Unless you are very lucky, you and your partner do not have the same money story. One of the challenges of marriage is how to take these different stories and merge them into a new and productive one which works for you both. The only way to do this is to communicate your money story to your partner clearly and have her do the same. Unfortunately, this is usually where things get off course.
Our money stories are, by their very nature, personal. We usually do not have the ability to look at them with an objective, unbiased eye. As a result, we can be very protective and defensive when anyone, especially our partner, tries to change the story. It feels as if everything we know is being attacked and we must defend it to the bitter end, even if it makes no sense to do so. Oftentimes, our response is to attack our partner’s money story and beliefs. This provokes a defensive response from her and the initial issue gets lost in the ensuing argument. It is not at all unusual for money to be used as a weapon at this point in time, either by tightly controlling it or secretly spending it.
Over the course of my practice, I have seen this behavior play out over and over again. Either the partners misunderstand each other’s story, or it is so foreign to their way of thinking it is dismissed.
In one case, one partner grew up in a very poor household and has a fear of not having enough money to raise the children in a stable home. Her spouse has started not one, but two, businesses and interprets her fear to be a lack of support. The result is that he hides where the money goes which, of course, makes her even more fearful.
In another case, one wife wanted to live in a big, impressive house. When they met, the husband made enough money to support that lifestyle. Unfortunately, circumstances changed, and the husband no longer was able to afford the big house. His wife resents having to work because her money story tells her it is the husband’s job to support the family. What she is missing is that he could support them if her money story didn’t also tell her that material possessions are a reflection of success and self-worth. The built-up resentment in this relationship threatens to destroy it.
The objective in a marriage is to learn how to value each other’s relationship with money and develop a way to discuss money and finances from a place of mutual respect. The only way to do this is to first understand how your own money story makes you anxious and reactive. When you are aware of the things that trigger your defensiveness, you will be able to work on controlling those reactions. You will then be able to discuss those topics with your partner in a calm, rational manner which leads to a resolution, not a fight.
If you find the arguments continue it is because one, or both, of you has not made peace with your money story. It is essential to remember that there is no right or wrong way to look at money. What is critical is that the both of you create a money story which reflects the experiences, values and goals both of you have for the future.