Love and Money: Expert Tips for Couples Facing Financial Stress

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As Valentine's Day approaches, couples may not be feeling especially romantic as they grapple with feelings of fear about their finances. Yet, money problems can actually help couples draw closer together, rather than tearing them apart, says Karen McCall, founder of the Financial Recovery Institute. (http://www.FinancialRecovery.com)

As Valentine's Day approaches, couples may not be feeling especially romantic as they grapple with feelings of fear about their finances. Yet, money problems can actually help couples draw closer together, rather than tearing them apart, says Karen McCall, founder of the Financial Recovery Institute. (http://www.FinancialRecovery.com)

"The notion that money is the #1 reason people get divorced is absolutely false," says McCall. "It may be the symptom of problems in the relationship, but it is not the cause."

She warns, though, that money often becomes the currency of emotion in a relationship. And she notes that in this economic environment, romantic partners may be using money as a substitute for addressing common areas of relationship challenges, including:

Anger: There can be danger in anger. If one person in the relationship does not feel their needs are important, or feels they are not being met, they may use money to express anger. Resulting behaviors can include overspending, or closing the purse strings so the other spouse has no money t spend.

Neglect: When someone feels neglected physically or emotionally by their partner, they may use shopping as a form of retail therapy. Or a spouse who feels guilty about neglecting his or her partner may overspend out of guilt. Either way, any feelings of relief will vanish quickly after the shopping spree is over.

Lack of communication: Many couples have no idea how much they are spending, either separately or together. It's also common for one spouse to handle the money, and for the other one to be in the dark. Hiding purchases and secret credit card debt can create additional pressure. When couples start communicating about money, they often find communication improving in other areas of their life as well.

After working with numerous couples with different money styles over the years, McCall has developed proven ways to help them achieve their financial goals together. A few of her tips:

Use your words. While young children who act out physically are encouraged to "use their words" rather than hit or fight, adults need to be reminded of this advice from time to time. "If you're mad or upset with your partner, don't just grab the plastic and head to the mall. Talk about your feelings, or at least write them down," encourages McCall. She points out that many people spend money unconsciously, and simply recognizing their feelings can be a first step.

Talk about your feelings, rather than your partner's behavior. A person will tune out his or her partner as soon as their behavior is criticized or questioned. It is much easier to be heard when you focus on your own feelings. Discussing your partner's behavior, on the other hand, often makes him or her feel attacked or belittled.

Take time to discover each other's real needs. Sometimes one partner will have unrealistic fantasies about where they should be financially, but more often they are confusing needs with wants. What most couples really need - affection and understanding, for example - aren't available in a store. "You can never have enough of what you don't need," warns McCall.

Create a plan together: Never has it been more important for couples and families to make the time and effort to implement a spending and financial plan together. It's vital to present a unified front in the face of economic fear and uncertainty. Tracking your spending together is just the beginning of a positive relationship with each other, as well as with money.

To help couples who may find their relationships suffering during this turbulent time, Karen McCall is launching a series of free teleclasses, The Financial Recovery sm Series: Hope, Help and Healing. The first teleclass will be held Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 5 pm Pacific Time (8 pm ET) and is available to anyone who wants to improve their relationship with money. Registration is available at http://www.financialrecovery.com/training.html. "It's the perfect Valentine's gift you can give yourself, and your partner," says McCall.

Karen McCall is the founder and owner of the Financial Recovery Institute. Since 1988, McCall has counseled individuals, couples, and businesses through a holistic, transformational approach that results in a stable and secure financial foundation. The Karen McCall MoneyMinder® system enables people to discover underlying attitudes about money--often the cause of self-defeating money behaviors such as overspending, chronic debt, under-earning, and low or no savings--while providing the tools, strategies, and support to achieve financial well-being.

Her published works include It's Your Money: Achieving Financial Well-being (Chronicle Books); MoneyMinder: Financial Recovery Workbook (Financial Recovery Press); and as a contributor to I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self (Jason Aronson Press), a book for mental health professionals.

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