I am baffled.
Here’s the backstory: Next week, I was scheduled to host two Comfort Circle™ dinners with “love & money” as the theme. One evening was for couples; the other for those who are single & dating. This “clever” idea stemmed from requests to do a couples-only event and the fact some of my 1:1 coaching is with couples. Plus, even though singles and couples ultimately contend with the same issues, the love & money landscape is different.
Shortly after the dates were announced, someone asked, “Do I have to bring my husband?” A question that initially caught me off guard. That is until the question kept coming up again and again- sometimes by women; at other times by men.
Befuddled, the conversation in my head went something like this: Wait…what?? They don’t want to talk about money with their boo? But…I work with couples… But, it’s not like they don’t already talk about money…
If only one or two people had asked about attending the couples dinner without their mate, I could dismiss the question (and the concerns behind the question) as an aberration. But when it comes up more than a handful of times, by both women and men, by people in seemingly healthy relationships, it’s time to start paying more attention. And, respond accordingly.
To be clear, this post isn’t just a heads-up about the new dinner date. After all, changing the date is the easy part.
And despite the fact that this was triggered by a question from people who are coupled, this isn’t just about couples either.
It’s about diving into the unspoken and unexpressed feelings, frustrations and fears that are behind the question: “Can I come alone?”
It’s about looking into what makes tackling existential topics intimidating and difficult.
It’s about the complex reality of relationships – of all stripes.
It’s about the middle space between connection and communication. This dark, mysterious and amorphous space, which is the bridge that can either enhance your relationship — or not.
What’s Really Going On?
I believe the title of this post provides some clues. Because just like moving the dinner date was easy, so is asking questions, which is a key part of communicating. However, taking responsibility for what you do with the answers you get (and give)…that’s the hard part.
How often do you consider how you’ll respond to the answers you might get?
- What do you do if the answers scare, offend or stir up feelings, frustrations and fears you didn’t even know you had?
- What do you do if the answers leave you feeling embarrassed, rejected and/or confused?
- What do you do if the answers put a spotlight on the fact that talking about money (or most hard topics) doesn’t come naturally?
- What do you do if someone reacts to what you’ve shared in a manner you weren’t anticipating or hurts you to your core?
No wonder talking about money (or anything really important to you) is risky, emotionally!
Yes, I was befuddled by the question, “Can I come alone?” But now I see it as a really great reminder of the courage it takes to love; to tell the truth; to hear the truth; to feel unsure and insecure; to admit what you don’t know or where you’ve failed.
Each year around this time, I do my part in promoting the need to talk about love and money. In fact, just last week I participated in an online panel on this topic with the folks from Experian.
But as I reflect on that and other recent events, it occurs to me that many of us working in the behavioral finance space don’t emphasize enough the courage it takes to be uncomfortable, vulnerable, and brave.
In the scope of doing our work, we’re so focused on why it’s important to talk about money that we can forget to give credit for the courage it takes to actually do it!
So if you’re reading this as one of the people who asked, “Can I come alone?,” thank you!
Your question prompted a bit of self-reflection on my part and a change that I hope will make more people feel welcomed at the dinner table (and as important feel more fully heard).
But your question was also the tap on the shoulder I needed to remember to remind you of how brave you were to ask it – for yourself and on behalf of those who wanted to, but didn’t.
Not everyone who needs help raises their hand to get it. You did.
Not everyone who knows that talking about money isn’t something you do intuitively gets that it is a skill to be cultivated. You do.
Not everyone will see your question as the right mix of selfishness and curiosity. I do.
As messy and complicated as relationships are, it takes bravery to also see the beauty in them and the beauty that comes from them.
As often as you ask questions without the certainty of what you’ll discover from the answer, it takes bravery to ask anyway.
For my part, I will ALWAYS stand firm in my belief that talking about money and having a better understanding of the non-verbal signals you send (and receive) about your feelings, frustrations and fears make for a better, healthier and happier relationship.
But your question – “Can I come alone?” – has inspired me to make sure I never let you forget how much bravery this journey requires. Or, let you forget the power that comes from exploring that dark, mysterious and amorphous middle space the represents the gap between every question you ask and the answer you get (or don’t).
p.s. The “love & money” themed dinners originally slated for next week is now one dinner, and open for all who wish to join – regardless of marital status or sexual orientation. The date is March 12th; you can RSVP here if interested.
p.p.s. To RSVP for the March 26th Comfort Circle™ dinner, click here. The theme: Pricing Strategy For Serviced-Based Entrepreneurs (it’s not just about the numbers).