How do you help couples who fight over money?
One observation I’ve made over the years, about people is that they can more readily talk about sex than about how much money they make. Opposites attract and so couples often fall into polarized styles of money personalities. I use the following four categories in my work with couples, to enable them to communicate with less hostility about their differences and battles (Mellan,1992).
HOARDER vs SPENDER
Hoarders feel secure and safe when saving money, budgeting and planning. Spenders feel alive and free when spending money. When the spender spends, he feels happy and taken care of. But, his spending makes his wife feel anxious and angry. When the hoarder saves, she feels secure but her saving makes her husband feel deprived.
PLANNER vs DREAMER
Dreamers tend to be passionate idealists. Planners tend to be concrete, nitty- gritty detail types. The planners get anxious and panic without a detailed plan. Planners don’t even take the time to indulge their personal fantasies (unlike dreamers!)
MONEY AVOIDER vs MONEY WORRIER
Money avoiders cannot tell you how much money they earn. They don’t balance their cheque books and can’t tell you what their regular expenses are. Money worriers constantly worry about not having enough.
MONEY MONKS vs MONEY AMASSERS
Money monks believe that money is the root of all evil and so they choose to be virtuous have-nots. This however results in self-deprivation and powerlessness and not much real happiness. Money amassers, on the other hand, think the more money you have, the happier you can be.
My challenge with couples therapy is to help each person understand that their personal growth lies in their ability to understand and accept each other’s emotional style and relationship to money. Doing this goes a long way to resolving their differences.