How Money Can Enrich or Erode Your Relationships

February 20, 2023

Money touches the heart of every relationship, including friendships, romantic partnerships, and family relationships. Whether you’re contemplating your estate plan or questioning who should pay the bill at the end of a date, money has the power to express our highest values or trigger our deepest insecurities. Here’s how to approach money wisely to enrich your closest relationships.

In this blog, you’ll find:

  • Why our perception of money affects our relationships
  • The solution to money tension in relationships: compassionate communication
  • How to develop compassionate communication about finances

Why our perception of money affects our relationships 

Our relationship to money is tightly tethered to our life experiences and values

Consider a simple scenario involving two lifelong friends who have conflicting feelings about gift-giving. While one woman was raised to value spontaneity and gift-giving, her close friend was raised to value frugality and minimalism. Neither woman’s perspective is “good” or “bad.” They just have different value sets

Now put yourself in their shoes. Imagine that you’re the spontaneous gift-giver. You’ve realized that your friend will cringe every time you give her a gift, no matter how carefully you selected the trinket. 

What happens when you keep giving gifts that she doesn’t want, year after year?

Maybe your friend will smile because she knows that gift-giving is your way of showing affection, but she’ll privately cringe as she plans her regifting strategy (again). As Einstein famously said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

So, what needs to change? What do these women need to enrich, rather than erode, their relationship?

The solution to money tension in relationships: compassionate communication

The central struggle of any relationship’s money tension is usually strained communication

Let’s return to the two friends caught in an awkward gift-giving collision. What appears to simply be an uncomfortable situation is really a missed opportunity to connect about their friendship and values. 

Imagine again that you’re the woman giving the gift, and you finally gather the courage to ask your friend, “Do my gifts make you feel uncomfortable?” At first, your friend might be surprised, but as you make it clear that you are asking from a point of curiosity, not resentment, she may come to appreciate the opportunity to open up. 

While money-related tensions in relationships are often more complex, this scenario demonstrates 2 truths:

  1. If we find the courage to communicate about these tensions, we’re more likely to foster deeper connections.
  2. If we fail to communicate about money tensions, they will become harder to address over time.

Just as inadequate communication about money can trigger feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and shame, compassionate communication can act as a balm to these emotional wounds.

How to develop compassionate communication about finances 

Not all communication styles are created equal. For instance, there’s a big difference between saying, “Why do you hate my gifts?” and “How do my gifts make you feel?”

Here are 4 ways to lower the temperature and elevate the compassion in your money conversations with loved ones:

  1. Overcome fear by engaging in curiosity. Curiosity can relax fear’s grip and open the door to growth.
  2. Reduce tension with the “Non-Violent Communication” approach. This method focuses on expressing observations and requests rather than judgments and demands.
  3. Exchange your values: If you feel hesitant about addressing money directly, you can begin by reflecting on what you and your loved ones care about most in life. Sharing these perspectives can help you find the purpose that supports your financial decisions.
  4. Explore the love languages: It can be incredibly illuminating to learn how our loved ones prefer to express love and receive love. Adding love languages to our money/relationship tool kit can help us approach our loved ones with care.

While money conversations can feel uncomfortable at first, compassionate conversations can establish foundations of mutual understanding that are built to last.

For the tough conversations, we’re here to help

When approaching a potentially thorny situation like divorce or planning your will, it helps to have a neutral third party’s support. A seasoned financial advisor will ask thoughtful questions to uncover meaningful answers. 

If you’re looking for support on your financial journey, reach out to us for a complimentary meeting to explore your financial future.

Connect with Alicia and the SWM Team

Singer Wealth Management