Curbing Fights Over Money and Finances
In honest reflection, I can overspend just like most people. Being married, it is much easier to look at my partner’s spending and get very judgy about my partner’s spending and the changes he should make. As Dr. Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, likes to say our eyeballs face out. Meaning when we are in distress, we tend to look outward, often at the person across from us as the source of the problem. I’ve been stuck in this pattern more times than I’d like to count.
In the past when I have felt uneasy about our finances, I started to analyze my partner’s spending then get really finger pointy and directive about how we (meaning he) should be spending.
In couples therapy, I learned my pushiness can feel to my partner like bulldozing. While I really want my partner’s input, I did not give him space to have any. Psychologist and meditation teacher, Tara Brach asks a beautiful question, “If I were not blaming what would I have to feel?”
In therapy I learned how to slow down and get curious about where my sense of urgency and pushiness was coming from. Can you guess? Fear. Fear was driving the question, “Does this really matter to you (my partner)?” “ Do my thoughts and feelings about money really matter to you?” These questions, “Do I really matter to you?” “Do my thoughts and feelings really matter to you?” are raw spots from my childhood.
In this instance I had to notice my pushy behaviors. I then had to get curious about what was important to me in this situation, what my fears were and what I was afraid would happen if my partner did not hear or respond to me. With time, if we ask ourselves with openness and curiosity about our feelings, our deeper fears and needs will unfold.
Of course it was helpful to do this work with our trusted couples therapist and have her help me unpack these patterns. Mindfulness and self-compassion provide the support to continue to look inward, stay open and curious when I notice myself slipping back into patterns of pushiness.
Thought for the Day
Our behaviors and strong emotions hold powerful information. When we notice intense or ridgid feelings or behaviors we can think of it as a plant and under the surface are roots. There is a good reason we are experiencing these intense behaviors and emotions. There is likely something here that matters deeply to us. However if we keep our focus outward, solely on what someone else is doing or not doing we may never discover why and what is so important to us. We have an opportunity to touch on the softer emotion, what longings and fears any given situation has stirred up for us. If we can do this courageous work and share our softer emotions with our partner, they are more likely to be able to hear us and respond to us in the way we need.
Michelle Puster (she/her) M.Ed., LPC, Certified EFT Supervisor
Helping couples Find Us Again
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