SIX REASONS COUPLES FIGHT ABOUT MONEY

by Jonathan Rich, Ph.D.

Part II: Reasons Four through Six:
Careers, Family Roles, and Trust

In Part I we looked at three reasons that couples fight about money: disagreements about getting it, spending it, and taking financial risks. Here are three more reasons.

4) The importance of careers:

Sally had worked as a real estate agent since she and Tom were married, ten years ago. She made a good living at this, but she couldn't see herself doing it the rest of her life. She cautiously brought up the issue.

" Tom, how would you feel if I did another kind of work? I've always wanted to do something to help kids. Like teaching or social work." Tom felt stuck. He really wanted Sally to be happy, but he also knew the bills had to be paid. "We've got our own kids to look after. This just isn't the time to switch careers."

Career satisfaction is important. If you like your work, you feel happier about your life, and your good feelings can enrich your family relationships. But what if job satisfaction places a burden on your family, by requiring them to make financial sacrifices, or by taking too much of your time and emotional energy?

5) Family roles:

It had been a long, tiring day at work. Ralph came home to chaos. The baby was screaming and the house was an unholy mess. He slumped into his favorite chair and turned on the TV. He turned up the volume to drown out the noise around him. Anita was exhausted and infuriated. She stood in front of the TV screen and shouted, "I could use a little help around here! Ralph shot back, “I don't know what you're doing all day, but the place is a disaster area. I've already done my work -- taking care of the house is your responsibility."

When you were growing up, you got certain ideas about what men and women did, and how responsibilities were divided up. It takes a conscious effort to change these ideas. Here's a few ideas about roles and responsibilities that I've found in my clients:

- I'm a man, so I shouldn't do housework.
- I'm a woman, so I shouldn't concern myself with money.
- I bring home more money, so I should have less responsibility at home.
- I'm better looking than my partner, so I should be pampered.
- I'm more educated, so I should make the important decisions.

The list could go on and on. Some assumptions might seem reasonable to you, others might seem ridiculous. The trouble comes when you and your partner disagree about roles, or when being too rigid about roles keeps you from trying better arrangements.

6) Trust

Cheryl couldn’t wait for Charlie, her new husband, to get home. She had saved for months to get this new dress and felt gorgeous wearing in. When Charlie came through the door, Cheryl twirled around with a broad smile. “Like it?” Charlie rushed past her. “Yeah, love it. How much did that set us back.” Cheryl was crushed and too hurt to argue.

Charlie remembered the same, bitter arguments that his parents had over and over again: his mother went on wild sprees and his father insisted that she was sending them “to the poorhouse.” Now it seemed like it was happening all over again.

At the root of almost all marital and relationship disagreements are problems with trust. When you feel that your partner has your best interests at heart, and you feel that they are able to make good decisions, then deciding things together is a much more comfortable process. If you feel that your partner is looking out only for himself or herself, at your expense, or you believe that your partner makes bad decisions, then disagreements are bound to become a struggle.

A lack of trust may be based on experiences with your partner. For instance, your partner has spent the grocery money at bars, or your partner has invested in one harebrained scheme after another. But a lack of trust can also be your own issue, based on experiences that have nothing to do with your relationship now.

Part I | Part III

Jonathan Rich, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, practicing in Irvine, California. This article was adapted from his new self-help book, The Couple’s Guide to Love and Money.


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