Updated: Aug 16, 2022
If you've ever suffered through hearing me speak in a class, during an online course, or at a conference, you've heard me say that we have to find the delicate balance between the personal and relational sides of money.
Money is personal because we have to be mindful of our beliefs (limiting or freeing), attitudes (optimistic or pessimistic), and behaviors (optimal or suboptimal) about money. Money is relational because we have to know how someone else's beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors can influence our relationship with money; Or how ours might impact theirs. Whether we see it or not, we are navigating one extensive system of constant interactions with people, institutions, and culture that are shaping our financial outlook on life. Along the way, we are bound to experience hurt, joy, betrayal, and triumph.
As a result, money tends to develop these very personal and relational dynamics.
For instance, your perceptions about saving are personal and relational. You may want to save, but you don't trust the banking system because of how the local bank in town has treated your family.
Your ideas about sharing a bank account with your partner are personal and relational. You may have shared an account with your last husband, and he emptied it before abandoning your family. You'll never share an account with another person again.
Your attitude towards investing is personal and relational. You grew up watching your uncle make a fortune from investing. To your way of thinking, why would anyone not invest?
Your inclination to have or not to have conversations about money is personal and relational. You watched your parents have respectful and loving exchanges about money. Not being able to do the same with your partner makes you feel empty and less connected.
You aren't who you are with money just because you are that way with money. Your perspectives on money are a result of the system(s) you've had to navigate. To think of it another way, your firmly held views about money today are a reflection of the past: financial messages, experiences, interactions and consequences.
I know, I know...Mind-blowing, right?!?!
It's not easy to see this relationship when you are single and navigating life on your terms. There is no one to challenge your views. You are expressing your agency - exercising your independence; however, this personal and relational side of money exposes itself when you enter into a relationship with someone else. Your past (good, bad, or indifferent) is put to the test. Theirs is too. You are forced to consider that others do not hold the same money perspectives because they do not share your financial experiences. For them, a financial matter may not warrant an emotional response. Because it's not as personal, they have the capacity to see things from a different vantage point. And that's okay. Different is not deficient. Vulnerability, understanding, and empathy thrive here. Don't run from it. Embrace it.
If you want to be successful with money and build the future you hope for, you will have to be aware of what has affected your relationship with money. Why is it so personal? Otherwise, it will always have power over you - regardless of how much money you can amass during your lifetime.
Once you've teased out that experience or interaction, ask yourself the following question:
Is what I've experienced always true?
If it isn't, then is it acceptable for me to respond in the way that I always do?
Change isn't easy. But knowing that there are people like you who've cultivated a different relationship with their money shows that it is possible. Maybe you can too?
It's not too late. Own it!