Finance 12 November 2018
My husband is my personal superhero. He is a great match for me in every way and has one of the kindest hearts of any man I know. Coming into our marriage I knew that finances were the leading cause of divorce. I did not tread lightly or believe that love would conquer all. I had the financial education to know how to set things up so that money was never something that came between us.
My father always made it his top priority to educate my sister and I on finances. When my sister was twelve and wanted to buy her own computer my dad asked her, "Is that an appreciating asset or a depreciating asset?" This was designed to instill in us early on that your money should always be used to make you more money, and that my sister and I had the power to do so.
I have continued this approach into my financial education as an adult, taking business courses, reading books on how to invest and build your wealth and speaking to everyone I could who was more educated than I was in the area.
I have developed a clear view of the financial world because of this education and how this macrocosm manifests itself in our personal lives-- namely in relationships. It has always been important to me to keep my marriage clear and healthy in all areas; and keeping our money clear is an extension of how committed I am to my husband.
You have to look at the future of your relationship with a sober perspective, rather than a romantic lens. Viewing finances pragmatically is what will allow the romance of your relationship to thrive and grow over time. Hoping that things will change or get better with time is succumbing to your romantic lens, and it leaches the relationship of its peace over time.
Here are three steps to keep your relationship financially healthy.
Be Clear on What your Contribution is:
One of the things that creates resentment in relationships is when one partner works and brings in the money, and the other stays at home. In many relationships, the partner who stays home doesn't feel like they have a right to the money and will not ask for what they really want, because they weren't the ones who went out and earned it.
If you are in a relationship, you are being a contribution in some way, whether it is raising children or caring for your home. If you agree to both live off one partner's income, this doesn't mean the partner who didn't directly earn it wasn't a major support in their spouse's life.
This comes down to self-worth. We often assume that the role of our partner is to remind us of our self-worth, but that is not a reasonable expectation of them. If you don't value what you have to contribute, you cannot expect your partner to. You really have to look at how you value your contribution to the relationship and what you would like to have in your life- whether or not you're the main source of income.
Consider How You Tend to Spend Your Money:
You need to be clear on how you and your partner tend to function with regard to money. What are your saving and spending habits and what are your partner's? If you are someone who likes to spend $600 on a pair of shoes now and then, how does that make your partner feel? If you have always wanted a boat but your partner doesn't share the same nautical dreams, you need discuss this before you enter into the next phase of your relationship. Most people are not willing to be honest about their financial aspirations because they believe that if an agreement is not reached, it will threaten the relationship. This is rarely the case. The real threat is having the difference in opinion erode the relationship over time as it becomes apparent in different situations.
Make a Deal and Deliver:
This is a conversation where you sit down with your spouse and write down everything that is required in the relationship. Who takes out the trash, who brings in the money, who makes sure the kids have brushed their teeth and how many nights a week does each person make dinner?
In my house, my husband and I both bring in the money, we split the bills, I make dinner every night and he minds the bills and takes care of his beautiful gardens. The greater the detail, the greater the ease. People avoid putting this into practice because it takes away the romantic notion. The opposite is true, when you have this clarity, it leaves more space for romance.
The Secret to Having Money Is Making More than you Spend:
Now this is quite an obvious sentiment and I am being a bit facetious here. I wish this point was as obvious in practice as it is on paper.
This is a total myth. This mindset is designed to control us into being average earners and big consumers. If you open up any good financial book, you will realize that setting yourself up to have money is as easy as learning to cook or do basic math. I am at an advantage because I was raised in a household where this type of attitude was valued, but I have seen people learn this in adulthood successfully time and time again.
Being in a relationship is about finding someone who makes your life happier, lighter and greater. The romantic partner you choose becomes the most important business relationship in your life. What if it was easier than it seemed to have a healthy relationship with your partner and your money?
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One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.