Conflicts about money in a marriage aren’t really about money. But you knew that, right?
These conflicts are full of power and meaning that make discussions about money more emotional than any particular situation seems to deserve.
That’s because money is not about how much you actually have, but about how much you have relative to what you believe is enough.
Most arguments are about what money means to each person in the relationship.
It is those differences, not the dollar amounts, that are often the root of money fights.
In figuring out how to mange those differences about money, let’s first take a quick look at how your brain thinks about money.
How your brain thinks about money
Your memory is designed to focus on the significance and meaning of events in your life rather than the details.
Rewiring your brain is energy intensive. Since it’s impossible to remember every detail about the events in your life, your brain uses shortcuts to organize information.
If you had to continuously analyze and reanalyze the details of every single experience before you could make a decision, you’d collapse in exhaustion from analysis paralysis.
So your brain conserves energy by determining an overall meaning of an experience and creates a story or an interpretation that supports that meaning.
Can see that the story you tell yourself about money is a summary of what you’ve made it mean throughout your life?
You can break down those stories into easy to understand cause and effect interpretations, an if-then equation: if X happens, then I feel Y.
Let’s call these if-then equations your “Money Rules.”
Money Rules in your marriage
Money rules are the thoughts you have about the things that must happen for you to feel financially secure and happy.
These thoughts then determine whether any particular scenario creates positive or negative feelings.
Here are some if-then examples:
Your positive thoughts about money:
- If Ron invested money in a second home, then I’d believe he values and honors my wishes.
- If Steve takes me on an expensive vacation, then I know he loves me.
- If Jack saves his bonus for our retirement, then I know he cares about our future security.
Your negative thoughts about money:
- If Tom gives his son $1,000, then he doesn’t care about my opinion.
- If Rich bails out his daughter again with “our money”, then he doesn’t respect me.
- If John buys another entertainment system upgrade instead of applying that money to our mortgage payment, then he doesn’t respect my need to reduce our debt.
- If Jake doesn’t buy me a birthday present, he’s cheap.
Our money conflicts revolve around our desires for love, connection, power and significance.
When fight about money, it’s often because we don’t feel understood, respected, appreciated or valued.
Understanding your money rules
Take time to explore your money rules so you can decide if your they’re serving you or causing unnecessary conflict.
Try to this exercise with your husband.
- List the top three most important things you need to feel financially secure in your marriage.
- Come up with three money rules and share them with your partner
Need help managing your destructive fights and misunderstandings about money?
You need to find a better way to understand each other’s Money Rules. I can help right here.
Check out my previous post on the Manual to gain further insight the Money Rules you have not only for yourself, but your husband too.