Image by Maestro_AU
Albert, the Urban Monk, recently did a post about money and spirituality. Some of the comments were quite fiery. This got me thinking about money and relationships. Money seems to have a big effect on relationships. Of the marriages I’ve known well conflict about money is more common and harder to resolve than most other problems.
Public and private
I think there is a feeling that money belongs in the public world, not the private. While our family relationships have mutual obligations, it can seem strange when money is introduced – how much should children pay their parents for caring for them?
The problem is that increasingly we need money to live. It has not always been this way – when people had vegetable gardens and chickens in their backyards (and housing was far more affordable) money wasn’t as important as it is now. Money is increasingly important for our basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter. And so it is becoming more important in the private world and not just the public.
What to do?
I suspect most of us wouldn’t want our families and friendships dominated by mercenary considerations. Choosing our friends on the basis of how much financial good they could do us; or paying back our parents a certain amount for the care they gave us.
I think most of us would like our closest relationships to characterised by affection and generosity, not financial calculation. But then how are we to deal with money? We can’t ignore it and yet we don’t want it to dominate either.
What we can do.
1. Recognise that money matters. This may not be desirable but it is the way it is. (And if we do want to change this, then recognising the current situation needs to be part of
2. Develop a realistic sense of what we need. This will vary from person to person. Some people need a few good clothes to feel good about themselves. I don’t care about clothes but books are very important to me. Some people are musicians, for life to be worthwhile they need a good instrument to play.
3. Be willing to keep the discussion practical. If there are conflicting values about money, it may be possible to reach agreement anyway. If beauty is important to one person and economy to another it may be possible to find beautiful objects that are not expensive.
4. Be willing to state your values. When you feel a discussion about money is getting nowhere – however rationally you discuss the subject, you seem to get nowhere – it may be a values clash. Stating your values clearly should at least bring clarity.
5. Be willing to say how you developed your values. Once the other person understands how you came to have your values this can make it easier to agree. Understanding childhood messages about money and the impact of other events (like going bankrupt or winning the lottery) can help to move the relationship forward.
What kind of messages did you get in childhood about money? Have they served you well do you think? What events do you think have most influenced your attitude to money? I’d love to hear in the comments.
There is also a good post by Chandra Alexander on her blog Chandra Unplugged about discussing money in a relationship (a slightly different perspective to mine but very practical and useful) Money #1 Issue.
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