About Dr. Rich


Excerpt from The Couple's Guide to Love & Money
The Main Reasons Couples Fight About Money

Here are the main reasons why couples fight about money. When you read each one rate, from one to five, how much each reason contributes to your arguments or negative feelings about money in your relationship.

1) How to Spend Money
Anne announced, "I have to have a new car with airbags -- thatís my bottom line. I donít want to be stranded and I donít want to be hurt in an accident."
Tom looked at Anne with a concerned expression. "I understand that, but we can get a nice, solid used car thatíll work fine. Youíre talking about safety. Hanging onto that extra $10,000 will keep us a lot more secure than airbags. Itíll help me expand my business, and we need some money for a cushion. People have been driving cars without airbags for almost 100 years. Thatís really not a priority."

"Security" meant two different things to Tom and Anne. For Anne, physical protection was important. Tom saw money itself as a form of security. Both were using money to protect against their worst fears, fears that they had learned from past experiences and the experiences of friends and family.

You no doubt have your own "bottom lines" about how money should be used and spent. You also have ideas about the kind of lifestyle you should have, and ideas about how decisions should be made in your family. Every couple has disagreements about these arguments. You can learn how to settle these disagreements without damaging your relationship.

How big are the problems caused by disagreements over "How to Spend Money" (circle a number below)?

2)Where money should come from.
"It's just temporary," Kim pleaded. "We can move in with my parents until we can get on our feet. It'll give us a chance to save some money and we'll have the whole upstairs to ourselves."
Fred was tired of their tiny apartment too. But he wasn't ready to move. "I know your parents mean well. But we're adults. We have to stand on our own feet. I couldn't respect myself -- I'm not a moocher."

Fred had always heard "there's no free ride," and he knew that living with Kim's parents would have many costs. They'd lose privacy, he'd feel embarrassed about not completely supporting his family, and he worried about being a burden. Kim felt that her parents should help her out when she needed it, and, by everyone sacrificing a little, she and Fred could have a better future.

There are a few different ways that people can disagree about where money should come from. Kim and Fred had a different philosophy about accepting support from parents. Other couples might disagree about which of them should earn most of the money. There may be disagreements about accepting other kinds of financial support, such as government assistance.

Now consider how much your partner and you differ about where your money should come from. How much of a problem has this difference been?

3) Security vs. Risk
Pedro had worked as an attorney for the County for five years. He got a small raise each year, vacation and sick time, health benefits, and a retirement plan. But he was becoming restless. His future was limited, he was tired of the politics, and he felt he could do better on his own. His wife, Maria, was nervous about the change. If Pedro opened his own practice, it would mean long hours and lower pay for a few years. There was the potential for more money in the future, but the baby was due in two months. This just wasn't the right time to take a risk.

A lot of life's most important decisions involve weighing risks. Should I stay home tonight or go to the party and try to meet new people? Should I quit my day job and pursue my dreams? Should I keep my money in the bank or invest in real estate? Should I get more education or work with what I have?

If you and your partner have a different tolerance for risk, you can expect some disagreements. If you take risks that your partner is uncomfortable with, and things don't work out, it may be hard for your partner not to blame you and feel resentful.

Do you disagree with your partner about how much risk you're willing to take with money? How much of a problem is this?

4) Meaning and Importance of Career
Sally had worked as a real estate agent since she and Tom were married, ten years ago. She made a good living at this, but she couldnít see herself doing it the rest of her life. She cautiously brought up the issue.
"Tom, how would you feel if I did another kind of work? Iíve always wanted to do something to help kids. Like teaching or social work."
Tom felt stuck. He really wanted Sally to be happy, but he also knew the bills had to be paid. "Weíve got our own kids to look after. This just isnít the time to switch careers."

Career satisfaction is important. If you like your work, you feel happier about your life, and your good feelings can enrich your family relationships. But what if job satisfaction places a burden on your family, by requiring them to make financial sacrifices, or by taking too much of your time and emotional energy?

Have you felt frustration or conflict about your partnerís career and job choices? Do you feel that your partner doesnít understand how important your work is to you? Or has your partner mentioned these kinds of frustration to you? How big a problem have these things been?

5) Family Roles
It had been a long, tiring day at work. Ralph came home to chaos. The baby was screaming and the house was a mess. He slumped into his favorite chair and turned on the TV. He turned up the volume to drown out the noise around him. Anita was exhausted and infurited. She stood in front of the TV screen and shouted, "I could use a little help around here!"
"I donít know what youíre doing all day, but the place is a mess. Iíve already done my work -- taking care of the house is your responsibility."

When you were growing up, you got certain ideas about what men and women did, and how responsibilities were divided up. It takes a conscious effort to change these ideas. We all have certain ideas about what weíre responsible for and what our partner is responsible for. You may feel that these assumptions are so obvious that you donít even need to talk about them. Hereís a few ideas about roles and responsibilities that Iíve found in my clients:

 Iím a man, so I shouldnít do housework.
 Iím a woman, so I shouldnít concern myself with money.
 I bring home more money, so I should have less responsibility at home
 Iím better looking than my partner, so I should be pampered.
 Iím more educated, so I should make the important decisions.

The list could go on and on. Some assumptions might seem reasonable to you, others might seem ridiculous. The trouble comes when you and your partner disagree about roles, or when being too rigid about roles keeps you from trying better arrangements.

To what extent do you feel that ideas about roles have caused problems for you and your partner?

6) Trust
At the root of almost all marital and relationship disagreements are problems with trust. When you feel that your partner has your best interests at heart, and you feel that they are able to make good decisions, deciding things together is a much more comfortable process. If you feel that your partner is looking out for themselves, at your expense, or you feel that your partner makes bad decisions, then disagreements are bound to become a struggle.

A lack of trust may be based on experiences with your partner. For instance, your partner has spent the grocery money at bars, or your partner has invested in one harebrained scheme after another. But a lack of trust can also be your own issue, based on experiences that have nothing to do with your relationship now.

How much have problems with trust caused problems in your relationship?


New Harbinger ē Relationships ē $18.95 ē Winter 2003 ē Trade Paper ē 1-57224-311-2 ē 200pp ē 8 1/2 x 11 ē 20 Worksheets