Love and money. These two seemingly unrelated subjects actually cross path in surprising ways. As February is known as the month of love, it is timely to discuss the role money plays in all relationships. Financial conversations, though can be tricky and cumbersome at times, are essential in establishing a healthy relationship between you and your partner. It is a great way to strengthen your relationship by eliminating a taboo element in a relationship. However, money can also be used to sabotage a relationship in numerous ways – as, a medium for enabling, control, and punishment. Remember, money isn’t our enemy. However it is up to us to decide what kind of relationship we are going to have with our partners in regards to dealing with finances.
Financial enabling can be characterized as the act of a pseudo-helper where you get the sensation of lending a hand to those in need, while in reality perpetuating the deep seeded problem. While this issue can definitely be seen in couples, this dynamic can also be observed in a parent-child relationship. The enabler is unable to say “no” to a financial demand by the one who is financially dependent. It can stem from the good intentions of the enabler and also from the pursuit of the enabler to help their partner.1 However, this is not helpful for the dependent because the main issue is not dealt with, and it is rather a band-aid solution.
Contrarily to enabling where order and system is not established, control and punishment using money show opposite traits. While the essence of control and punishment are very different, the actions and effect tend to be overlapping. Both can be characterized as financial abuse entailing control of the victim’s ability to use, or acquire money. The need for control can be rooted in different aspects of one’s financial emotions, such as the desire to gain control in the relationship2 or the fear of uncertainty. Money becomes a very accessible medium to cast one’s superiority and dominance over the other as it plays a vital role in everyone’s lives — more simply put, we all need money, so taking that away from someone creates great tension. Unlike physical or verbal abuse, financial abuse in the form of control is less recognized by the public despite its common occurrences in society.2 Similarly, the origin of punishing your partner through money can also be identified as the yearning to gain control in the midst of uncertainty or variability. All our relationships are dynamic; however, the inability to recognize and adapt to changes makes us fear change. It can lead to negative emotions such as pain, hurt, and a sense of isolation.3 More importantly, there is no punishment out of love.
What does this mean?
It means that while money can be used in so many meaningful ways, it can also become a knife that hurts us all. Take a step back and see if what you are doing “out of love” is actually a reflection of your values and beliefs. It is never too late to recognize that what you are doing might be hurting your partner rather than helping. There are three easy steps you can follow to establish a healthy financial relationship with your partner:
1. Recognize that what you might be doing with good intensions, could be hurting your partner.
2. Establish a clear and transparent line of communication.
3. Keep both partners in the loop, and do not avoid money conversations just because it is uncomfortable
Love is beautiful. Don’t let money ruin and destroy the harmony.
1. Kahler, R. (n.d.). When parents can’t say no: Financial enabling. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://kahlerfinancial.com/financial-awakenings/money-psychology/when-parents-cant-say-no-financial-enabling
2. Smith, A. (2016, August 10). How money is used as a weapon in relationships. Retrieved February 09, 2021, from https://www.kiplinger.com/article/spending/t065-c023-s002-how-money-is-used-as-a-weapon-in-relationships.html
3. Posted by: Team Tony, T. (2019, March 14). The negative effects of punishing someone in a relationship. Retrieved February 09, 2021, from https://www.tonyrobbins.com/love-relationships/stop-punishing-partner/