11 Oct 2012
Handling Money Struggles
Katie and I have had literally thousands of conversations about money, due to the fact that more people come in for coaching about money in their relationships than for sex, parenting or other big issues. In the early days of our own relationship we struggled a lot with money, so we’ve had our share of personal conversations about it, too. Once we figured out a few secrets about money, though, we haven’t had a cross word on the subject in nearly twenty years. Does that sound interesting to you? If so, read on.
First of all, here’s a surprising discovery we made early on: Money problems are almost never about money (just as sexual problems are almost never about sex.) We’ve seen couples with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets argue for days because one of them bought the more expensive brand of toilet paper.
If it’s actually not about money, what’s it about?
Money-struggles between people are often tied to the issue of control. The real issue is not money, it’s about both people struggling to prove who’s boss in the relationship. When there are unresolved control struggles, it’s very easy to hook them to money. Underneath the surface issue of money, though, is where the real resolution can occur. When people are engaged in a control struggle between each other, they’re really engaged in a struggle with fear inside themselves. Fear is at the root of most control struggles, and that’s why a couple of billionaires can fight about toilet paper expenditures. Both people are usually scared about something they’ve never confronted. Abandonment, loss of love, loss of recognition and approval are often the specific fears that haven’t been faced.
Creativity is another hidden issue that drives money arguments. If both people in a relationship are tapped into their creativity, they’ll never feel tapped out with regard to money. If you’re not accessing your creativity and expressing it in a satisfying way, though, you’ll feel impoverished no matter what you’re worth. Let me give you an example. A well-known couple sought our assistance in a money-battle that had been going on between them for months. The surface subject was the “dream house” they were building in the mountains. Because of the huge cost overruns in the building process, they were working over-time to generate several million dollars extra to pay for the house. As we explored the issue, it emerged that both of them were taking on projects they didn’t want to do so they could make the money to pay for the house. Because they were both doing things they didn’t want to do, they were fighting constantly over trivial things like which kind of doorknobs to put in the new house. We asked them: What’s the ultimate purpose of the dream house? They said that once they were living in the dream house in the mountains, they would have the time and space to do the kinds of creative things they really wanted to do. Almost as soon as those words left their mouths, they turned to each other in wonderment as they realized the trap they’d stepped into.
It’s a trap that most of us are familiar with: Getting the Be-Do-Have formula backwards. We erroneously think that if we Have Something (like a dream house), we’ll be able to Do What We Really Want, and this will allow us to Be Happy (or creative or at peace or…) In reality, we always learn, though sometimes too late, that it works the other way around. Life only works well when we focus on Being first, whether it’s being creative, being happy, being satisfied or something else. Then, from that space of Being, we can Do things that allow us to Have things we can enjoy and feel proud of.
We made a practical suggestion to the couple: Rather than hoping that your dream house will give you time and space to be creative, give yourself time and space to be creative today. Start with ten minutes of free time to journal and meditate and stroll around the block. Give yourself a few minutes of Being right now, and you’ll find that the money-struggles disappear.
Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., has served for more than 35 years as one of the major contributors to the fields of relationship transformation and bodymind therapies. Along with his wife, Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks, Gay is the co-author of many bestsellers, including Conscious Loving and Five Wishes. He is the author of 33 books, including The Corporate Mystic, Conscious Living and The Big Leap. Dr. Hendricks received his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Stanford in 1974. After a twenty-one-year career as a professor of Counseling Psychology at University Colorado, he and Kathlyn founded The Hendricks Institute, which is based in Ojai, California and offers seminars worldwide. To learn more about The Money Solution, created by Gay and Katie Hendricks, go here.
Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D., BC-DMT has been a pioneer in the field of body-mind integration for nearly forty years. Her explorations about the catalytic transformational power of the creative arts have been featured in many magazines, journals and books. She has consulted and taught in the graduate programs of many universities and has an international reputation as a seminar leader for health and business professionals. In recent years Kathlyn has focused on expanding advanced courses for the Institute, particularly the two-years Leadership and Transformation program. She also maintains the Facebook fan page that features relationship tips, videos and blogs: www.facebook.com/relationshipadvice.