives. So where does all this start?

Out of all the forces that determine our relationship with money, the most influential is our personal history – the melting pot of our childhood, teenage, and adult experiences that have sculpted and re-sculpted our likes and dislikes about money throughout our lives.

Our unique experiences come together to form what Dr. Gottman calls our Money Map.

We spend our lives swimming in a sea of moments that sculpt our financial dreams and fears. Maybe it was your father’s gambling problem, or your mother’s uptight way of controlling the household finances. Maybe it was your sister’s expensive interest in riding horses. Maybe it was your wealthy uncle who had a nine car garage, leaving you to feel like you couldn’t measure up.

These, along with thousands of other moments, create our individual beliefs about money.

Money Maps, like Love Maps, are often subtle and difficult to read. You may have grown up with an alcoholic mother who spent food money on liquor, making your meals unpredictable, so you made a promise to yourself that high-quality, expensive food was more important than saving for retirement. Or maybe you were picked on by kids in school for the way you dressed, so you spent all of your savings on custom tailored suits and ate Mac and Cheese every night so you wouldn’t get made fun of.

It’s these personal meanings that guide how we deal with money in our marriage. Logic has very little to do with it.

So when your partner complains about the expensive organic groceries you bought at Whole Foods, or the silk tie that costs more than a plane ticket, an argument breaks out, to you it’s not just food or a tie. These privileges represent stability and success. They protect you. They define you.

Money is loaded with power and meaning that can make can discussions heated and hurtful. Arguments about money aren’t about money. They are about our dreams, our fears, and our inadequacies.

What 8-year-olds don’t understand is that the key to managing conflict about money is to not focus on how much something costs. Instead, it’s to go beneath the dollar value to explore what money really means to each person in the relationship.

To move past these arguments, you need to use conflict about finances to understand how your partner came to be that way. Work together with this new understanding of each other to create shared meaning around money that brings you closer, rather than pushes you apart.

So what does money mean to you in your marriage? Is this different than your partner? Let us know in comments.

6 Steps to Financial Freedom in Marriage

6 STEPS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM IN MARRIAGE

Kyle Benson

Managing money in marriage can create tension between partners, bankrupting the relationship both financially and emotionally. This is because arguments about money are not about money. Money has a deeper meaning than the dollar value it elicits – it represents security, freedom, and the opportunity to achieve our dreams. If you feel like you and your partner are gridlocked over money issues, focus on making the conflict constructive so it can be used to build your Emotional Bank Account.

Today we are going to move beyond the meaning of money and share six steps to achieve financial security and freedom in your marriage.

Step 1: Avoid common money mistakes

Have you ever wondered why so many people divorce?

I’ve found couples don’t just fall out of love all at once. It happens slowly over time. They mindlessly ignore each other’s bids, forget to update their Love Maps, and don’t behave in ways that honor and respect each other.

This is how money works too. Very rarely do we find ourselves in debt from a single expense. It is the compounding effect of our spending over time that leads to financial trouble.

When couples do try to repair their love, they tend to focus on the wrong things. They read articles in Cosmo instead of peer-reviewed research. They buy gifts instead of being present with each other. They take extravagant trips instead of learning to love each other in the daily grind.

Money is no different. One partner tells the other to take a shorter shower, or to stop buying a latte every day so they can save a few bucks here and there. Couples make money mistakes for the same reason that chores and errands take priority when you don’t make time for your relationship. You’re stressed, you didn’t get enough sleep, and there’s a Starbucks across the street. The next thing you know, there’s a latte in your hand and you just spent $5.60 of that money you were supposed to be saving.

Another common money mistake couples make is waiting to take action. Dr. Gottman found that couples wait an average of six years to seek help for their marital problems, which I can confirm from my own experience. Not only do couples wait to make a plan for their spending, they also delay on investing into retirement and savings. Both of these put strain on the marriage, and can become a major issue if it continues to be avoided.

When it comes to money, most couples only need to focus on two things: setting up a reliable system and investing early.

Step 2: Automate money in your marriage

The best way to ignore these common mistakes is to create a system that allows you to spend your money and time on the things that truly matter. I wrote about this last week.

Ramit Sethi, a New York Times bestselling author, suggests that couples should “spend extravagantly on the things [they] love, and cut cost mercilessly on the things [they] don’t.”

I notice a pattern when couples come to me in pain. They don’t have date nights, they don’t make time for intimacy, and they don’t give each other space to discuss conflict. They expect the love to just happen like it happened in the beginning of their relationship. But it doesn’t.

By implementing a system that puts the relationship first, intimacy and connection will continue to deepen over time. This doesn’t happen by chance. Plan a weekly or bi-weekly date night. Schedule intimacy time. Give your relationship 45 minutes each week to discuss the conflicts and joys of the relationship. Dr. Gottman calls this the “State of the Union” meeting.

If you also implement a system that puts money into retirement, pays your bills, and automatically saves for the things that matter most to you, you will find yourself to be financially secure in no time. You’ll be living life with the things that matter most to you.

Step 3: Uncover hidden income

All of us have recurring expenses and bills that have the potential of being decreased. All it takes to lower your credit card and bank fees, insurance plan, and cell phone bill is to do some simple research and get on the phone for five to ten minutes.

By doing some research, I was able to refund bank fees, lower my car payment, and decrease the amount of money I had to pay to be insured.

Step 4: Continually invest in your future

Investing feels like a foreign language to most of us. But you don’t have to be Warren Buffet to make good investment decisions. The three most important things are:

  1. Do your own research or talk with a qualified financial advisor to help you come up with a risk allocation for your investments
  2. Consistently put money away
  3. Start early

The number one money regret of people close to retirement is not investing early enough.

Scenario A: 25-year-old newlyweds invest $100 per month until they’re 35. Total investment over 10 years is $12,000. With an annualized return of 8% and no further investments after the age of 35, the couple will have $175,000 in their investment account at age 65.

Scenario B: The Smiths start investing $100 per month at 35 and continue until they’re 65. Total investment over 30 years is $36,000. With an annualized return of 8% over 30 years, the couple will have $136,000 in their investment account at age 65.

When they’re ready to retire at age 65, the newlyweds will have approximately $40,000 more saved than the Smiths even though they invested for 20 fewer years! Compounding interest makes starting early vital to financial freedom.

graph

*Interest is calculated at an 8% annualized return

Becoming wealthy is not difficult. But it takes work and consistent investment.

 Step 5: Painlessly get out of debt

Let’s face it. Debt is not fun. It blocks us from enjoying life and investing in ourselves. Most of us are scared to admit it because of the guilt we feel about how much debt we have.

If you avoid conflict in your marriage, you will put your relationship in emotional debt. If you avoid how much financial debt you have and how you spend your money, you will feel even worse. So take responsibility by following these fives steps created by Ramit Sethi:

  1. Get a big picture. Organize all of your debt in one place. I use Mint.com and find it super simple to see the big picture of where my money is.
  2. Choose what to pay off.
  3. Negotiate a lower rate with the bank or credit card company.
  4. Figure out how you’re going to pay for it. Decide how much of your income will be used to pay off your debt.
  5. Be consistent. I have automatic payments that pay for my auto-loan and student loans. I also pay more than the required amount each month to reduce the interest I have to pay over time.

Step 6: Make more money

The steps above teach you how to let your money work for you. Earning more money is the quickest way to increase your wealth.

Ultimately, there are three ways to accomplish this:

  1. Get a raise at your job
  2. Earn money on the side with skills you already have
  3. Start your own business

Is Money Bankrupting Your Marriage?

IS MONEY BANKRUPTING YOUR MARRIAGE?

Kyle Benson

Does this sound familiar?

Kris is an accountant and Sam is an architect. They’re trying to create a budget together.

Kris: We just need a realistic budget to stick to.

Sam: I do stick to it, but unexpected things keep happening.

Kris: You have to plan for the unexpected. Let’s go back and look at the checks and the credit cards statements, and see where our money is going.

Sam: You never show me the respect that you show your accounting clients.

Kris: I respect you, but I’m upset that you can’t control your spending. How can we save that way?

Sam: I do control my spending, but I have to get things our family needs.

Kris: We don’t need a 60” TV or 16 knives. We don’t NEED all of this crap.

Sam: You never understand or care about my needs.

Kris: I work really hard for our stuff. I do understand.

Sam: I work too. What do you think I do 40-hours a week? Pick my nose?

Kris: I know you work, and I do care, I just want us to be smart about our money.

Sam: It’s not about being smart, it’s about love. You’ve never understood that.

Kris: Not it’s not. Love is about love. Money is about money. That doesn’t even make sense.

Sam: We’re building a life together, one you clearly don’t value as much as the money in the bank.

Kris: You build a life with how you use the money in the bank.

Sam: Thanks for the lecture, Professor Money. Do you see what I’m talking about when I say you don’t respect me?

If you and your partner have similar arguments about finances, you are in good company. There is no easy way for a couple to go through life without butting heads over money. As you can see  with Sam and Kris, nothing has been resolved. It feels like the real issue is not being addressed.

That’s because arguments about money aren’t about money. They are full of power and meaning that make discussions about money more emotional than the situation seems to warrant.

If you asked 100 people what is “enough” money to be rich, you’d soon realize that what is “enough” for one person is completely inadequate for another. That’s because money is not about how much one has, but about how much one has relative to what one believes is enough.

What blocks Kris and Sam, and maybe even your marriage, is not money. It’s the meaning we give money.

Meaning, Money, and Marriage

If I asked you how much you paid for your home, you could probably tell me without hesitation. If I asked you how much you spent at the grocery store four days ago, you would probably need to think about it.

That’s because your memory is designed to focus on the significance and meaning of events in your life rather than the details.

This makes sense. Memory is biologically pricey. Rewiring our neurons and synapses costs a lot of energy. It is nearly impossible to remember every detail about every event in our lives, so our brain “cheats” when it organizes information.

If you’re 43 years old, that means you have 43 years of complicated life experiences with a lot of unimportant micro-experiences, such as buying a sandwich. If you were to analyze the details of every single experience before you decided something, you’d be paralyzed by analysis.

So your brain cheats by deriving an overall meaning of an experience and then fills in the facts to create a narrative that aligns with that meaning.

This is why Sam feels so disrespected when Kris brings up the issue of budgeting. To him, it’s not just her trying to control his spending. It’s her taking away the feelings of love money gives him. Feelings he has felt for most of his life.

Sam’s mind does this because his memory, like yours, is designed to create little cause and effect stories to support the meaning we get from our experiences.

By doing this, we simplify our conflicts around money and we start reacting instead of responding. Sam starts accusing Kris of disrespecting him and reacting to her complaints. Instead he should listen to her complaints so he can understand why she feels that way.

If we were to simplify the meanings of money throughout our entire lives into cause and effect stories, then what we are left with is a simple if X happens, then I feel Y. This is what we call a “money law.”

The Money Laws of Marriage

Money laws are the things that must happen for you to feel financially secure and happy in your marriage. They tend to follow a simple if-then framework.

Money Law Examples:

  • If James saves $1,000 this month, then he truly cares about the financial future of our marriage.
  • If Steve takes me out to an expensive dinner on Friday, then he loves me.
  • If Kim books our two-week vacation, then she cares about my well being.

Broken Money Law Examples:

  • If Sam doesn’t stick to the budget, then he doesn’t care about my needs.
  • If Tom buys another “toy” instead of taking me on a vacation, then I’m not valuable to him.
  • If Susan spends another $300 shopping instead of saving for our kid’s college, then she doesn’t care about our children’s education.

As you can see, money conflicts are far more meaningful than the dollar value we give them. For some of us, it’s about love and connection. Maybe for you it’s about power and significance. Maybe for someone else it’s about personal growth, or contribution to society. We fight about money because we don’t feel understood by our partners.

Understanding Your Money Laws

If you can identify your money laws, you can instantly help your partner understand you better and improve the quality of your relationship.

If you take time to understand your partner’s money laws,  you will be able to turn the destructive fights about money in your marriage into a constructive way to grow closer to one another.

What Are Your Money Laws?

Want to learn which money laws are bankrupting your marriage? Below are three steps that will help you use money conflicts to deepen your emotional connection.

Step 1: Understand Your Personal Meaning of Money

Throughout life, we pick up subtle and large meanings of how money should be used.

By understanding your hidden meanings to money, you can really help your partner understand why certain things bother you. You can do this by downloading the Meaning of Money In Marriage by subscribing below. Go through the list of items and check the meanings that resonate most with you.

Step 2: Understand Your Partner’s Meaning of Money

Have your partner fill out the checklist. Sit down and share stories about why you have those meanings around money.

Step 3: Create Three Money Laws Each

What do you need to feel financially secure in your marriage? Come up with three money laws and share them with your partner. Examples include:

  • If you take me on a date every two weeks, then I will feel loved.
  • If I contribute to the Red Cross, then I feel helpful to those less fortunate.
  • If I invest in a personal trainer, then I feel sexy and will want to make love to you.

Use money conflicts in your marriage to invest in each other.

‘Arrogant.’ ‘Ruthless.’ And Unapologetically Themselves

‘ARROGANT.’ ‘RUTHLESS.’ AND UNAPOLOGETICALLY THEMSELVES

Maya Salam

“I feel this team is in the midst of changing the world around us as we live.” — Megan Rapinoe, the United States’ star attacker and the World Cup’s top scorer

When the athletes of the United States women’s soccer team celebrated their 13 unanswered goals against Thailand in the first round, they were called “arrogant.”

When they tore past France in the quarterfinals, they were called “ruthless.”

And when President Trump, responding to a months-old clip of Megan Rapinoe using an expletive to say she wouldn’t visit the White House if the team won the World Cup, told her to win “before she talks,” she and her teammates continued talking.

As the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich famously said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” On Sunday, the American women’s team did just that — securing a record fourth World Cup championship to maintain its reputation as the world’s greatest women’s soccer team (and one of the world’s greatest sports teams, period).

In the process, the Americans did more than shine as symbols of athleticism and teamwork; they affirmed themselves as fighters for equality on multiple fronts.

Here are three ways the team has elevated issues of fairness.

Megan Rapinoe celebrating with teammates after scoring the United States’ first goal against the Netherlands during the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday

The fight for pay equity

After the American women sealed their victory in Lyon, France, chants of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” began to grow inside the stadium.

The American team will be awarded $4 million for its win, while the winners of the men’s World Cup last year received $38 million. Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, soccer’s governing body, said the organization would double the total women’s prize for the 2023 tournament — but it’s also expected to raise the men’s award in 2022.

In 2015, the United States Soccer Federation awarded the women’s team $2 million for winning the World Cup. In 2014, the men’s team earned $9 million even though it did not advance past the first rounds.

Not surprisingly, the women’s national team is not taking that disparity lying down.

In March, all the players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, accusing it of years of “institutionalized gender discrimination.” They also noted that the argument that the men’s team generates more money simply isn’t true.

According to the suit, the federation had expected a combined net loss for the national teams of $429,929 from the 2016 fiscal year, but largely because of the successes of the women’s team’s, it revised its projections to a $17.7 million profit.

Defying the sportsmanship double standard

As the United States team rampaged against Thailand in its first World Cup match last month, the players leapt and celebrated nearly every goal. Clare Rustad, a former player for the Canadian national team, called the celebrations “disgraceful.”

Last week, striker Alex Morgan pretended to sip from a teacup after scoring against England in the semifinal. Lianne Sanderson, her former National Women’s Soccer League teammate, said the celebration was “distasteful.”

“I feel that there is some sort of double standard for females in sports,” Morgan said. “We have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much or in a limited fashion.”

“You see men celebrating all over the world in big tournaments,” grabbing their crotches and that sort of thing, she said.

And Rapinoe, when asked about the team’s celebrations said: “What do you want us to do? We work hard. We like to play hard.”

The Role of Spouses in Making Decisions

THE ROLE OF SPOUSES IN MAKING DECISIONS

Os Hillman

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).

When John Benson decided to make some financial investments in a new business venture, he was very excited about the possibilities for a handsome financial return. His business and financial background had served him well. John felt strongly that his wife Jenny would not understand the complexity of his investment, so he casually mentioned it to her. When she asked a few simple questions, John became defensive and justified his plans for investing in the venture.

A year later, after investing a large sum of money, John received a phone call from the investment company. All the investors who had put money in the company were going to lose their investment with no ability to recoup it.

This story could be retold repeatedly across the world. God’s principles for making decisions require input from both spouses, regardless of their level of expertise. If you are not married, make sure you seek wisdom from a few close associates you know and trust.

God has called married couples to be one. If we seek to make decisions independently, then we benefit from only 50% of the intended resource God has placed within our grasp. In marriage this stewardship of decisions requires two people. God blesses this union by honoring the decisions made with the motive of glorifying God and relying on His Spirit to lead in our decision-making process.

Before you make a major decision, get confirmation for your decision from your spouse.

The Meaning of Money in Marriage: Arguments Are Not Just About Saving or Spending

THE MEANING OF MONEY IN MARRIAGE: ARGUMENTS ARE NOT JUST ABOUT SAVING OR SPENDING

Kyle Benson

It doesn’t make sense when you think about it logically. Money is simple. Keeping a budget is something an 8-year-old can do.

For a marriage to be wealthy, a couple needs to have more money coming in than going out. It’s just addition and subtraction. Debt needs to be eliminated, and money needs to be saved and invested for the things we want. You know, toes in the sand with a drink in our hand.

If you and your partner follow this rule, you’ll have no financial issues for the rest of your lives. But it doesn’t feel that way, does it? It feels like we need a Master’s degree in Finance and Wealth Management.

But do we?

Dr. John Gottman wanted to find out, so he went to a group of 8-year-olds and asked them for money advice. He told them he works with moms and dads who are fighting about money, so they can stop fighting and love each other more. All the kids understood this.

He told them a story about a couple.

The husband’s story went like this: “I don’t want to save for tomorrow. I want to live for today. I want to spend money enjoying life. Uncle Jack saved up millions of dollars living in a one-room condo and he never went out. He never truly enjoyed life. I don’t want that.”

The wife’s story went like this: “My family grew up poor. We never had any money when an emergency came up or if somebody got sick. We never had enough to plan for the future. When my parents got older and couldn’t work as hard, they had nothing. They couldn’t retire. I don’t want to be like my parents.”

One wants to spend now. The other wants to save for later. They are stuck in financial gridlock.

Dr. Gottman looked at the kids and asked, “What should this mom and dad do?”

A hand shot up. “Save some and spend some.” The other kids looked at each other and agreed.

The 8-year-old believed that the couple should work out a compromise with each other. The best option would be to work hard for a while, put some of the extra money in savings, and use the rest of it to enjoy life so they don’t end up like Uncle Jack.

That’s all it takes. Kids are totally logical.

So what’s wrong with us adults? Why do we struggle with money when an 8-year-old knows what’s best?

Money Isn’t About Money

Money, to a degree, defines us. It determines how we dress. How we eat. What social groups we join. Whether we like it or not, money influences what we can and cannot do with our lives. So where does all this start?

Out of all the forces that determine our relationship with money, the most influential is our personal history – the melting pot of our childhood, teenage, and adult experiences that have sculpted and resculpted our likes and dislikes about money throughout our lives.

Our unique experiences come together to form what Dr. Gottman calls our Money Map.

We spend our lives swimming in a sea of moments that sculpt our financial dreams and fears. Maybe it was your father’s gambling problem or your mother’s uptight way of controlling the household finances. Maybe it was your sister’s expensive interest in riding horses. Maybe it was your wealthy uncle who had a nine-car garage, leaving you to feel like you couldn’t measure up.

These, along with thousands of other moments, create our individual beliefs about money.

Money Maps, like Love Maps, are often subtle and difficult to read. You may have grown up with an alcoholic mother who spent food money on liquor, making your meals unpredictable, so you made a promise to yourself that high-quality, expensive food was more important than saving for retirement. Or maybe you were picked on by kids in school for the way you dressed, so you spent all of your savings on custom tailored suits and ate Mac and Cheese every night so you wouldn’t get made fun of.

It’s these personal meanings that guide how we deal with money in our marriage. Logic has very little to do with it.

So when your partner complains about the expensive organic groceries you bought at Whole Foods or the silk tie that costs more than a plane ticket, an argument breaks out, and to you it’s not just food or a tie. These privileges represent stability and success. They protect you. They define you.

Money is loaded with power and meaning that can make can discussions heated and hurtful. Arguments about money aren’t about money. They are about our dreams, our fears, and our inadequacies.

What 8-year-olds don’t understand is that the key to managing conflict about money is to not focus on how much something costs. Instead, it’s to go beneath the dollar value to explore what money really means to each person in the relationship.

To move past these arguments, you need to use conflict about finances to understand how your partner came to be that way. Work together with this new understanding of each other to create shared meaning around money that brings you closer, rather than pushes you apart.

So what does money mean to you in your marriage? Is this different than your partner?

4 Steps to Overcome Financial Gridlock in Your Marriage

4 STEPS TO OVERCOME FINANCIAL GRIDLOCK IN YOUR MARRIAGE

Kyle Benson

All couples are bound to have arguments about money. When they struggle to manage these ongoing disagreements with constructive conflict conversations, the result is what Dr. John Gottman calls “gridlock.”

Gridlock is like a Chinese Finger Trap. Each partner pulls for his or her position, making compromise impossible.

My Dreams Are Becoming My Worst Nightmare

Our dreams are full of aspirations and wishes that are core to our identity and give our life purpose and meaning. Gridlock is a sign that each partner has dreams that the other hasn’t accepted, doesn’t respect, or isn’t aware of.

Some financial dreams are practical, like obtaining a certain amount of savings, while others are profound, like owning a beach house in Hawaii. The profound dreams often remain hidden beneath the practical ones.

For example, Kurt wants to make a seven figure income, but why is that so important to him? Underneath his dream is a deep need for financial security.

When couples are in gridlock, it is only by uncovering the hidden dreams and symbolic meanings that they can get out of the Chinese Finger Trap.

Overcoming Financial Gridlock

The way out is to first identify the dream within conflict. When partners are gridlocked, they see each other as the source of marital difficulty. They tend to ignore their part in creating the conflict because it’s hidden from view.

If you find yourself saying, “the only problem is his lack of money smarts,” that’s probably not the whole story.

Uncovering a hidden dream is a challenge and it won’t emerge until you feel the marriage is a safe place to talk about it. If you don’t feel comfortable enough to open up, focus on the first three principles in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

My Dreams Are Silly

Personal dreams often go unmentioned because people worry they will burden their partner or negatively impact the relationship. It’s common for partners not to feel entitled to their dreams, but when you bury a dream, it can lead to resentment and ultimately gridlock.

When you share your dreams with your partner, you give your marriage the opportunity to have a profound purpose and sense of shared meaning. As Dr. Gottman explains in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations.”

4 Steps to Overcome Financial Gridlock

When you begin to uncover the dreams beneath your financial gridlock, the problems in your marriage will not immediately go away. They may actually seem to worsen rather than improve. Be patient. The very nature of gridlock is that dreams are in opposition.

Step 1: Explore Each Other’s Dreams
Pick a money issue that you both feel causes gridlock in your marriage. Take time to reflect on the hidden dreams that may underlie your position. Talk about it with your partner by using Dr. Gottman’s Money Conflict Blueprint for a truly effective conflict conversation. Focus on understanding your partner’s position.

What not to say:
Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii.
Kurt: First of all, we can’t afford something like that. I can’t think of anything more stressful than trying to upkeep a property in the middle of the ocean. Think of all the wear and tear we will need to replace.
Kris: Forget it…

What to say instead:
Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii.
Kurt: Tell me more about what it means to own a beach house in Hawaii. What would it do for you?
Kris: It would be heaven on earth. My family and I used to go every year and my parents always said they wanted to buy a beach house. I’d feel such a sense of accomplishment and we’d be able to invite my parents over! They’d be so proud.

Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest most personal hopes and dreams is key to saving and enriching your marriage.

Step 2: Soothe Yourself and Each Other
Discussing deeply held dreams that are in opposition can be stressful. Pay attention to your stress levels. If flooding occurs, stop the conversation, take a break, and use repairs.

Step 3: Reach a Temporary Compromise
Now it’s time to make peace with this issue (for now) by accepting your differences and establishing some kind of initial compromise. Understand that this problem may never go away. The goal is to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of pain.

To do this, refer to the Money Conflict Blueprint to separate the issue into two categories:

  1. Non-negotiable areas: Aspects of the issue that you are unwilling to give up on because it will violate your basic needs or core values. Try to make this section as small as possible.
  2. Areas of flexibility: Parts of the issue where you can be flexible. Try to make this section as large as possible.

Share your list with your spouse and work together to come up with a temporary compromise. This compromise should last about two months. Afterwards, you can review where you stand. Don’t expect to solve the problem yet. Your goal here is only to live with it more peacefully.

Here’s what Kris and Kurt did:

  1. They defined minimal core areas they are unwilling to change. Kris says she must have a house in Hawaii. Kurt says he must save $40,000 in order to feel financially secure.
  2. They defined areas of flexibility. Kris says she can settle for a condo, rather than a beachfront house. Even though she wants to buy now, she is willing to wait 3 years as long as they can work together to make it happen. Kurt says he can be flexible about how quickly they save, as long as he knows both of them are working towards this goal. They decide that 5% of their income goes into this savings account.
  3. They found a temporary compromise that honors both of their needs. They will buy a condo, but not for another three years. Meanwhile, they will devote half of their savings to a down payment and half into a mutual fund. In three months, they will review this plan and decide if it’s working or not.

Both Kris and Kurt realize that the underlying perpetual problem will never go away. Kris will always be the visionary, imagining a life on a beach, and Kurt is going to worry about their financial security. By learning to work with each other, both partners are able to cope with their differences, avoid gridlock, and work support each other in achieving their dreams.

Step 4: Give Thanks
Overcoming financial gridlock requires more than just one discussion about the issues that have deeply troubled your marriage. The goal with this step is to cultivate a culture of appreciation in which you express your gratitude for all you have. This will feel difficult after talking about such an emotionally charged issue, but that’s all the more reason to make effort to end the conflict conversation on a positive note.

The best way to cope with financial gridlock is to avoid it in the first place. Don’t wait until resentment has set in to ask your partner about their dreams – Dr. Gottman suggests becoming a “dream detective.” By building your Love Maps, turning towards each other, and cultivating fondness and admiration, you will build trust and deeply understand each other. As you do this, you’ll discover the financial disagreements that once overwhelmed your marriage actually bring you closer together over time.

How to be Mindful About Money

HOW TO BE MINDFUL ABOUT MONEY

Ellie Lisitsa

If you’ve read Zach Brittle’s Blog Series, you know that M is for Money. M is also for marriage, misunderstanding, multidimensional and maybe, as in maybe a good thing and maybe not. We are conditioned to think of money as an ultimate goal, a passport to the land of eternal peace of mind, but in the long run we know this isn’t quite true. Most of us have figured out by now that money is not the ultimate answer. It can’t really make us happy and isn’t very good at solving our relationship problems.

It’s tempting and convenient to think otherwise, though. Think of the hassled husband (or wife!) on all those TV shows, eternally retreating into their office to escape the myriad challenges of daily life (most commonly, to avoid facing marital conflict). The pursuit of financial security as strategy for avoiding the complexities of human relationships is a common theme. It doesn’t even have to be a conscious decision at first, but it is a slippery slope! After all, we’re only human, and when faced with a choice between an intractable problem and a lovely distraction… well, we often can’t help ourselves.

Unfortunately, workplace escapism often makes things worse. Even solvable problems can become gridlocked issues when avoided long enough. Falling into these habits only increases the distance between us and loved ones, putting stress on relationships and limiting families’ ability to face challenges together. It takes a conscious effort to change our ways, and we may be helped by a change in perspective.

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Quality of Life

QUALITY OF LIFE
Richard Innes

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'”
(Luke 12:15, NIV)

“In The Death of Ethics in America, Cal Thomas quotes a letter written to the Washington Post in the mid ’80s. ‘I’ve lived both lives, Yuppie and non-Yuppie,’ the writer said. ‘In the first, I was married to a professional woman and on our dual incomes we Club Med-ed, sports car-raced, alpine skied and Kennedy Centered our 14-year marriage into oblivion.

“I’m now 42, remarried to a woman who gave up her ‘professional’ career to provide full-time care for our one and five-year-old daughters, and living in Gaithersburg, Maryland—on one salary. Trips to Australia and Europe, Saturday night dining at Nathan’s, and Wolf Trap concerts are distant memories. Vacations are now taken in our nine-year-old used pop-up camper, and dining out means ‘Hooray! Daddy’s bringing home a pizza.’ We’ve just started into the second round of … one hundred readings of Pat the Bunny for our one-year-old. Satisfaction level in my first life measured about 2 on the 10 scale. Measured now, satisfaction is about 9.5.'” (Michael Josephson in Character Counts. www.charactercounts.org)

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