Do you tend to believe that money leads to happiness, fulfillment, contentment? Do you buy things for yourself or others regardless of whether you have enough money to pay for these purchases? When you feel deprived or unloved, does buying yourself something seem like your first recourse? Do you often think wistfully about all the things you could do, and all the freedom you could have, if only you had more money? When you think about being secure in your old age, is having enough money the first thing—or the main thing—that comes to mind?

Here are a series of exercises to help you resolve polarizations and conflicts you may have as a couple around money. These exercises are borrowed from the book Money Harmony by Olivia Mellan. Address the following questions with each other fully:

  • How my parents handled money: (how they spent it, saved it, how they talked about it) or (didn’t talk about it), or screamed about it, or worried aloud about it, etc).
  • From my childhood, I received (either directly or indirectly) the money messages that…
  • In childhood, I made the following vows to myself about money: to be just like____________________ ; never to be like ____________________ ; to deal with money by adopting the stance…
  • Today, I think that money symbolizes (Choices: happiness, love, power, control, independence, dependency, self-worth, security, freedom, corruption, etc.).
  • Here’s how I handled money before we met…
  • I am closest to the following money personality types (Choices: hoarder (tends to save and delay gratification); spender (spends money freely); binger; money monk (believes that money is evil and corrupts people); money avoider (avoids paying bills and/or taxes, balancing checkbooks, etc.); money worrier (obsesses or worries about money much of the time); risk taker (higher risk investor); risk avoider (conservative investor).
  • I would like to move toward this money type…
  • I would like to move away from this money type…
  • Here are some other ways I would like to change my money attitudes and behaviors…
  • You might be able to help me move closer to my goals by…
  • In my last significant relationship (marriage), we handled money as follows…
  • Concerning money, we used to fight about…
  • After that experience, I vowed that never again would I…
  • Some of the things I learned and value from that experience are…
  • Today, our most significant money polarizations are around…
  • For each money disagreement between us, I estimate that the degree of polarization (on a scale from 1 to 5) is…

 

Here is another suggestion on how to address and resolve money conflicts with your mate:

  • Acknowledge secret envies and appreciations of your partner’s money style.
  • Admit to your partner one way you would like to be more like him/her.
  • For each money polarization, select an assignment that will “move you toward the middle” (that is, move you closer to your partner’s style.) It could be an action, attitude or behavior. Make a written list of these assignments, and tell your spouse about them. Do the first assignment in the next week or two, if possible.
  • Monitor your reactions to these assignments.
  • Reward yourself for performing each assignment.

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