Eight seemingly benign things that can destroy your relationship, and what you can do about it; part four- money

Discussions around money arise with virtually every couple. Topics about money can range from differing spending habits, money defining social status or being a reflection of ego, or of partners each having strong willed ideas about how money earned should be allocated.

Money is a big deal. We need it to survive. And for this reason, it can be very preoccupying.

For many people, money constitutes a belief system. It provides a conduit to bringing about joyful experiences such as travel, purchasing a home, or investing in causes in which we believe. We can express love in the gifts money allows us to give others. Money provides security, which is the very thing most people seek.However, money can also be our biggest source of pain. It has torn apart families and destroyed friendships. Money can singlehandedly bring immense worry and stress. It also has the power to create tremendous discord among couples.

In this eight part series about things that can destroy your relationship, money can play quite a sneaky and  sinister role. When we think about the safe couple bubble where we both ideally reside, we have to be careful to not let money pierce the bubble. It will try, but we have to fight the urge to let it enter and take over, together.

Let’s review Stan Tatkin’s definition of thirds. He defines thirds as any entity outside of the couple relationship that has the power to steal resources from or drive a wedge in the couple relationship. In what ways can money become a third in an intimate relationship?

  • One or both partners who outright deceive or withhold disclosing expenditures made.
  • One or both partners who make large expenditures on goods or services without the other partner’s knowledge.
  • One or both partners who have stores of money without disclosure or prior agreement.
  • Disagreement as to where earnings need to be allocated.
  • Gambling.
  • One or both partners not honestly disclosing correct earnings- whether less or more.
  • One or both partners whose identity may be wrapped up in money.
  • Couples who refuse to discuss and navigate finances as a team.

How can you keep from ravaging your relationship? Below are some of the most common problems I have observed couples encounter with money. This article about money and marriage aided the points below.

  1. Speak transparently with one another about money. Some of the most difficult things to discuss are the very things that need to be discussed. Money is no exception to this. So take a deep breath, and talk about money. Discuss your fears, your dreams and your goals around money. What needs to be prioritized? What are your wants? What are your short-term and long-term goals? How will you both protect against money and all that it means to you from becoming an unwanted infiltrator of your relationship?
  2. Be honest about money. I have encountered many couples (in my practice and in real life) who are deceptive to their partners about how they have chosen to spend money. This is not a good practice, and I have witnessed it seriously damaging many relationships. This said, in cases where there is a little wiggle room, when couples become too entrenched on every line item dollar spent, it can create a fear response potentially leading to deceptive behavior. Consider teasing out the needs from the wants and if possible, allocating honest “fun money” for each partner.
  3. Stay away from labeling your partner when you don’t agree with how they spend their money. When partners are being honest about expenditures and using previously agreed upon fun money to buy whatever, it is not a good idea to criticize, tease or judge one another. Labeling purchases as “good” or “bad” can lead to hard feelings, shut down open communication and lead to bigger problems down the line. There are larger battles to be picked. Even if on the inside you find yourself rolling your eyes, please keep in mind that some things are better left unexpressed.
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