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How to Solve Financial Arguments with Couples Therapy

Couples may argue about money more than they argue about anything else. Yet, it can also be one of the hardest things to talk about. In my experience as a couples therapist, people often feel more comfortable discussing their sexuality than their finances. It sounds wild, but it's true. The secrecy and shame connected to money make it a tough topic. Financial stress can build resentment and confusion, especially when partners don't know how to address their concerns and personal goals while also respecting the other person's perspective.

This is where couples counseling can make a big difference. It provides a safe space to talk about money openly and honestly. In therapy, couples can learn to communicate better about their finances, understand each other's viewpoints, and work together to find solutions. By doing this, they can reduce stress, improve their relationship, and build a stronger financial future together.

two paper figures pulling a heart shaped dollar bill apart

How Finances Impact Emotions (and Vice Versa)

When you're in a relationship, each partner brings their own ideas and feelings about money. These beliefs can be conscious or subconscious, shaped by past experiences and personal biases. Often, couples don't talk about these financial perspectives, assuming that their partner feels the same way they do or sometimes assuming they feel very differently. This lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings and unmet expectations.

For instance, one partner might have grown up in a household where money was tight and every penny was carefully accounted for. This experience can lead to a cautious approach to spending and a strong desire to save for the future. Meanwhile, the other partner might have been raised in a family where money was more freely spent, leading to a more relaxed attitude towards budgeting and a focus on enjoying the present. Without discussing these differing backgrounds and attitudes, it's easy for misunderstandings and frustrations to arise.

At its best, differing financial perspectives can be an opportunity for couples to come together, set mutual financial goals, and balance each other's perspectives and desires. This process involves open communication, empathy, and compromise. For example, a couple might decide to allocate a certain portion of their budget towards savings while also setting aside money for leisure activities. By acknowledging and respecting each other's financial values, couples can create a financial plan that satisfies both partners.

However, at its worst, differing financial perspectives can lead to conflict and contention. Financial issues can tap into past experiences or triggers, causing stress and disagreements. For example, if one partner's past experience with debt makes them anxious about any form of borrowing, while the other partner sees a credit card as a useful tool, this difference can become a source of ongoing conflict. These financial disagreements can lead to feelings of resentment and mistrust if not properly addressed. Money decisions aren't just about what you want for the future but also about fears from the past. You can't have a productive conversation about finances unless you acknowledge both your goals and your fears.

Addressing financial fears can be empowering, as it can help couples feel more in control and less anxious about their financial future. Sometimes, it's crucial to take those fears into account, but other times, you need to identify and release what no longer serves you. For instance, while it's important to acknowledge a partner's fear of financial instability, it might also be necessary to address and work through this fear if it is causing undue stress or preventing the couple from making beneficial financial decisions. Couples therapy can help in this regard, providing a safe space to explore these fears and develop strategies to manage them.

By addressing both the hopes and fears surrounding money, couples can have healthier, more productive discussions about their finances. This involves not only setting shared financial goals but also understanding and empathizing with each other's financial anxieties. It's about creating a financial plan that reflects both partners' values and provides a sense of security and stability. Through open communication and mutual understanding, couples can turn financial stress into an opportunity for growth and connection, strengthening their relationship in the process.

How Couples Therapy Addresses Financial Arguements

In couples therapy, a counselor works to understand the unique financial perspectives of each partner. This begins by listening to their individual stories, learning about their financial goals, desires, and fears. Each person brings their own background and experiences to the table, and these can greatly influence how they view and manage money. By exploring these perspectives, a counselor can help uncover the root causes of financial conflict.

A key part of this process is understanding how each partner is currently managing money. This includes looking at their budgeting practices, spending habits, and savings strategies. The counselor will also examine how the couple handles financial conflicts. Are they able to discuss money openly and honestly, or do they avoid the topic altogether? Do they know how to navigate a conflict when it arises, or do arguments about money tend to escalate without resolution?

If the couple encounters challenges in basic communication, the therapist will initiate by teaching communication skills. This may involve learning how to actively listen, express feelings without assigning blame, and negotiate compromises. Once the couple has mastered these skills, the focus shifts to ensuring they are discussing all aspects of their finances. This includes not just the major decisions like buying a house or planning for retirement but also the day-to-day money management and spending decisions.

When conflicts about money do arise, a couples therapist will teach strategies to de-escalate the conversation. This involves techniques to calm down and refocus the discussion when emotions run high. By helping couples get to the root of what's upsetting one or both partners, the therapist can facilitate a more constructive dialogue. The goal is to understand the underlying fears or concerns driving the conflict, rather than just focusing on the surface-level disagreement.

Ultimately, the aim of couples therapy is to help partners develop mutual financial goals that respect the values and concerns of each person. This means creating a financial plan that takes into account both partners' needs and wants, ensuring that neither person's priorities are overshadowed by the other's. By acknowledging and addressing each partner's fears, therapy can help couples find common ground and work towards a shared financial future.

Different therapeutic strategies can be used in this process. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals recognize and change negative thought patterns about money. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) can help couples understand and respond to each other's emotional needs, reducing conflict and increasing connection. Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) can help couples identify practical steps they can take to improve their financial situation and relationship.

In addition, therapists might use role-playing exercises to help couples practice handling financial conversations and conflicts in a safe, controlled environment. They might also provide tools and resources, such as budgeting worksheets or financial planning apps, to help couples manage their finances more effectively.

By addressing money problems in a structured, supportive setting, couples therapy can help partners build a healthier, more collaborative approach to their finances. This not only reduces financial stress but also strengthens the overall relationship, fostering greater understanding, trust, and intimacy.

Interested in Starting Couples Therapy?

Philosophie Therapy proudly provides couples therapy services to couples residing in Florida. If this article resonates with you and you are interested in how couples therapy could help you and your partner, click the button below to book a free 15-minute phone consultation. During this call, you will be able to speak with a licensed therapist who can answer any and all questions you may have about couples therapy. We look forward to hearing from you soon!


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