Psychotherapy for winter blues?!

The Psychology of Money: Do your attitudes toward money cause stress in your relationship with your spouse or partner?

What do couples fight about? Lots of things of course, but psychologists who work with couples will tell you that sex and money are right up there at the top of the list. While there are many psychologists, sex therapists, and couples therapists that specialize in improving the sexual aspects of relationships, there are surprisingly few professionals who focus on “money issues” in relationships. Moreover, while many couples recognize that an unfulfilling sex life might require professional help, it is much less common for people to seek couples psychotherapy when their different ways of handling finances causes relationship stress.

In my practice, the couples I see frequently tell me that arguments over money are a major source of relationship breakdown and marriage problems. This is particularly true early on in the relationship. Example: Time and time again, couples who are planning their wedding come to me for help with considerable tension between them over how much to spend, how to save, and how to negotiate the financial stressors of wedding planning.

Why do couples argue over money?

Psychologists have demonstrated through research that we inherit our attitudes toward money and our spending patterns from past experience, and often from our families of origin. Cultural differences, sub-cultural differences, and individual personality differences all contribute to why people often do not see eye-to-eye with their partner when it comes to money.

When working with couples, I often find it helpful to have people examine how and why their partners’ approach to saving and/or spending money is different than their own tendencies. I have also developed a behavioural “system” that I have taught to many couples with success that helps couples to be accountable to each other with respect to their finances (so as to help meet long-term financial goals) but also allows each person to enjoy some financial freedom. This “system” can become a new language by which couples can communicate in order to reduce tension and resentment in the relationship.

In some situations, people either spend compulsively, or hoard their money to such a degree that financial issues become a major risk factor for break-up or divorce. In these cases, professional help from a psychologist is particularly warranted.

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  • January 2013