It’s a new year with new goals, new initiatives and of course new projects. I am beginning on a quest of sorts this year – a quest to understand the interplay between power and money within relationships. I will be exploring the dynamics of personal relationships around power and what influence money has on it. After all, the two biggest causes of divorce are money and sex.
My interest stems from what I’ve observed through my personal relationships, as well as dynamics I’ve seen every day for almost 20 years in my financial planning practice. Think of the following kinds of situations and see if you or someone you know can relate:
- She makes more money than him; who gets to decide if they go on a better vacation or the first-born can go to Harvard vs. UGA?
- She has a crappy credit score, so he will have to be the one to finance the furniture purchase that he never really wanted in the first place. Do they get the furniture or not?
- In a same-sex relationship, one person makes 10 times the income of the other. How can gifts for one another be in the same price range? What is “fair” without it getting weird?
- Who pays the bills? Are there multiple checking accounts? Does he really need to know the details of where her money goes?
- A man might feel gender inadequacy if he thinks he isn’t “providing” at the same level as his girlfriend, despite his otherwise modern outlook about gender equality. Sometimes we want to be more progressive in our thinking, but old patterns we grew up with die hard.
And the list goes on…
Having been married twice, to two very different people, I’ve seen these kinds of dynamics play out both times. And in my office, I’ve seen these dynamics and many others play out over and over.
Some of the questions I want to pursue include:
- Does gender play a role?
- How do our belief sets around money and the “provider” role from our parents affect our current patterns?
- How do you decide what works best for you and your relationship? And more importantly, how do you have these tough conversations with your partner?
- Is there a default pattern that appears across relationships if the couple never discusses the issue?
After substantial digging, I haven’t found much research or transparent discussion in this area. That’s not entirely surprising, considering how protective most of us feel about privacy around money and our personal power dynamics with our partners. The intersection of money and power at home is about as private as it gets, something that we contend with alone. In fact, many that hire advisors are reluctant to even bring these issues up, which means the advice they get can focus only on very superficial quantitative solutions. Some simply don’t hire an advisor for fear or having to address these issues head-on.
In reality, the subjective “funkiness” of any couple’s dynamics should still be a critical piece so that the advisor can build a plan, not just off the quantitative aspects of their financial planning needs, but more importantly, through the lens of the foundational psychology within the family dynamic.
I will be interviewing a number of people trying to obtain more anecdotal evidence as well as continuing my review of existing research to find data that supports or refutes the trends I see in the trenches. If nothing else, I find this topic interesting and when I’ve talked to others, they do as well. Personally, I think we all just want validation that we are “normal” or to find better ways to improve our relationships.
Whether you’re interested from a purely psychological perspective or are curious about the practical implications for your own relationship, it should be an illuminating set of discoveries. So make sure you are following me because you’re invited to come along on my quest for understanding this year.
Meredith Moore is a 20-year veteran of the financial advisory industry who specializes in bringing a customized approach to support the highly personal dynamics that govern her clients’ relationship with money and success. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards and a noted speaker and writer focusing on the intersection of power, money, and gender within relationships. Ms. Moore can be reached at www.artisanfsonline.com.
Meredith C. Moore of Moore and Artisan Financial Strategies, 1125 Cambridge Square, Suite C, Alpharetta, GA 30009 (770) 587-0281.Learn how to take control of your financial life and discover what makes women’s financial planning needs such a unique challenge with our free, white paper: https://www.artisanfsonline.com/.19.htm