Seven out of ten Australian couples report that money causes tension in their relationships, with disagreement over finances being a stronger predictor of divorce than other commonly cited causes of marital conflict. As a couples counsellor and relationship therapist, I see couples in counselling everyday and I can definitively state that the true reason for conflict is not money. Conflict around finances goes much deeper than the actual dollars and cents. Money has so many layers of meaning, it touches on our deeper issues of security, freedom, self-worth and trust.
One of the most common reasons you may arguing over finances in your relationship may be unresolved issues from your childhood. Recently I was working with a couple with two young children who had an ongoing disagreement about their home. The husband was desperate to renovate their modest home to create the house of his dreams, with all the latest design features. This involved taking out a bigger mortgage and meant that his wife would need to return to full-time work. He was arguing with his wife about her not earning enough money to make this dream possible. The wife felt pressured, unappreciated, and unsure how she was going to manage full-time work, as well as her household responsibilities and the raising of their children. She was also in charge of their finances and felt her husband was being unrealistic about how much this additional debt would negatively affect their health and quality of life.
As I worked with this couple, I discovered that the husband’s desire for his luxurious dream home was the result of a childhood of insecurity. His parents had divorced when he was 8, he was abandoned by his mother when she re-married, and he had been shuttled from different relatives’ homes for the remainder of his childhood. His desire for a beautiful home was about much more than money, it was about healing a painful wound from his childhood and feeling safe. His wife felt frustrated that her husband could not see the extra stress this financial decision would place on both of them and thought he was being selfish. Through couples counselling she was able to understand where her partner was coming from at an emotional level. This allowed her to deal with the situation and her husband with compassion. For the husband, working through his childhood pain meant he was finally able to heal those emotional wounds without putting a strain on his marriage and his finances.
You can see from this example, that it really wasn’t about the money and yet at a surface level it would be easy for this couple to label this as an argument about finances. Ongoing conflicts about financial matters are an indicator that there is something more going on underneath the surface of your relationship. If you find that you and your partner keep having the same disagreements about money, then talking to a professional couples counsellor can help you discover what is really going on underneath the surface. Discovering the issues underlying your financial conflict, can help you both to address any emotional issues with compassion and give you the freedom to make good financial decisions. Let’s talk before it breaks, book a session with me now to resolve those financial conflicts once and for all.