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Pandora's Box of Money

It is pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness; poverty and wealth have both failed.

- Kin Hubbard, American Humorist

Money. Whether there’s more than enough to meet our needs or not enough to get by, money is in our thoughts – in one way or another – every day. Because money is so much more than a number in a bank account, sharing feelings, intentions, and values around money is often stressful, especially at the intersection of love and money. Important conversations between spouses, as well as between parents and adult children, are put off or unconsciously derailed in favor of keeping the peace.

No one likes opening the Pandora’s Box of Money with all its complicated meanings, emotional baggage, and potential misunderstandings.

The Family Relations journal published a study, “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce” in which researchers found that financial disagreements are stronger predictors of divorce relative to other common marital disagreements. They further suggest that topics brought into the financial disagreement are associated with marital process. Basically, this means that arguments about money aren’t really about the money – they’re about deeper issues in the relationship.

Exploring differences in the beliefs and behaviors around money can become a forum for working out any number of issues, like worthiness, trust, and power.

The path to having meaningful conversations about money begins with knowing your own money history and the embedded emotional triggers surrounding money. Before diving into a conversation with your spouse, it’s helpful to begin the conversation with yourself. Here are a few ideas of where to start:

  • What is your family of origin’s financial story?

  • If a particular event leaps to mind, write it out without editing yourself, even if it doesn’t seem to have a direct link with money. Reflect and connect the dots later.

  • Growing up, was there a sense of scarcity or abundance when it came to getting material needs and desires met?

  • How was money talked about or not talked about when you were growing up?

  • What beliefs and values were explicitly or implicitly learned around money?

  • Do those beliefs and values still fit?

Financial Arguments Early in Relationship May Predict Divorce

Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce

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