Disagreements about Money aren’t about Money

One of the biggest stressors in relationships is money. Couples will argue for hours about how to spend it and how to save it. Each person in the relationship comes to the relationship with their money script, some are savers, while others are spenders which is completely fine, but when push comes to shove, there will be disagreements, but is the argument really about money?

Scenario

Bill and Karen have been married for five years, they live a comfortable life, they can afford their bills, mortgage, other expenses.  They set aside money for saving, but Karen would like to save more money than they have been. Bill is more of the spender and wants to enjoy life, go out to dinner and travel. Karen enjoys living a comfortable life, but growing up poor has made her feel she should save more money for injury, sickness, and other unexpected expenses. Bill and Karen both have very different money scripts, and they are able to manage their money responsibility but Karen wants to save more and Bill wants to have more life experiences. So what do they do?

Money isn’t about money.  Money can impact our identity, our self worth and our sense of security. In some  ways, money defines us. It defines our class, where we live and what we are able to afford.  I n childhood it can define whether or not we fit in with peers.

We all have money scripts, some of us are more of spenders, while others are savers. Our money scripts are shaped when we are growing up, seeing how our parents spent money, saved it, or stressed out about it. If someone grows up in a well-off family, where they had what they wanted and needed provided to them, they most likely aren’t worried about money as much as someone who grew up in a family that was scraping to get by. Having both parents work multiple jobs  and doing without caused them to have a fear of scarcity, a need to save, when it comes to money.

When entering a relationship, we come with money scripts, like Bill and Karen above, each grew up differently and have very different relationships with money. Karen may complain about how much Bill spends on clothes, which is coming from her childhood as they were not able to afford buying things that were not essential to survival like food and shelter. Not worrying about money comes with privilege, stability, and success and even though Karen is in a more comfortable position now financially than when she was growing up, she still holds onto the script that she is poor.

When it comes to arguments about money, it is important to understand the argument isn’t about money, it is about something much deeper, and we need to understand where our partner is coming from and their relationship with money growing up. Often, arguments about money are about fear, scarcity, and uncertainty. If you and your partner are struggling to get on the same page about money, a couples therapist is an option. The therapist will help you understand where your partner is coming from, establish goals, and how to resolve future money arguments, so you can find strategies you can both be comfortable with.

 

 

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