By Katie & Gay Hendricks
Couples argue about anything and everything when it comes to money. But what’s not so well known is that fighting about money – especially when the same argument comes up again and again – is almost never about money.
And having more money is not the cure for it, either.
In fact, even millionaires fight about money. We see it all the time.
Take a wealthy couple who came to see us for counseling. They couldn’t get past this one argument about the price of toilet paper.
Or another couple who was fighting over peanut butter. She insisted on the more expensive organic brand, while he was adamant about what a waste this was – the cheapest jar would do just fine.
In both cases, these couples – who, by all appearances, made a very comfortable living and should have been spending their time on other things – couldn’t stop fighting about a few dollars.
These two couples are prime examples of how couples can get lost for a long period of time in the same pattern and not even realize it’s a problem.
Not once did the couple stop to think, “Oh wait, this couldn’t possibly be about the toilet paper – it’s about something else.”
But when the same issue comes up at least three or four times, it’s safe to say it is almost certainly about something else.
Couples can get lost for a long period of time in the same pattern and not even realize it’s a problem.
Often, it’s about what the couple is concealing about the issue – usually about some fear they have deep inside but have never discussed.
Our couple arguing about toilet paper had both grown up in an environment where they felt money was scarce. Now, as adults, they still felt poor inside – as if at any minute all their wealth would go away. They were both afraid they could lose it all.
Yet miraculously, in all their years together – and all their go-nowhere bickering – they’d never talked about this with each other.
One of the reasons couples get together in the first place is that they share the same emotional wounds they experienced as children. But because of their circumstances growing up, they’ve each learned to deal with them differently.
So even though they’re both afraid of losing everything they have, one of them develops a pattern of penny-pinching, while the other rebels and spends as a way to mask the underlying fear.
Because they’ve each developed different coping styles, it doesn’t look like the partners have the same issue – on the surface. But as we’ve seen, they’re both operating from the same wounds.
Once couples open up about this to each other, they realize they are both afraid and sad – but because they hadn’t addressed it, they were going around in circles about toilet paper or peanut butter.
Once concealed emotions are revealed, magic happens.
The couple can take the energy they had wrapped up in bickering and instead redirect it toward revitalizing the relationship.
Instead of quibbling, they can bond over their shared emotions – and what they both experienced in their past that led them to feel this way now. It’s a powerful way to come closer as a couple.
And when couples are struggling with legitimate money concerns, they can stop fighting about the details and instead transfer their energy to work together as a team – creating joint goals for either making more money, or getting creative about what to do with what they already have.
But it usually takes a little push from the outside so you can actually see what these patterns are to begin with.
One of the things we do is to help couples snap out of these long-standing patterns. We’ve counseled couples in our office, at our seminars, and we’ve reached thousands more through our appearances on Oprah.
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