Money is one of the most common causes of conflict in a relationship. Therefore, it’s one of the most common things that people deal with together in couples’ therapy. Of course, oftentimes the issue turns out to be something other than money – such as issues related to trust, security, or even childhood trauma. But in some cases, there are money disorders going on that you need to address directly through therapy. Four common money disorders show up in couples counseling: financial infidelity, financial dependence, financial enabling, and financial incest.
What Is Financial Infidelity?
Put simply, financial infidelity is when you lie to your partner about money. Of course, each couple has their own boundaries when it comes to money. Some couples keep separate bank accounts and don’t pay attention as long as each pays their part of the bills. Others want to know how their partner spends every dime. How you handle your money is up to you, as long as both of you agree. However, once you’ve agreed, you have to stick to the rules and boundaries that you’ve established about money. If you don’t, then you may commit financial infidelity.
Examples of financial infidelity include:
Hiding the credit card bills so your partner can’t see what you spent
Opening up a secret bank account and/or credit card
Running up gambling debts and not telling your partner you have a problem
Quitting your job but pretending to still go to work every day
As you can see, the infractions run the gamut from small to major. Financial infidelity can lead to some serious money problems in a marriage. More importantly, though, it signifies a problem with trust and communication. You aren’t able to tell each other the truth about finances for one reason or another. Therefore, you have to get to the root of the problem. Couples therapy can help you figure that out. It can also help you established new, clear boundaries for discussing finances now and in the future.
What Is Financial Dependence?
Financial dependence means that you, as a capable adult, have given over some or all of your financial power to someone else. Certainly, some couples divvy up money in such a way that it can look like financial dependence when it’s not. For example, one partner might handle all paying all of the bills. If the other partner has agreed to that, perhaps it’s not a problem. However, in this day and age, it’s generally advisable for both partners to have a solid working knowledge of what’s happening with their finances.
While one of you may still opt to take on the bulk of accounting in the household, it shouldn’t be done in such a way that it creates a power imbalance. You should both be involved in making critical financial decisions in your home. At the very least, you should feel like you have the option to do so if you desire to. If that’s not the case, then one or both of you can end up resentful. For example, the partner who deals with the finances may feel like they have a huge burden while the other may feel like they’re being treated like a child.
Couples counseling can help you figure out how you got into a situation of financial dependence. Moreover, it can help you figure out new communication styles that will allow you to shift the power to a balance that feels more satisfying to both of you.
What Is Financial Enabling?
Financial enabling can go hand-in-hand with financial independence. The person who is controlling all of the money may be enabling the other person to avoid dealing with money. However, sometimes financial enabling causes problems in a marriage when one of the partners is enabling a third party.
Oftentimes, one of the partners might be financially enabling their adult child. The child never learned how to deal with their finances. The parent handles it all for them. In fact, they often financially bail out their adult child without a second thought. The other parent doesn’t agree with this and it causes problems.
Similarly, a partner might financially enable their own parent or sibling. Financial problems know no age limits. The strain this places on a marriage can be immense. Couples’ counseling can help you work through the friction it has caused over the years.
What Is Financial Incest?
Financial incest means that a parent has manipulated or forced their child to take on an inappropriate role with finances. In contrast to enabling the child to not deal with money, it requires the child to get overly involved with money. For example, if you have your child lie to debt collectors for you, then you’re committing financial incest.
One of the most common ways that this shows up in couples counseling is when one or both of the parents has put the child(ren) between them when it comes to money. They ask the child to lie to the other parent about finances. Or instead of discussing your money issues together, you fight about them through your child.
Some families will choose to deal with financial incest in family therapy. In some instances, that may be appropriate. However, couples counseling allows you to put an end to the financial incest and start learning how to deal with just each other in the marriage. Choosing couples therapy instead of asking your child to come to therapy to deal with the money issue makes a powerful statement that you’re truly ready to make a change.
Couples counseling can help couples who are dealing with all types of problems associated with money, whether they rise to the level of a money disorder or not.
Kathryn McNeer, LPC specializes in Couples Counseling Dallas with her sound, practical and sincere advice. Kathryn’s areas of focus include individual counseling, relationship and couples counseling Dallas. Kathryn has helped countless individuals find their way through life’s inevitable transitions; especially that tricky patch of life known as “the mid life crisis.” Kathryn’s solution-focused, no- nonsense counseling works wonders for men and women in the midst of feeling, “stuck,” or “unhappy.” Kathryn believes her fresh perspective allows her clients find the better days that are ahead. When working with couples, it is Kathryn’s direct yet non-judgmental approach that helps determine which patterns are holding them back and then helps them establish new, more productive patterns. Kathryn draws from Gottman and Cognitive behavioral therapy. When appropriate Kathryn works with couples on trust, intimacy, forgiveness, and communication.