Based on my many years of working with couples therapy Burlingame, the 3 most common issues that come up in therapy are: communication, money, and trust. While communication and trust are abstract, money is very tangible and such a life necessity. Couples fight over money when they don’t have a lot of it and they still fight over it when they have lots of it. Is money really the root of all evil? While I cannot answer such philosophical question, I can say management of money is a reflection of how well they trust and communicate with each other.
My belief is a controversial one: ideally, married couples should share EVERYTHING, including finances, and there shouldn’t be terms such as “financial independence” or “my money or his or her money”. The rationale for my position is that when couples get married, they vow to be life-long partners through thick and thin, good and bad, and rich and poor. The idea is everything is shared: their lives, children, problems, and of course, money. Think about when we were little: Did our parents keep tabs on us for how much they had to spend on diapers and toys? What about food and clothes? No, because that’s what families do. A family starts with the couple being committed to each other and the well being of the marriage.
When I say share EVERYTHING, I also mean communication about money as well. I’ve seen countless couples fight about money because they feel they’ve been kept in the dark about their partner’s spending. While it maybe the partner’s intention to avoid tension and conflicts, it often creates more misunderstanding and mistrust. And transparency is the best antidote to those problems. It may not be an easy goal to achieve, but it has the potential of improving the quality of a marriage on many levels in addition to the financial health of the couple.
In my office, I’ve witnessed many precious moments when couples learn to be honest and transparent with each other about their financial vulnerabilities. Once that door is opened, it allows them to get closer and be there for each other. More importantly, it can be replicated in other aspects of their relationship and create more harmony and support that become the integral foundation of the life-long partnership.
Written by Kin Leung, MFT, providing couples therapy Burlingame