I adore metaphors. My new favorite came falling out of my mouth yesterday and immediately took me to writing this post; “You might own the same book, but you’re not on the same page.” This is a difficult topic to address because everyone has allowed themselves to be in the exact situation that they currently are. You get what you put it up with. This can be a tough place to find yourself, particularly if you’re not in a good space mentally, physically or emotionally. I emphasize, because I know that place.
Being on the same page with your finances as your spouse is a rarity, but it doesn’t need to be. Being open about your finances isn’t a skill that we were raised to do. We aren’t taught to discuss the financial concerns of our heart like we are taught to unload the dishwasher, change your little brother’s diaper, or put away your laundry. We are taught that we need to work hard, build credit to qualify for loans, and keep up with the Joneses, whether that’s directly taught or indirectly, we pick up on our surroundings.
I am a personal finance coach, and currently ALL my clients are women. All my clients are working a side hustle to help provide for their lifestyle, some for their basic needs. And MOST of them sought me out without their partners knowledge. Which translate down the road to the fact that their fundamental communication about the family finances is not congruent with each other. This is heartbreaking to me. Too many times to count the underlying issue is spending, not income, and too many times to count the blame has been shifted to the female in a hetero relationship. In my program, after a month-long spending audit, the other partner turns out to be just as likely to spend the same amount, often more, than my client on personal things. It seems like this blame happens because her role was defined early on, it’s her job to keep control of the finances. Most of these roles and budgets, goals and priorities were set pre-kid, pre-pets, pre-house, pre-current “whatever” situation. Funny thing about budgets, goals, and priorities is that they are evolving, changing forces in our lives and need regular review, reflection and intervention when needed.
Every single time something changes in our physical world, the equivalent reflection of said thing needs to adapt in our financial world. This isn’t some crazy-track-every-penny complex system were talking about, but more of a fluid and evolving systems that allows, gives, and needs filling at times. The adjustment that is needed on a regular basis for overall financial health isn’t happening within the relationships that I’ve been working with. One partner wants to realign their finances with their priorities while the other feels that they shouldn’t have ever gotten into the situation and takes little, if any, accountability for their actions. There isn’t the dialogue, the conversation, or the tools. The communication might be “great”, the sex “incredible,” and they may be the “best” parent, but financial stress has a way of laying deep seeded eggs and can derail any of the good stuff you’ve got going on with your partner.
Behind financial health are many layers of personal history, guilt and shame, and then you throw your spouses mess into the mix without ever really leveling with one another or adjusting to the ever-changing circumstances of life.
Financial health can only truly be defined as where YOU want to be. Success is the result of happiness not the other way around. So, no matter how you define financial success, that is up to you and your spouse. That being said that are some universal ideals in which my program promotes, which include living within your means, living debt free, funding your priorities, and reaching your goals, but how you choose to spend and invest your dollars is up to you and the other members of your household, which will look immensely different between families. If you and your partner aren’t on the same page financially, hope is long from lost. This happens to be a breaking point for many, but it’s my purpose in life to bring you and partner together, to prioritize, and discover one another’s strengths within the realm of personal finance and marital well-being. Money is the second leading cause of divorce in the United States. Shelly Warren, a life coach and published author on Marriage.com says that “everything from different spending habits and financial goals, to one spouse making considerably more money than the other, causing a power struggle can strain a marriage to the breaking point”. I would love to see the gap be bridged between the solitude couples experience out of shame and resentment and the togetherness couples feel from accomplishing their goals together. Money stress impacts so many aspects of our lives, is it affecting you and your primary relationship?
Breathe deep, seek peace, be grateful.
Jenny “FreeBird” Foertsch