Today is the final part of our money anxiety series and with the current situation, it is a perfect storm for producing conflict around money. For the sake of ourselves and our children, we need to understand our relationship with money and learn how to communicate around money in healthy ways. Money is a highly sensitive subject and for many people, it can be a struggle to talk about – whether it’s a loss of income or how money makes them feel.
It affects all of us
How we feel about money is rarely discussed. It’s almost a taboo subject, which means that any discussion on money is filled with prejudice, emotion and reactive opinion. Most of our beliefs and behaviour around money are learned in early childhood and this has two really important implications.
A difference of opinion
Firstly, in most relationships, it is extremely unlikely that both partners share the same beliefs around money. So there will always be plenty of scope for conflict. Secondly, the way we behave around money directly influences our children and our self-limiting beliefs and patterns will become their self-limiting beliefs and patterns. In the current situation, where we are forced to live in close proximity to each other with little or no ability to interact externally, existing issues in our relationships are magnified. So we must develop ways to communicate around money that don’t result in conflict.
Our relationship with money
We don’t understand what drives our own behaviour and we definitely don’t understand other people’s behaviour. Money behaviours are mainly driven by emotion and this means that when we finally do raise the subject, it’s because we have been triggered by something. When we are triggered, our lower brain takes over and ‘discussions’ quickly turn into arguments. And because money is so tied into our emotions and self-worth, arguments about money tend to be the most vicious of all. Both parties quickly become reactive and, because the underlying issues are belief-based, there is no easy resolution and the same arguments get played out again and again.
Break the cycle
One of the best ways the break this cycle is for each person to acknowledge the emotional responses that these discussions trigger, and so each person can become aware of the effect they have on each other. This can be very scary as it makes us feel vulnerable. Trying to develop healthy communication around emotive subjects is a bit like clearing a path through a minefield. There are potential flashpoints everywhere and it takes time and concentration. And you will likely fail many times. But, with practice, you will learn how to move forward and ‘clear’ the trigger points. Greater understanding reduces judgement and, as well as being beneficial for your relationship, you are showing your children how to have healthy communication around money.
Speaking to children about money
Children look to us for guidance on how to understand the world and behaviour is information – so they learn from what we say, but mainly from what we do. When we argue, we send confusing and often negative messages to our children about money. A lot of our behaviour around money is subconscious, therefore we are not aware of the effect we are having and because of the way the brain works in childhood, these messages and memories are stored and money becomes associated with emotions like conflict, guilt, anger, and fear. Essentially, children translate what they see and hear into unconscious rules about life, including internalized messages about money. And because their higher brains are not fully developed, they have less ability to regulate the emotional impact of what they see and feel.
Dennis Harhalakis is the Founder of Cambridge Money Coaching