Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And although love and money intersect every day, now is the time of year when talking about love and money takes center stage – at least in the media realm.
Most of the articles and show segments you’re likely to encounter, in the coming days and weeks, will tell you that avoiding conflicts over money is the best pathway to harmony and peace in your relationship.
On Tuesday, February 9th, I will be on “Good Morning America.” (Time for a happy-dance!) Based on their reactions, I think one of my suggestions for what couples should do surprised the lovely couple, the producer and the crew.
And, I imagine it may surprise you too.
Don’t avoid the occasional fight about money.
Sounds crazy, but bear with me…
The notion that you should do everything possible to avoid any conflict where money is concerned is greatly flawed. For starters, it’s based on a premise that presupposes fighting puts your relationship in jeopardy.* Second, it’s based on the premise that you are actually arguing over money.
Yes, in the moment, fighting sucks; it doesn’t feel good. You’re teetering between being mad, hurt or both. This is probably true whether you’re arguing about money, sex, children, family, friends, work, housework, “play” time — whatever.
When it comes to money, though, you’re actually fighting about what money represents to each of you in terms of your values, beliefs, behaviors, habits, experiences and expectations.
So that argument you and your mate had last night or last week is really about these “expressions” of money bumping up against one another. You and he/she are frustrated and are finding it difficult to navigate and negotiate a resolution where you each feel heard, respected, and appreciated.
As ironic as it sounds, the thing that pissed you off can also be the seed for new ideas and ways to strengthen your relationship.
If you fight with compassion and curiosity, here’s what can happen:
You learn more about what really matters to each other – even if you’ve been together many, many years.
Since the fight isn’t really about money, is it about safety, security, priorities, or something else?
You (re)discover that having peace and harmony in your relationship isn’t because you don’t fight with each other.
It’s because of what you’re fighting for — you are fighting for each other’s dreams, aspirations and goals and the ones you have together.
You get better at going beyond the money; you get better at viewing money more and more as a communication tool – a door opener.
When you give yourself permission to go beyond the money, you’ll discover new ideas on how to strengthen your relationship and keep it energized. Plus, you’ll avoid the trap of your romance and connection being on autopilot.
You reinforce that you believe in the strength of your relationship and friendship.
One of the reasons you argue is because the topic (in this case money) is important to you, as is the other person and your relationship. If this weren’t the case, you’d be quiet almost to the point of complacency.
Now, there are some couples that say, “oh, we never argue,” and they wear that statement as a badge of honor. Frankly, my antennae always goes up when I hear a couple say that because that means, at least to me, that someone is holding back. Someone is being passive or passive-aggressive. And I can’t see how that is healthy for any relationship.
When you avoid the occasional fight about money, I believe you miss out on the opportunity to deepen your connection and strengthen the bond you share.
Perhaps it’s because I’m totally fascinated by our relationship with money – individually and collectively. But, I think money provides an exceptional window into human behavior for all of us to explore.
So, I invite you to peep through the window a little more; let it reflect back what is and what isn’t working in your relationship. What I’m sure you’ll find is that not only is money a great tool for self-discovery, but it’s a wonderful way to get to know your partner more…and better.
It’s been my experience personally and from working with my clients that deeper insight leads to better choices.
What say you?
p.s. *It should go without saying, but just in case…I’m not referring to abusive relationships or instances where money is used as a tool for control and manipulation.
p.p.s. Remember to tune into (or DVR) “Good Morning America,” on Tuesday, February 9th. I’ll be on sometime between the 8am-9am hour (barring any breaking news) talking about love and money. Rebecca Jarvis is the reporter.