The money column: Cash in on relationships
Money is tied up with our deepest emotional needs: for power, security, independence, control, and self-worth.
But since so many of us are unaware of that emotional load, we fight about it without understanding what the battles are about.
In married couples fights begin with a disagreement about financial strategy: One partner may tend to save and worry while the other might spend extravagantly.
Other polar opposites include planners and dreamers, risk takers married to risk avoiders, and money monks - who think money is dirty - married to money amassers, who think he who dies with the most, wins!
Down economies make matters worse!
One of the most difficult things we face, both alone and as couples, is to have to downsize our goals or put them off. And when money is tight, people become anxious and revert even more strongly to type: Hoarders will save more passionately. Spenders will spend more passionately.
How to ward off a skirmish
Share with each other your feelings of loss, disappointment, and panic. Discuss what you can do together to modify your goals. One system that seems to work is to negotiate agreements in regular, structured money talks.
1. Find a relaxed time to have your weekly or monthly discussion -- not when you're tired or distracted by the kids, or when you're paying bills and money is a hot-button issue.
2. Begin by expressing a feeling: "I'm worried about our retirement accounts shrinking so drastically. And when you spent money on the new flat-screen television, it made me very anxious. Can we find another place to cut down? “
3. Women feel patronised or lectured at. Men feel criticised, unaccepted.
It’s vital that each person share his or her vulnerabilities about money to level the playing field.
4. Write down your own short, mid, and long-term goals and have your partner do the same. Prioritise them, and then talk about how you can merge them or support each other's mission.
5. Fewer clashes when couples keep some of their money separate!
The issue of merging money is where a lot of the problems start. It's usually the man who wants to merge the money, and the woman who wants separate money. Men will think, "Are you planning to divorce me?" or "You don't trust me."
Women will say, "You must want to control me." I advise couples to keep some money separate so they can do things they want without having to discuss it.
Keep the conversation cool and calm
Talk about your feelings rather than focusing on your partner's behavior.
Minimise blame. When challenged control the urge to become defensive Try, "I'm sorry I did that. I'll try to do better next time,"
Look at the positive qualities of your partner. Hoarders, for instance, might admire a spender's ability to give and enjoy life. Spenders might admire hoarders' ability to set limits, plan, and budget priorities.
Listen. Observe the no-interruption rule.
Here’s a fun thing to do, play one another for a day. If you worry about her over shopping, go out and buy some new clothes for yourself. Try the non-habitual, the goal is to reach more balance, not to become the other person. It is absolutely transformational!
The American Psychological Association recommends the following:
Tune in, but don't submerge yourself.
You obviously can't stick your head in the sand and avoid all newspapers and TV reports. But you shouldn't be checking the stock markets every 10 minutes throughout the day.
Recognise how you deal with money-related stress.
Are you eating more? Imbibing too much? Have you taken up smoking or gambling? Sometimes, just having the self-awareness is all you need to put down the calorie laden stuff!
Stressing out? (Stupid question)
Are you experiencing a general sense of anxiety, Insomnia, headaches, breathlessness? No meaningful action equals migraines, hyperacidity and an ill-functioning immune system incapable of fending off many viral infections
Use stress as an excuse to exercise
OK, this is my own tip, but exercise is a fabulous stress reliever in addition to all its other health benefits. Taking a brisk walk outside, this will reduce stress hormone levels and take your mind off falling stock prices. It will also energise you and that will elevate your mood!! Well not quite elevating the stock market but you are more important!
See hardship as an opportunity for growth or change.
As Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” I am no hot shot investment guru, God knows there were plenty of them around and many more will appear. I am all about back to basics, to build a strong foundation, and to recheck if these need reinforcements. Do you agree that your edifice needs a solid foundation? That means you relationship with money and all those wonderful relationships spouse, kids, parents and most important your relationship with YOU!
The writer is a Financial Planner and Member of the Million Dollar Round Table.
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