What if You Stop Expecting it to Be Easy?

Recently, I had the awesome pleasure of being on a panel with DJ Envy, his wife Gia Casey, Angela Yee, and Stacey Tisdale. In case you don’t know, DJ Envy, Angela, and Charlamagne Tha God are hosts of the top-rated and syndicated radio show, “The Breakfast Club.” (In the NYC area, it airs on Power 105.1 FM.) Stacey is the founder of Mind Money Media, Inc.

Our topic for this “Wealth Wednesday’s” event: love and money.

Stacey was our moderator and peppered the evening’s discussion with some startling stats – like:

  • 43% of Americans don’t know how much their partner earns
  • 30% of couples who fight about money and debt at least once a week are more likely to divorce (source: Utah State University)
  • 57% of divorced couples cited money problems as the primary reason for the divorce (source: Citibank)
  • 13 million Americans have committed financial infidelity by hiding a bank or credit card account from a partner or spouse (source: CreditCards.com)

As you might imagine, I had a lot to say on the topic and these stats! After all, exploring the intersection of love and money is the focus of my book, “Financial Intimacy,” and my coaching with couples.

Whereas I wrote a book on this topic, DJ Envy and Gia were an open book.

They graciously shared their personal story of “love and money”…of twenty-five years! I particularly appreciated their candor regarding the ups and downs and how they operate as a team – in challenging and good times.

Their story not only helped us as a panel tackle the aforementioned stats. But, little did they know, they also helped to prove an observation of mine when it comes to human behavior, relationships and money.

We expect the wrong things to be easy.

This is when the opening lines of M. Scott Peck’s book, “The Road Less Traveled,” really come in handy: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths…”

In that same vein is this fact of life: Relationships are hard.

Whether you’re single and dating or are married, your relationship with your mate – hard. Your relationship with money – hard. Your relationship with your mate AND money – really, really hard.

It’s a truth many people don’t want to hear, let alone believe (even though their experiences prove otherwise).

And good relationships are good precisely because the people involved do the work to make it so.

This is what was on display as DJ Envy and Gia shared their story. For me, it is what made their story refreshing. It also happens to be, I believe, one of the many reasons, the crowd resonated with what they had to say. For the audience, their story affirmed that (a) they are not alone, (b) celebrities have ups and downs and have to work things out, too and (c) the work isn’t “one and done;” it’s ongoing.

What’s the Source?

From where exactly does the notion that a relationship (of any type) should be easy come? Sure, we could blame it on many of the books, movies and songs our culture creates and consumes. You know –  the ones that showcase the pursuit of something as hard, but then once you have it, you’re set. You don’t have to do anything to sustain it. You won’t encounter additional friction of any sort – ever! Even as your circumstances and context of such shift and evolve over time.

I wish I could tell you why this idea exists, but I haven’t the slightest clue of which comes first in this instance – the chicken or the egg.

Especially when it is an idea that seems to be selectively applied. For example: People expect having a successful career to take work. Or, that being healthy and staying in shape requires effort.

Yet, somehow, this expectation goes out the window where love and money are involved.

You may be single and dating or coupled up. You may have twenty-five years together (or more) under your belt. Or, your relationship may be new. Either way, you have to navigate and negotiate this terrain called love and money.

And while there is no one single way to do this well, what I’ve noticed is that couples who have a healthy relationship with each other and their money have the following in common:

Operate as partners

Operating as partners doesn’t imply 50/50 – whether that’s in terms of what you each bring to the table financially or in terms of your scope of responsibilities. Instead, it pertains to whether you are operating in the relationship as two people working on divergent plans. Or, are as two people coming together working on a single plan. In other words, do you have each other’s back through thick and thin.

This matters because it influences how you negotiate priorities.

Are financially self-aware – as individuals and a couple

Money acts as a mirror. It reflects back to you your values, beliefs, behaviors, habits, expectations, dreams, hopes, goals, desires, etc. It also casts a spotlight on your financial strengths and weaknesses.

Do focus on your own financial strengths and weaknesses as much as you do your mate’s? Do you endeavor to make sure your habits complement one another – or do you prefer to focus on the stress your differences create?

This matters because without a heightened degree of financial self-awareness you’re unable to shift from blame (as in the other person did/didn’t do something) to identifying how to move forward.

Embrace the mundane

Couples with a strong and healthy connection value the mundane because they recognize the power of how what you do day-in and day-out matters much more than what you do on occasion.

And they apply a similar sentiment when it comes to money. Yes, there are some within my industry that thrive on you being attracted to the notion that financial success is all about the sexy headliners – the latest IPO; picking the latest top-performing mutual fund; focusing on what the market did (or didn’t do) yesterday and such; or, how many commas and zeros do you have following them, etc.

With relationships and with money, the truth is far less exciting. A good portion of your relational and financial success rests in the aspects that are rather boring and quite unsexy.

This matters because in much the same was as you don’t measure the strength and intimacy of your relationship on one day, the same is true when it comes to money. The “small,” daily choices matter more than the grand one-off events or days.

Are more committed to each other and their love than they are to money

This is not to say that money doesn’t matter. But one false move or decision and the money can go away. Kudos to the couple the place a higher priority on their union and their ability to rebuild whatever may be lost.

As I’ve admitted on numerous occasions, I am a hopeless romantic. And I truly believe that money can be an unlikely tool to bring couples closer together. Not the money per se, but what the money prompts two people to discover and address first about themselves, and second, as a couple.

Thus, one more reason why I enjoyed meeting and hearing DJ Envy and Gia’s story. From it, it was clear they “got” that this love and money thing isn’t suppose to be easy.

And I am of the belief that the minute you stop expecting it to be easy is precisely when it becomes easier.

p.s. Later this week I’ll be in San Diego to speak at the “Think Better, Live Better” conference – February 10 – February 11th. I’d love to see you there if you’re in the area! Click here for conference details and the speaker line-up.

p.p.s. We’ve got two (2) Comfort Circle™ dinners this month – both talking about love and money. Click here for the couples edition and here for single & dating edition.

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