By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW
Did you think you knew your partner when you became a couple? You may have known how he or she felt about kids, religion, drinking, sex, and even politics. But did you know, really know, how (s)he felt about money? Did you know what type of relationship (s)he had with money? If you did, and you were right, good for you! But many couples think they have an understanding of their partner’s attitude about money and then a few years down the road, they find themselves fighting about it. Does this sound familiar?
Him: “I don’t like surprises – you have to tell me what you spend on the credit card!”
Her: “I would tell you if you didn’t freak out!”
Him: “I freak out more when I don’t know what’s going on!”
Her: “Why do you have to freak out at all? I don’t spend money on frivolous things, I buy what I need. And you’re not so perfect either, ya know?
Him: “At least I know how much money we have.”
Reading between the lines, this man is telling his partner that he gets anxious when he doesn’t know how much money is being spent. She feels attacked and is also fearful of his reaction so she actually increases his anxiety and anger by holding back and not being honest. They end up putting each other down and not communicating effectively.
One of the common problems I see with couples and money is that one person in the relationship is the “Adult” and the other is the “Child.” The “Child” is attracted initially to the “Adult” because of his/her ability to manage the finances well and be the caretaker. This is what the “Child” ends up resenting. So, for example, the woman above may be ready to take over some of the financial responsibility. In other words, she is ready to “grow up.”
The healthiest of relationships includes balance. I recommend to couples that both partners have independent accounts as well as a joint account. This allows for both to feel some control, confident and connected all at the same time.