Money is as loaded a topic as anything in therapy. Our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist recently appeared in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal in order to assert that talking about money is too important to hide from, whether in therapy or in relationships.
For The New York Times’ “Sex, Death, Affairs: Everything People Would Rather Talk About Than Money,” Matt shares his observations that money is one of the subjects patients frequently avoid in therapy. “People tell me about really profound intimate details of their lives—they tell me about all kinds of fantasies, affairs, sexual escapades,” he says. “The one thing that has historically persisted as outside of what people will open up about, even in the context of long-term therapy, has been mentioning salary.”
While not in the article, Matt explains that people are afraid to talk about money for a number of reasons. Some may feel they should have more money or the more they have should go further. Others may have a lot of money and feel that they are supposed to hide that. And yet others may find the nuances of finances, from saving and investing to taxes and inflation, intimidating and worry they should know more than they do.
Each person also comes with their own unique history with money. Considering these histories and how they continue to impact current financial choices becomes particularly essential for couples as each partner brings their own relationship with money. In The Wall Street Journal’s “Why Marriage Can Change Your Money Habits,” Matt encourages couples to openly discuss their differences when it comes to their approach to finances. Couples that do so, Matt notes, “are better able to make decisions together.”
Couples should not only talk about expectations, wants, needs, priorities, and values related to money, but also the feelings and histories that come up around finances. For instance, a partner might say, “When I was a kid and my dad died, things were scary and so I value saving more,” “I always fantasized about a certain kind of car because other families in the neighborhood have one. So it symbolizes success for me,” or “Even though I manage money better now, I feel guilty about the debt I brought into our relationship.” Though they require work to navigate, these differences, including emotional differences, can be a good thing in relationships. Differences mean a diversity of strengths on the team. One partner may be better able to motivate the other to save more, enjoy a higher level of comfort, or push harder for a raise at work.