I’ve conducted several coaching sessions recently in which the presented issue was money and finances. One centered on a couple who couldn’t seem to resolve issues over the timely payment of bills. Another involved a person who tends to be extremely generous in giving to others, then time after time turns around and begins to feel like she is being taken advantage of and ends up losing friendships over it. But the question becomes, is it really about the money, or are there other, much deeper issues at play here?
Is it about the relationship?
Your first response may be, “Well, of course! We all know that money is one of the top causes of conflict and eventual break-up of marriages.” Au contraire, the reality is often exactly the opposite. The money issues are simply symptoms. More likely there are things going on in the relationship that end up manifesting themselves as issues over finances. The needs of one partner are not being fulfilled in one way or another, so that partner goes out and deals with it by shopping and spending more than the budget allows or starts stressing over how much the other person is spending or the fact that bills aren’t being paid on time, and so on and so on.
Are there natural personality traits that one person may not understand about the other?
A perfect example is one of the situations I mentioned above in which I learned in the course of our session that the partner who appeared to be causing all the financial problems was born under the sign of Gemini. Now, you may think this is totally off the wall and that I’m out there in space somewhere; but some of my closest friends over the years were born under this fascinating sun sign, and pretty much all of them display one common personality trait — you simply never can quite get into their head and understand what they’re thinking, and they can’t figure out why you’re not already there. They may disappear for several days and you’re worried sick about them because you haven’t heard from them, and all of a sudden they appear on your doorstep and respond to your concerns by saying something like, “That’s okay, I knew where I was.” You want to strangle them, but you can’t help but love them nonetheless.
Once this innocent little fact came to light about my client’s partner, she said she felt like she had just experienced a major epiphany and realized this was a huge part of what was at the heart of their misunderstandings over finances. There were certain details she would need to take care of the household budget that she consistently would not get from him, and he couldn’t seem to understand the urgency or why she would get so upset about it. Now, that’s admittedly an extremely simple example, but it does show that sometimes the core issue may be just below the surface or even right in front of us. It may be something as basic as better understanding certain aspects of each other’s personality, and it may just take a little third-party guidance to help discover the keys for going further in finding real solutions. In this case it was a simple, natural personality trait which, when understood a little better, the partner could begin to learn how to deal with it in positive ways. The financial issues may not be solved overnight, but at least now she has a much better appreciation for where he’s coming from and can begin to work on her own approaches to the relationship as well as the finances.
My all-time favorite book on this subject is the classic Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. Whether or not you are a believer in or follower of astrology, this book can provide some great insight into the general personality traits of people born during various times throughout the year. I happen to be a Cancer, and reading about myself years ago as a Cancer child, a Cancer employee, and so on (which is how the book is broken down), helped provide incredible insight into my own personality traits and a much deeper understanding some of the things I may need to overcome or how I might tend to interact with others.
There are many other, more “scientific” tools that can be used for better understanding general personality traits in ourselves and others, as well, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the DISC Profile, Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis, and many others, some of which are readily available online.
Does one partner have something in his or her personal history that has resulted in negative emotional attitudes about money?
We are all familiar with the image of someone who grew up in a household where money was always an issue. Comments such as “money doesn’t grow on trees,” “you know we can’t afford that,” “you just can’t go around spending money like there’s no tomorrow,” and so on are common in many families. If one partner in a relationship grew up hearing things like on a regular basis and the other came from a background in which money was spent freely and the children were taught good financial skills and made to feel good about having and spending money, there is more than likely to be obvious issues in the relationship concerning how money is handled.
On the other hand, the underlying issues could go much deeper than that. Let’s take, for example, the situation I mentioned above in which the person tended to be generous with her money by always helping out others in need then turning around and putting herself in an emotional state where she felt the other person was taking advantage of her and sabotaging the entire relationship. This same person tends to be a bit stingy about spending money on herself and gets extremely agitated if all bills are not paid the minute they come in the mail. There is absolutely no such thing as debt in this household, and to have the slightest bit of outstanding debt would be a source of panic and total unease.
Early on I realized this person had an extremely high need for certainty, nearly to the level of obsession, and the Six Human Needs Test certainly confirmed that. Having any level of debt or not being absolutely sure that there was always enough money in the bank would go directly against the grain of that person’s need for certainty.
In addition, I learned that this person was abused — both emotionally and physically — as a child and was constantly told that she was dumb, ugly, and would never amount to anything. As a result, she has lived her life with the false belief that she is undeserving and in constant need of affirmation, and that there are perpetually people out there who are ready to take advantage of her. It is an extremely complex situation, considering that she truly is a loving, generous person. Imagine this person in a relationship with someone who tends to be an optimist, for whom the idea of threat is the furthest thing for their daily thoughts, and who feels perfectly comfortable with at least some level of debt and enjoys spending money within reason.
Until the real issues can be brought to the surface and strategies are developed to overcome them, there will be ongoing challenges within the relationship that have little to do directly with finances but which will certainly manifest themselves as conflicts over money.
To quote a common phrase, “things are not always as they seem.”
So if you find yourself in a situation in which money and finances seem to constantly be an issue, either with yourself or with someone with whom you are involved, money is most likely just the tip of the iceberg. It is vital that you take the time and make the effort to seek assistance from a third-party such as a strategic intervention life coach or other person who can help you get under the surface to the deeper issues at hand and develop strategies to overcome and/or positively deal with them.
Here’s to living a life of passion and emotional financial freedom!
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