How to stop money from destroying your relationship

When you and your partner have different incomes - and approaches to money - tensions can arise. Relate Counselling have some tips for dealing with money issues at home.
How to stop money from destroying your relationship

“My partner and I have a good relationship (in my opinion), but we are from drastically different backgrounds. He is a rich kid who has never wanted for anything, and his parents still often help him out financially. But I’m not rolling in cash. How do I stop myself getting so angry at his privileged background, and the fact he can afford things I never can?”

Relate Counselling’s Steven Dromgool says:

What an awesome question. I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you are completely normal in the way that you are feeling and you are not alone. This issue affects most couples to some degree or another as very few of us come from the exact same economic background as our partners.

The bad news is that stopping your feelings would involve removing fairly large and important sections of your brain – not something we recommend!

Probably the most uncomfortable aspect is the feeling of envy. We are taught not to be jealous of others from very young. Yet when your partner is treating themselves – and you might be struggling to pay the rent – it is the most natural thing in the world to feel a sense of loss and pain and compare it to our own situation aka envy.

However we don’t want to see ourselves as jealous because subconsciously we often believe that that makes us, ‘bad’. This can really twist us up in knots psychologically.

So my first piece of advice is to be a little kind to yourself first. When you notice yourself tightening up inside in response to an envy trigger simply plant your feet on the ground and take a few deep slow breaths. You are not trying to make the feelings go away, simply noticing them. Breathing engages the conscious observing part of your brain and moves you out of unconscious reacting.

The second step is to notice the thoughts and feelings in yourself without judging them. Instead look for what it is that you are longing for. Your reaction is giving you valuable information about yourself. You might notice a longing to have someone looking out for you e.g. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone notice how stressed I am and give me a massage.” This longing obviously makes so much sense. So connecting to your longing moves you out of judgement of yourself and into acceptance.

The third step is to see what you might be able to do to acknowledge or meet this longing. It doesn’t have to be directly the same e.g. asking your partner to give you a massage, although you could do this. It could be something like taking 10 minutes out of your day to sit in the sunshine with a good book, or having a coffee with a friend.

The awesome thing about being relational mindful is that it takes a potentially destructive relational trigger and turns it into a resource. Like all skills this can take some practice and some people find getting some support with this can help. The key indicator that professional help is a good idea is if you feel like it’s poisoning the relationship. In that case getting a little help sooner rather later is a great step towards protecting the relationship.

Relate’s Steven Dromgool

If you have a relationship question you want answered, email us on [email protected]. Your details can be kept anonymous.

Relate Counselling is a specialist relationship counselling service, passionate about helping Kiwi’s build fantastic relationships. We offer couples and individuals relationship therapy and coaching, plus training in Integrated Relationship Therapy for professionals. Find free resources including the Relationship Health Questionnaire on their site here.

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