The Surprisingly Easy Way to Grow Any Relationship
Money exposes the gamut of our psychology -- fears, anxieties and stresses bubble to the surface pretty quickly with most clients we work with. But even financial planners can grapple with the difficulty of money and all the feelings that come with it, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.
About one year ago, my now-husband and I were newly engaged and each of us was trying to figure out what we wanted the next stage of our professional lives to look like. I was a month away from sitting for the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ exam and wanted to so badly to quit my big corporate job. My fiance was directing and then editing his next big documentary series. We were stressed and ill-tempered, many aspects of our life together were being sacrificed because of how ‘busy’ we were allowing ourselves to get. One day, my exhausted state combined with all the frustration I had felt from feeling disconnected from him and the stress I felt for not knowing what the future held resulted in an all-out screaming match. I lashed out at him for no apparent reason. The moment the words escaped my lips, I regretted it. Inside I asked myself - “Cristina, why are you taking all your anger out on the person you’re feeling disconnected from?” Outside, I didn’t care what my heart was saying - it felt good to release. It didn’t make any logical sense.
According to psychologist Steven Stosny, Ph.D., “Disconnection occurs most frequently in intimate relationships when fear or anxiety in one causes a sense of inadequacy in the other.” In the moment, I was feeling disconnected and afraid. I was afraid that we’d both leave our steady paychecks at the same time, I was anxious that I wasn’t going to pass my big test, I was terrified that he’d leave me because I wasn’t being a good partner. In lashing out, I never took the time to understand what he was feeling.
Studies have shown time and time again that money is a leading source of fights in relationships and is one of the main reasons why couples get divorced. A recent study revealed that one third of Americans who are married or are in a serious relationship report money causing the most stress in their relationship. As financial life planners, we know that reasons why couples don’t talk about money can vary. There can be extreme feelings of pain, shame or fear that come with money. We’d argue, however, that the more your money stays in the shadows, these negative feelings you’ve come to associate with it will compound.
After our big blowout fight, I am lucky to have had a more level-headed partner who worked with me to create a habit that, one year later, has become one of the rituals we most look forward to in our week: our weekly check-in. Our weekly check-in gives us a time to vent and, most importantly, it’s a time to communicate our love and support for the other. Each week, we set aside ten minutes of our time to ‘check in’ with each other. We reserve the right to create a safe space to talk about anything during these check-ins - from money and sex to our hopes and our biggest regrets. Since the weekly ‘check-ins’ have started, our relationship has blossomed - I’ve never felt so close to anyone in my life.
Our structure for our weekly check-ins is simple:
Appreciations : What I appreciated about you this week
Constructive Feedback: When you did this, it made me feel ________
Acceptance: Accept the feedback, with understanding
Commitments: Next time, I will modify my behavior so it’s less hurtful/annoying/painful to you
One Word Closer: Finish off on a strong note, with one word that encapsulates what you’re looking forward to for the next week
The week can get busy. There may be late nights working, dinners out, kids to take care of - or maybe all of these things. For most of us, without consciously thinking about it, a week can go by without having told our partner how much they mean to us. Stress about money can compound the already heavy weight you bear, but when you’re with a partner, it doesn’t need to be just yours to bear. Sharing with your partner can lighten the weight you feel and open up endless potential for your relationship. One year in, I can proudly say that the weekly check-in has been the most surprisingly easy way we’ve grown our relationship.