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This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.
My fiancé and I are in our early 30's. Neither of us has been married before. Both of us have good jobs and have been independent since we graduated college.
We have differences in the way we deal with money. We both make about the same amount of money. We both believe in investing for retirement and have both started plans for that purpose.
We may have to use some of this money for college for our children, should we have them. We plan to marry in another year.
In day-to-day spending, he is much more conservative than I am. He would rather buy a fixer-up house and do the work of renovation himself. I would rather buy a nice home that may need some work done to it, but not a lot. He would rather get clothes and furniture from a thrift store or second-hand shop. I prefer to buy new. I'm not extravagant but I want things that look nice and wear well.
While we've been dating, he has been generous with the activities we participate in together. When something is especially expensive and both of us would enjoy doing it, I will pay half the expenses.
My fear is that we will have a difficult time managing our differences around money. I am especially afraid that if we have children and I choose to stay home for a while, he will become controlling of the finances. I have noticed that his father tends to control the finances in his family.
What I would like from you are some tips for managing these differences. If I had some creative solutions for him, maybe we could develop a plan to deal with this before we marry.
Paula from Port Huron
Susan responds .
It is very important to work through this and create a plan before you get married. I acknowledge you for taking steps in that direction!
It sounds like the deeper issue here has to do with your core values. Where you spend your money and how you manage it will be partially determined by your core values and what you both determine as "necessity" and what that means to each of you.
I would encourage you to examine your core values. What are your top 10? How would you prioritize them? What do they mean to you? How do they play out in your life? Encourage your fiancé to do the same and then look at how your values fit together.
For the things you are concerned about, I would suggest you both determine what is negotiable and what is not. There are wonderful resources available for coaching and support if you choose that route to help you work through this process. Many blessings.
Susan Ortolano, M.A.
Tara responds .
Money issues can be quite difficult to navigate before marriage and afterwards. I'm glad you're recognizing your differences and you're thinking ahead as to how to handle issues should they arise because, inevitably, they will.
When it comes to money, our habits are tied closely to our values and how we were raised. It's important that both partners be on the "same page" when it comes to this issue -- or, at least in agreement as to how things will be settled when issues arise.
Talking to your partner about your concerns is the first thing to do. Recognizing his behavior and his own family dynamic regarding the controlling of finances is important to acknowledge, as is the issue of buying old versus new things.
How you handle money and your attitudes as to how you spend it probably won't change much, if at all, when you're married. The same applies to your fiancé. In fact, once you're married and have additional responsibilities, these types of issues might actually intensify.
Discuss your money concerns openly and honestly before making the commitment of marriage. Learning how to compromise and being very clear on how money matters will be negotiated, going forward, will be key to making your marriage work.
If you need additional support, consider engaging a relationship or financial coach who is experienced with issues like this. Congratulations on making sure that you address this important matter during your engagement period. You and your fiancé will benefit from investing in the foundation of your future life together.
Tara Kachaturoff | www.relationshipplanning.com
by Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT
If these words, or ones like them, sound all too familiar, you might be experiencing "checkbook battles" in your relationship. Checkbook battles are simply fights about money.
In marriage, the six big areas of potential conflict are communication, sex, children, in-laws, religion, and you guessed it, money. For many couples, money can become a vicious battleground.
In my work with helping couples deal with this issue, I've found that people are often uncomfortable talking about money. Almost any other issue, including sex, seems to be discussed much more readily. When it comes to money, many couples have never discussed it all, except to argue about it.
It's not surprising that research shows many divorces can be traced back to conflicts over money. Why is there all this conflict over money? Maybe it's because people tend to regard money in very different ways.
A useful definition for money is simply that it is "green energy." The way that we handle this green energy is our "money style." Our money style is determined by at least two factors: the emotional meaning that we give to money and the way money was handled in the family in which we grew up.
Consider the emotional meaning that money has for you. Does it represent security, power, pleasure, control, independence or, perhaps something else? How is your perspective similar to and different from that of your partner?
Second, how was money handled in your family when you were a child? Were your parents savers or big spenders? If your partner's background is significantly different from yours, there's the potential for "checkbook battles."
Let's take a look at the situation of a couple that came in for counseling. See if you can pick up the differences between Bob and Mary's money styles.
Can you pick out the different emotional meanings of money for these two people? Do you think there might be some potential for conflict?
If you and your partner have different money styles, don't be alarmed. There are many things that can be done to help blend the differing styles.
Here is a list of do's and don'ts that not only helped Bob and Mary avoid "checkbook battles," but also strengthened their relationship.
Important Money Don'ts
Important Money Do's
One way to combine the two styles is to create a reasonable working budget. There are two keys to making a budget work:
"You must agree upon an amount of money that cannot be spent unless it is first discussed,"
"Each person receives a small amount of money that can be used in whatever way he or she wishes, and with no questions asked."
If you continue to remain stuck on this issue, it might be helpful to consult a financial planner, a relationship coach, or both. Remember that the goal is to blend your styles so this "green energy" called money, works for you and draws you closer together. Blending styles and growing closer seem like good goals no matter what the issue.
Copyright © Jeff Herring. All rights reserved.
by Pamela Simmons
When we come together to share our individual realities, it is important to be able to hear each other respectfully. This means that we have to learn to "deal" with perceptions that might be different from our own.
Essentially, there are two options: responding or reacting.
A response flows from mental clarity and emotional strength. It arises from the consideration of the long and short-term consequences it could create.
A response is chosen to produce a desired outcome, whereas a reaction is an uncontrollable reflex born of fear. The purpose of a reaction is to defend against a perceived threat of danger or harm to yourself or to others for whom you care.
Though it is a survival impulse, fear is not always wise. It can cause you to act in ways wisdom would never consider. It takes you down the path of blame that recreates the past, while wisdom takes you down the path of learning that leads to healing and mastery.
If you decide that you would prefer responding rather than reacting to what people say, there are some things that you can do.
First, observe the way you heard what was said -- the interpretation that you assigned to it. Could there be other interpretations?
Next, determine the speaker's intent. Was the speaker's intent to hurt you, or simply to reveal thoughts and feelings? Rather than assume anything, ask the other person, in an inquisitive tone, to say more or to explain the purpose of the comment. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Although you have a right to your feelings, there is a big difference between acting out and honoring them. Blame and attack assumes someone intended to hurt you and that he or she is responsible for your pain. You can suggest talking about things, later, if you feel like you're going to lose control. It is okay to ask for time to sort things out. Maybe a good cry or letting go of anger will help you clear your mind. If the tears and/or anger can be expressed safely, that's ideal; however, many times, raw emotion is expressed and filled with hostility.
Give yourself some time with your feelings before drawing conclusions or taking action. Refrain from arguing or trying to teach or persuade another when you are deeply upset. Honor your feelings in a safe and appropriate way that will bring you value.
When you wisely express emotion, it tends to yield learning and healing, while emotion expressed to hurt, only yields regret and guilt. Anger can be managed in many ways -- through writing about your thoughts, through physical exertions like running, screaming into or hitting a pillow, or using a punching bag. It can even be managed through cleaning a closet.
Pay attention to the intensity of reaction toward certain behaviors that you observe. Many times the annoying things people do are things that we do also. We judge harshly in others what we are afraid to look at in ourselves. Though this "projection" is an unconscious act, we can know it is occurring by noticing that we want to punish the other person for doing the behavior.
It is one thing to observe that someone is behaving undesirably and another to want to punish or condemn him or her for it. This is a sign that our own self-doubts and/or fears have been triggered. The force of fury is driven by something that happened in the past that we are afraid might happen in the future.
If you find that you are projecting, tell the person about it. "I reacted so strongly because what you said brought up some of my fears about myself; it was upsetting. I am sorry. It had nothing to do with you."
When someone else shares him/herself with you, you need to decide what you want the outcome to be. Do you want harmony and collaboration or do you want to punish, to blame, or to be right? If we want to be more connected and build trust, then responses work better than reactions. If you want to create adversarial relationships, then blame, punishment, and making others wrong will accomplish that.
A third party can help sort things out when emotions and history are intense. Responding makes us a safe person to be with and creates the loving relationships that most people want in their lives.
Copyright © Pamela Simmons. All rights reserved.
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Tara Kachaturoff | Editor, PartnersInLife.org Couples News Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
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