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Financial stress in marriage is being accentuated for many couples as our economy continues toward recession.

Most of us have strong feelings about money, and those appear to be based on our personalities, the influence of parents as we were growing up and past experiences with money and employment. Some of us hoard money, while others spend it liberally. Some are responsible about financial tasks, and others actively avoid them. These deeply held and ingrained feelings and behaviors can make it difficult to be rational about money, and this can place a serious strain on a marriage.

Jane and Bill are facing a serious marital crisis, partly because of their different money personalities. Bill's deepest needs, masked by money issues, collide with those of Jane and hinder their progress toward a healthier and happier marriage. Bill likes to feel significant and likes to show off some of his career success. Bill and Jane live in a very nice house in an exclusive subdivision in town, drive a couple of fine vehicles, belong to a club and gym, eat out and travel frequently. Most of those observing them do not know that Bill and Jane are mortgaged to the limit and if one of them gets ill for any length of time or loses their job, they will not be able to meet their monthly financial obligations.

Jane appreciates the fine things they have but has stronger needs for financial security. She would prefer to have a smaller mortgage, live in a more affordable house, drive vehicles that are paid for and not use credit cards so liberally. Presently, they continue to live their lifestyle - with very little savings for emergencies or for the future, which creates anxiety and stress for Jane each day.

Marital conflicts around money rise more from emotional responses about money and its use than because of money itself. Beyond food and shelter, needs for security and significance rank high for most individuals. These needs for security and significance typically tend to work themselves out in economic terms, even though they are basically non-economic in nature. Bill's need for significance drives him to acquire, even by excessive debt, while this threatens Jane's strong need for security. If they were able to understand and respect one another's money personalities, they might avoid some of the trouble they are facing because they have left it unexamined and unchecked.

As Jane and Bill have worked to reduce their financial conflict, they have begun to focus on the core of their problems. They have begun to examine needs and personality issues that have become roadblocks to their communication with one another. They have begun to identify their strengths and recognize their weaknesses and are seeking to better balance one another. Learning how to balance their relationship has been a challenge, but they are engaging in the difficult task.

They have come to realize that being different does not mean that either one of them is inferior to the other. The differences can help to create balance in the marriage, rather than becoming an obstacle to happiness. They can have a marriage without one personality trying to dominate the other.

Bill and Jane need some additional financial knowledge and skills and ongoing assistance in their communication. They also need to engage in a financial partnership and accountability relationship with one another.

Your differing views and ways of dealing with money do not need to harm or destroy your marriage. With regular communication, good counsel, improved financial skills and a sound financial plan, and mutual accountability, you can improve your marriage.

Dr. Phil House is a clinical psychologist and clinical director at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch. He can be reached at house@ybgr.org.

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