This is a guest post from Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., M.F.T and is the Director of LifeWorks and the author of The Anger Zone blog and audio series.
Note: I asked Andrea to post an article about dealing with anger between couples because I think many teens are greatly affected by the anger and fear of poverty in their household or parent’s relationship.
Money & anger
(more than sex!)
can drive couples apart.
Unless they consciously address necessary changes.
Is there tension in your relationship over money? For couples, money conflicts can spring from unaddressed needs, or interests that remain in conflict. Does any of the following sound familiar?
Harry is stewing inside because of his wife’s extreme frugality which started when their two children were preparing to go to college. He resents the squeeze on the family budget that has resulted from both kids being at university, and misses the freedom of buying electronic gadgets at impulse as well as expensive designer clothing.
Jenny loved the lavish dinners and extravagant vacations she and Gary enjoyed while they were dating. But now that they’re married, she’s mad that they continue to live beyond their means. She worries that this kind of spending could create a debt they’ll never be able to pay off – even though they both work. Still it continues.
Dennis is proud of his wife, and her recent advancement to executive levels at her company. He also appreciates how her impressive income has kept the pressure off the family finances since his retirement. But he wasn’t prepared for her expectation to be able to “call the shots” once her income started covering most of their expenses. And it’s her tendency to make major financial decisions without his input that ticks Dennis off the most.
To get a handle on the money issues in your relationship, it will be important to increase your awareness about how you – as an individual – deal with money and your anger. Money issues and anger usually co-exist in a relationship, and they have many similarities. Both are emotionally charged subjects that may not be discussed or considered in constructive ways. You might even avoid talking about them at all with your partner. Meanwhile they can be destructive forces in your relationship.
Are you dealing with your anger over money issues in a negative way? Are you beating yourself up because things aren’t going more smoothly? Are you dumping your anger and anxiety on those around you? Getting caught up in these nonproductive behavioral patterns can keep you from taking productive action.
Getting back in control starts with realizing that to a certain extent we are actually in charge of our emotions. While emotions may seem automatic, they often result from how we choose to perceive and interpret situations. Even though we can’t control everything that happens in our lives, we can control how we perceive things. For example, a financial setback might be focused on as an opportunity to make needed changes, or something to be ashamed of. These two perspectives would produce very different feelings.
It is also extremely helpful to look at the beliefs you have about money and anger, and how this is coloring your perceptions. Many of our beliefs come from our families of origin. Can you see that you would perceive things differently if you were brought up with the belief that you had to work hard for your money compared to someone whose family always gave them all that they needed and more? A couple with these differing belief systems could end up in conflict about how responsible one has to be financially based on their life experiences if they did not act consciously.
I think you’ll also find it useful to look at your thought patterns around the anger-producing money issues in your relationship. Below are some common patterns that my colleague James Gottfurcht, Ph.D. (a clinical psychologist and money coach) and I have linked to feelings of anger over money:
- Black and white thinking – When your partner ticks you off regarding money, do you forget about all the other times when he or she acted responsibly? When you screw up, do you only focus on your mistake, and generalize, telling yourself, “I’m such an idiot around money”? Black and white thinking can get you bogged down in anger, and prevent you from strategizing about the best actions to take.
- Shoulds – At times, you may think that things should be done in a certain way, but then your partner doesn’t act accordingly. You’ll get angry because your significant other has not lived up to your expectations. What you’re not realizing is that there are many ways to approach things. The world doesn’t always operate according to your rules.
- Perfectionism – A perfectionist will only see the flaws, what needs to be fixed. This can lead a partner to resent that their positive contributions are not being acknowledged. Also, if perfectionism is your thinking pattern, you’ll believe that things must be perfect, and you’ll get angry if they are not. You can become overly concerned about avoiding mistakes – either your own or your partner’s. However, by demanding perfection from the start, you may be blocking growth – for both of you.
- Poverty consciousness – If you view your money situation with a poverty consciousness, your thinking will be tainted with fear and mistrust. Expecting things not to work out, you’ll be conjuring up dreams of disaster and frustration. Poverty thinking reduces your options, as you don’t use your imagination in constructive ways. In contrast, Prosperity Consciousness is based on trust, and it generates confidence and optimism.
Most people need to develop new skills in order to slow down and pay attention to what’s going on with themselves around money and anger.
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., M.F.T., is the Director of LifeWorks and the author of The Anger Zone audio series. A licensed psychotherapist for 30+ years with a private practice in Santa Monica, Dr. Brandt has become known for her dynamic Living Beyond Anger and Anger: For Women Only workshops. She is a sought-after media expert, having appeared on Larry King Radio and LA 4 News among others. By emphasizing a body/mind connection, she has developed new highly effective strategies for achieving personal and financial success.