Recently, I published a blog post about financial infidelity. It contained a broad overview of how our behavior with money manifests in relationships. This current post is part two of a three-part series about financial infidelity. If you’d like to see part one, please click here to read it.
In my first post, I wrote that there are two ingredients that need attention if we want to understand financial infidelity in ourselves or in our partner. By first understanding, we will get closer to managing our feelings about it. Those two ingredients are : 1) our money stories and 2) how we conceptualize transparency in our relationships. Because both topics require more specific explanation, I decided to dedicate blog posts to each topic.
What is meant by our money stories?
We develop a relationship with money, just like we develop relationships with people. These relationships could be healthy and satisfying or harmful and toxic. Usually we learn by observing our family’s spending habits. To look more deeply at your family’s behavior, consider these questions in your family growing up:
* Did you have enough money for basic necessities?
* Did your parents earn a high income, but you were forbidden to use the money?
* Was money spent frivolously and not used for things you really needed?
* Were your parents or those who raised you employed?
* Did those who raised you have an adequate income?
* Were your parents or those who raised you overly concerned about what others thought about them?
Many of these are yes or no questions. Each question has a story to go along with it. This story is the plot line of your money story. For example, maybe your family could not afford basic necessities. You observed conflict about spending in the house or you heard bill collectors calling your home. Your utilities were periodically cut off in your house. Maybe you didn’t have ample food to eat or you were unable to bring friends into your home as a child. Perhaps you experienced homelessness as a child or needed public assistance for food or living expenses. As a result of some of these experiences, you developed strong emotions about money.
What do I do with this information now?
These strong emotions led you to develop certain attitudes about money, some of which you heard growing up. Whether you learned that wealthy people are “evil” or that needy people are “lazy”, our family influenced us on some level. We sometimes grow to agree with some of the things we heard or we do a complete 180 and say that we will never share those attitudes.
Attitudes about money also sometimes influence career choices or how you go about earning a living. Did you say to yourself at some point, “I will never struggle like my parents did?” Or were you embarrassed by the extravagant items your parents bought? You might experience some emptiness in your career satisfaction if you find that you entered a career solely based on earning a high income.
Some of the emotions you may feel about money include disgust or shame. For example, if your family lacked money for basic necessities, you might still feel shame about not having enough. This may even cause you to feel “not good enough” as an adult. Conversely, if your family had an abundance of money, you might have felt disgust at the material items they purchased. Or you might feel annoyed by how much their cared about their own image.
Our feelings and attitudes about money influence our behavior with it. When we are in a relationship with someone, our money story is playing out, especially if we share a household. We act out what we learn. Our fears of not having enough money sometimes cause us to withhold intimate financial details from our partners. In a similar way, a desire for to be seen in a certain light might cause us to purchase items without the partner’s knowledge.
How can I get some help with this?
When addressing situations where we withhold information from our partner or they are not sharing themselves fully with us, it’s important to examine our own money stories. If you recognize this pattern in your relationship and you think it’s time you started therapy, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently, I see clients online and can work with anyone located in the state of New Jersey. When life resumes some sense of normalcy, I will return to my office in Livingston, but will continue online therapy for clients who are more comfortable with that option.