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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Money Management For Couples

Money Management for Couples

MONEY MANAGEMENT FOR COUPLES

Team LovePanky

Newlyweds are a happy lot, and they may know a lot about love. But there’s one thing they really don’t know, and that’s money management for couples. And money and couples just don’t get along unless there’s a clear understanding of finances in marriage.

Rick and Rachael. They were the definition of rugged manliness and drop-dead gorgeous looks in their college years.

Rick was the kind of guy all girls yearned for. Popular, compassionate, understanding, good looking… pretty much the guy any girl would want to spend the rest of her life with.

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How to Manage Money in a Marriage

How to Manage Money in a Marriage

HOW TO MANAGE MONEY IN A MARRIAGE

Team LovePanky

Managing money in a marriage is a difficult task which can be heart-shattering at times. Find out how to manage money in a marriage by understanding your partner when it comes to managing money.

Get your priorities right

If you’re living in an independent home, then focus on the purchases of basic requirements rather than going in for fancy gadgets, designer furniture, expensive cars, and other not-so-necessary things.

Save for the future

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What to Do If Your Partner Makes Less Money Than You

partner makes less money

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PARTNER MAKES LESS MONEY THAN YOU

Lianne Choo

You’re wrong if you think that just because you make more, you call the shots. There’s a vast middle ground that you can both get comfortable in.

You’ve worked hard for as long as you can remember. You’ve clawed your way to the top. Money is not an issue for you, and you enjoy spending it just as much as you enjoy earning it. You’re hella proud of your success, and rightfully so. However, there is no denying that money can and will be an issue if the person you are in love with makes significantly less than you.

Everyone preaches about equality in a relationship, but how is that possible when you have the capability to do things, buy things and experience things that your partner can only dream of? You may have more than enough to go around. Heck, you may even have enough to support an entire zip code, but is that really what you want to do?

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Husband Scarcity

Image result for picture of a young black couple

HUSBAND SCARCITY

Maryam Habu Shinga

This may not be the best time for me to write on this because of misinterpretations, but I can no longer resist the push. Husband scarcity has become one of the challenges faced by many young girls today. If you go to prayer houses, majority of the intentions are prayer for a life partner. And this calls for concern.

Casting our minds back to the time of our mothers and grandmothers, was there really much husband scarcity problem? Or, maybe there were more men than women then, or there was a corresponding number of both genders. I don’t think so. Maybe then, the women had values and were prepared to build a home and not park into a built home. Then, once a young man came of age and could at least feed himself and his wife, he went out in search of a wife and the woman really appreciated him and helped him to build a future.

What am I really trying to say? Women created for themselves what we now see as husband scarcity. Today, the reverse is the case. Ask an average girl to define her dream husband. You get responses like “He has to be tall, handsome, fair, and rich, own a house at least, and be presentable.” Then she adds “God-fearing” in order not to sound so worldly.

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Vacations Make Your Kids Happy Long After They’re Over

Image result for picture of a family on a vacation

VACATIONS MAKE YOUR KIDS HAPPY LONG AFTER THEY’RE OVER

Heather Marcoux

Whether you’re booking flights and hotels for a family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

The gift of an experience, like a family vacation, is proven to be a more prosocial, connecting present than any material possession, according to a study out of the University of Toronto.

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10 mini-traditions that will bring your family together

10 MINI-TRADITIONS THAT WILL BRING YOUR FAMILY TOGETHER

Courtnie Erickson

The family fun won’t stop with these 10 easy family traditions.

“A family that plays together stays together,” isn’t just a popular saying, it is true. When you do things together as a family, you build friendships and create memories that will last even when those hard times come. And you don’t have to plan big events either. You can create small family traditions that will last through the years and be something your children look forward to.

Here are 10 mini-traditions that take little time but create something powerful:

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