Ramblings from a marriage & family therapist about relationships, life & humanity in general
Monday, April 11, 2011
“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” -Ayn Rand
April 2011 Tax season. The bitter taste left behind when it’s time to take a look at what you’ve earned the past year, and have a percentage of that ripped out of your hands. Ouch.
But perhaps the former statement is harsh for some. Maybe tax season is nothing but a routine task that feels good to complete. No big deal.
We all have our own relationship with money. And that relationship impacts our relationships with our partners, friends, family and children. In fact, finances are one of the top three conflict-causing issues in couples, even above sex. Money is actually a leading factor in divorce. What is it about money that makes things a little…funny?
Money is a secret relationship that is born when we are children. It begins when we first understand what money is, and how our family members treat it. Some learn that buying material things is a gesture of love. Others learn that money is to be saved and not to be spent, unless it is used for basic necessities. Money may represent more than just a piece of paper used to purchase things and to pay the bills. For some, it accomplishes goals. It can mean freedom, independence, power or security. It can provide several purposes, like making people like you more, serving as a means of control, holding the key to happiness or buying love. Some people place their own self-value on how much they make or don’t make. Money’s actual value has to do with more than merely numbers.
We often fail to see the significant role money plays in our lives. Talking about finances and money remains somewhat taboo in our culture. But if we all took an honest look at our relationship with money, then we could learn how to communicate better with our loved ones and learn how to better manage our issues with money.
For instance, take the individual who learned that money and things do not represent love, but that value rests in actions. For his first anniversary, he cooks a romantic dinner at home, followed by dessert, and has written a poem as a gift. This may not go over well with his partner, who may be expecting a tangible gift. “Where is the actual gift?” the partner may wonder. While there may be appreciation in the romantic gestures, he/she has learned to believe that a purchased gift (and perhaps, an expensive one) holds high value in love. And there, a conflict arises.
Or imagine Sue and Jane, two friends who are planning a trip together. Sue goes to a travel agent, tells him what she wants, and books the trip. Sue has learned money makes things easy and headache-free. Jane believes that people can be manipulative when it comes to money, so the only person you can trust is yourself. Jane thinks she can find a better deal than the agent could ever offer. Jane may assume that Sue is inconsiderate and doesn’t want to put the effort into looking for better deals.
By taking a look at your upbringing and ideas surrounding money, you may see why certain facets of your relationships are affected by these beliefs. That way, you will be less likely to misinterpret people’s actions. Talk to your partner about how you grew up to view money and how these ideas are impacting the way you feel in the relationship. When you are having a disagreement with someone concerning something having to do with money, take a step back, and ask yourself, “Why am I feeling the way I do?” Reevaluate the choices that you make when it comes to money. Are your decisions based on finances? Is this negatively impacting your life? Acknowledge your tendencies when it involves money, and face them. This awareness will allow for growth. As Rand states, let money only serve as a tool and take you where you need to go, but make sure you truly are in control—not your money.