In this economy, it seems we hear a more about how money problems and stress related to finances is causing many divorces. But what if money isn’t the cause of marital problems? What if financial issues in a household are reflections of the problems that already exist? Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with Corey Donaldson, who is associated with The Freedom Academy and the author of Don’t You Dare Get Divorced Until You Read This. Donaldson says that your relationship with money is actually a reflection of your relationship with your spouse.
“If you are taking money for granted,” Donaldson says, “chances are that you are taking your partner for granted. If you are behaving recklessly with money, it’s likely that you are behaving recklessly in the relationship.” He continues: “When people blame money for what’s going on, they aren’t looking at the root. Most of the time the money situation is a reflection of how they are treating each other. Some attitude is being played out.”
Right now, especially, Donaldson says that he has seen an increase in people who are concerned about both their finances and their relationships. “In this economy, a lot of people are under pressure. The money situation you are in now, though, is a symptom of greater issues.”
I find this assertion intriguing. Donaldson didn’t say this, but after going to bed thinking about the current economic situation and marriage relationships, I wondered if the lack of planning and preparation some had prior to the financial crisis is a reflection of a lack of priorities and discipline (i.e. checking selfish impulses) in relationships. Obviously, though, there are some who have experienced financial devastation, even with proper preparation and despite making all the “right” choices. And I marvel how that seems to be the case in some marriages as well.
But back to the interview.
Donaldson insists that a person’s character can be completed described by his or her relationship with money. (And with sex — but that’s another subject in his book. He says that nearly everything he has discovered about sex can be substituted with money.) “How someone relates to money, and the stories they tell about their interactions with money, are very personal. If you want to know the character of someone, how they deal with money is a good way to find out. It’s a great way to get to know each other before you get married.”
So, is change possible? Donaldson says that — with money and with your relationship — the number one rule is that “No one will change for another person. People don’t even change financially destructive behaviors for other people. If they do change, it’s because they themselves are undergoing an evolution. We can change, but we do it for ourselves and because we are moving forward.”
“If someone is financially reckless,” Donaldson continues, “it represents an attitude that he or she has toward you as well. Nothing you say or do can change that, with finances or with the relationship. That person has to decide to make the changes on their own.”
I think that Donaldson has an interesting point. Our dealings with money are, in many ways, reflections of our personalities and our overall priorities. If we want better finances, we get information — maybe even professional help — and take steps to change how we operate in terms of money. And if we want a better relationships with our partners, we try to talk about it and may even undergo counseling to help us make the appropriate changes. But the bottom line is this: No one can “make” us change our behaviors. Whether it has to do with money or love, unless I decide I want to do something differently, I’ll stay in the same course.
What do you think? Is a tough money situation the root of marital problems? Or is it just a symptom of problems that already exist in the relationship?