Being good with money is hard enough to do on your own. For a couple, aligning values and behaviors can be a real challenge.
Amanda Clayman, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in financial wellness, has had a front-row seat to hundreds of couples’ money lives over the past 15 years. Each person’s relationship with money is unique, she told Insider, and that’s often what causes friction between partners.
“I would say that most couples — and this isn’t just couples in treatment, but most couples — we partner with somebody with whom we have kind of a different point of view,” Clayman said.
It’s the classic opposites attract pattern. Someone who is anxious and likes to have control, for example, will often partner with someone who has a happy-go-lucky “it’s going to be all right” attitude, she said. Those mentalities can bleed into every area of their financial lives, affecting communication and decision-making.
But in Clayman’s experience coaching couples with these very issues, there’s an obvious sign they’re going to be able to overcome them: They’re paying attention.
Couples who have a mutual awareness of their money are the most successful
Clayman said one of the biggest money obstacles people face is a habit of avoidance — not checking your account balance, not bringing up financial concerns with a partner, not knowing exactly how much you spend each month, and the like. Avoidance is one of the primary coping mechanisms for managing anxiety, she said, and it’s very difficult to overcome.
But when a couple meets with Clayman, it’s a clear sign they’re committed to breaking their toxic money habits.
“They’re acknowledging that there’s an issue that they want to solve,” she said, “And they’re both taking a step toward being open to a resolution that’s not just their other partner agreeing with them that their way is correct.”
But you don’t have to sit on a therapist’s couch to pay attention to your money as a couple. Taking a close look at how much money you have coming in and going out each month, and talking about how you want to use that money to better your life together is a huge step, she said. Keeping the conversation going through money dates or some other form of intentional discussion, especially if you don’t see eye to eye at first, is key.
“Money is something that requires a kind of practice, a routine, in order to function well and couples who are able to be in that routine together, I think, have the best forecasts for having money be a healthy and successful part of their life,” Clayman said.
If a couple can understand how their respective experiences have shaped their own relationship with money, she said, they’ll be able to have more compassion for themselves and their partner. How a couple interacts is like a dance, Clayman said, and mastering the dance can help them identify patterns of conflict and be more collaborative.
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