Are You Compatible?

Are You Compatible?

Are You Compatible?

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Are You With “The One?”

Are you compatible? How do you know if you’re with the right person? If your relationship is good but not perfect, is that okay?

These are questions that bedevil many, especially in this modern era where a brand new potential relationship is always just a swipe away. Are you truly compatible with your partner? Is this a good relationship, even if you have points of conflict? How good is good enough? These questions certainly com up when you’re dating, but also for people in long-term relationships. Should you stay with this person, and invest in the relationship for the long-term — go to couples counseling, work on your communication, etc — or should you cut your losses and move on?

So. Many. Questions.

Relationship FOMO is a Thing.

It’s easy to compare the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of our own relationship to what people choose to share about their own on social media. Even though we all know, rationally, that there’s more to the story of every relationship than the gigantic flower bouquets and super-fun moments people choose to share on social media, it’s still normal to have a twinge when you get a peek into what other people are doing.

In reality, all relationships are a mixed bag: We partner with other imperfect human beings who have quirks, personalities, annoying traits, and who are never going to meet all of our needs perfectly. (Although there are things you can do to increase the odds: Check out “How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship.”)

At the same time, it can be hard to figure out what is good enough when it comes to relationship compatibility. How do you know if this is as good as it’s going to get? Or if you’re settling for less than you could have if you kept looking for the right partner. Even worse, how much time do you want to spend in this relationship, and on this person, if you’re only going to break up or divorce in the end.

Fear of Commitment

This uncertainty about a relationship becomes especially fraught when people are beginning to think about marriage. We toss around the term “afraid of commitment,” but after years of talking to commitment-phobic people as a life coach and therapist, I’ve found that at the root of their anxiety are the same questions: Is this it? Is there a better relationship for me? How do I know if I’m settling?

When people begin considering marriage, these relationship questions become a siren in their mind to the point where it can cause a great deal of anxiety. And for good reason! There are very few choices that will impact the trajectory of your life as the choice of a life-partner.

This angst was captured perfectly by a recent question that someone asked on our Growing Self Facebook page:

Hello! I have been listening to your podcast for years and it’s helped me so much. For the first time I’ve built a healthy, long-term relationship with a guy and I’m so happy. I had a question I’d love you to answer in a podcast or blog: how do you know if you should marry the guy?

I’m in my mid twenties and loads of my friends are facing this question, as am I. You’ve been with them a couple years, it’s good but not perfect … Do you break up and look for more or is he the one?

- A Podcast Listener

Are You Compatible?

There are so many different aspects of compatibility: Personality, values, the way you communicate, the things you want for your life, and more. Furthermore, we know from the work of Dr. John Gottman that the bulk of relationship issues couples face are not things that are “solvable problems.” They are issues of compatibility — based on things that are intrinsic to who you each are, and will likely never change much.

There are other aspects of relationships that can be changed, through excellent premarital counseling, couples therapy, and relationship coaching. In my experience, all of us have room to go and improve in the way we relate. People can learn and grow. Communication can improve. Priorities can change. People mature. Most importantly, people often learn how to show each other love and respect, and kindness and generosity over time. These are all skills, and they are coachable skills — particularly when you’re motivated to have a great relationship.

However, it’s also true that there is not a human being alive who you will be in perfect alignment with all the time. So a big piece of figuring out compatibility in a relationship is identifying your own boundaries: what you can accept, what you can appreciate, and what is a deal-breaker for you.

A Relationship Expert’s Take on Compatibility

Because the subject of relationship compatibility is so complex, I decided to ask my colleague Dr. Georgiana (who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist) to share her insight on the subject. Listen to our interview for Dr. G’s surprising advice for how to

  • Determine if you and your partner are compatible
  • The most important compatibility factors for a successful relationship
  • The least important factors for determining relationship compatibility (that most people mistakenly look to, btw)
  • How to determine your “deal breakers “
  • Signs that your normal, imperfect relationship is worth working on (or letting go of)
  • How much change is possible for each person in a long-term relationship
  • Things to consider if you’re thinking about breaking up or staying together
  • When to focus on acceptance and appreciation for the person your partner is vs. when to push for growth and change

Dr. G and I both have years of experience as dating coaches, premarital counselors and marriage counselors, and we’re tackling all these questions for you on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Are You Compatible?

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Love is Not Enough, Actually

()  /How do you get your needs met in a relationship? You can have an over-all great relationship with someone you love very much, and still feel like you’re not really getting what you need in order to feel truly connected and cared for. This can lead to frustrations, especially if your efforts to ask (or hint, or nag, or beg, or control, or get angry repeatedly — no judgment) never lead to real and lasting change in your relationship.

Help is here. On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m speaking to a true expert on this subject: Dr. Robert Navarra.

Dr. Navarra has decades of experience as a marriage counselor, couples therapist, and addictions counselor and trains other therapists on The Gottman Method of couples therapy— the gold standard in evidence-based couples counseling. He has also pioneered a new research-based method for helping couples reconnect in the aftermath of addiction.

He’s here to share his insight and relationship advice with you, so that you can finally get your needs met in your relationship. Here’s a peek into our conversation:

Advice For How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

1) Build On Your Relationship’s Strengths: Did you know that it’s easier to get your partner to honor your wishes when they feel close and connected to you? That sounds true and simple but sometimes couples let the sticking points eclipse the positive parts of their relationship. Learn how to start being friends again first in order to increase the likelihood of getting your needs met

2) Improve Your Communication: The way you say things really matters. Dr. Navarra explains the specific ways of communicating that are likely to get you shut-down, ignored, blown up at, or invalidated — and what do to instead. He’s sharing his tips for how to get your message across in a way your partner will be able to hear.

3) Avoid The Three Behaviors That Will Sabotage Your Relationship: In addition to providing you with great skills and strategies to help you communicate, Dr. Navarra explains the behaviors to avoid at all costs. We all know how easy it is to react without thinking when we’re upset. However, by avoiding the pitfalls and mindfully cultivating the pro-marriage / pro-relationship behaviors that Dr. Navarra advises, you can greatly increase the odds that your partner will respond to you positively.

4) What to Do When Your Partner Has A Serious Problem: Dr. Navarra is a Master Addictions Counselor among other things, so I sprung a listener question on him — What to do if your partner has a problem with alcohol, marijuana, or other destructive behaviors? He explains strategies to help your partner (and yourself) stop the madness and grow back together again.

We hope these tips and strategies help you have productive conversations with your partner, so that you can both get on the same page and so YOU can get your needs met in your relationship!

Sincerely,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and Dr. Robert Navarra

PS: Dr. Navarra and I discuss a number of resources and websites. Here’s that link to the “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz.” 

 

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How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

Ways Your Relationship Changes After You Get Engaged

Ways Your Relationship Changes After You Get Engaged

Ways Your Relationship Changes After You Get Engaged

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Deepening and Growing, Together.

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Although many people say, “marriage is just a piece of paper that doesn’t really change a relationship,” as a premarital counselor (and long married person) I often smile to myself when I hear this. What I’ve found to be true is that becoming engaged to marry most definitely does change a relationship, often in positive ways. Engagement also affords thoughtful couples opportunities to build their relationship’s strengths, as well as take proactive action to prevent possible relationship problems in the future.

How Do Relationships Change After You’re Engaged?

  • A Deeper Sense of Security: When couples become engaged, they often shift psychologically into a cognitive and emotional state that can be summed up by the phrases, “I choose you,” and “You choose me.” This security allows people to feel emotionally safer with each other, leading to greater authenticity, vulnerability and mutual understanding.

 

 

  • A Stronger Sense of “We”: As couples commit to marriage, they are committing to each other. They are creating a new family together, an “us” that is greater than the sum of its parts. This can shift the emotional dynamics of a relationship from those of two competing individuals to a shared mindset of being in the same boat. People can become more generous with each other as their sense of being together through thick and thin grows.

 

  • Shared Hopes and Dreams: As couples move from dating to marriage, they enter a new phase of the relationship where they are considering each other as life partners as opposed to simply enjoyable companions. This provides opportunities to talk about their life goals, the things that are most important to them, and what they’d like their shared life to be about. Cultivating a shared sense of mission together can deepen connection and foster increased emotional understanding, as well as support.

 

The positive relationship changes that happen once you become engaged can surprise even couples who have been dating for a long time. Even couples who have been cohabitating without a formal commitment can experience a dramatic shift in the emotional climate of their relationship once they become engaged. Particularly in the midst of a cultural zeitgeist where young people are as likely to move in together due to convenience or financial reasons, casual cohabitation can breed anxiety or insecurity about the true state of the relationship. Crossing from cohabitation to engagement can ease anxieties about where each person stands with the other emotionally.

Becoming Engaged = New Opportunities For Growth

While many couples experience a positive lift in their relationship due to a strengthened sense of security with each other, a sense of increased closeness, and a commitment to each other, becoming engaged can also usher in a new period of growth for a couple. Why? Because moving to the next level in a relationship can throw areas where there are differences or irritations into stark relief when the timeline of a relationship shifts from “now” to “the rest of my life.”

As couples start thinking more seriously about their relationship, their marriage, and their shared future together, wise couples realize that there are things to sort out. This is always true. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. No couple is ever in alignment about everything, and that’s why getting engaged so often ushers in an exciting time of growth and change for couples in advance of their wedding as couples work together to figure out how to be even better partners for each other.

Even planning a wedding together can become a vehicle for growth. Consider that  planning a wedding becomes the canvas on which each partner’s personality and values are displayed for better or for worse. Power struggles, clashes around what’s important and what’s not, or similarities and areas of mutual cooperation can (and do) come into clearer focus. This gives couples the chance to map out their strengths as well as their growth opportunities. As they communicate and compromise about aspects of their wedding, they are laying the groundwork for a mutually respectful marriage (or, giving them both helpful information about aspects of their relationship they need to work on).

In addition to the opportunities afforded to people by planning a wedding, becoming engaged often compels couples to evaluate each other more thoroughly as conversations about values, dreams and “what I want my / our life together to be about” naturally happen. This, combined with more authenticity, more communication, and more real-life issues to address gives people a deeper understanding about who each other really is, and what is most important. They now, as a couple, have opportunities to improve their relationship on many levels, including the way they communicate, how they work as a team, how they support each other despite having differences, how they practice unconditional love and acceptance, and more. Smart couples do this work in premarital counseling in advance of their marriage in order to resolve potential problems before they start.  This helps set a couple up for a long, happy marriage (instead of a short and frustrating one).

Advice From a Premarital Counselor

Here at Growing Self, we’re big believers that high quality premarital counseling makes a huge difference in the trajectory of a marriage. [Read: Why Premarital Counseling Can Make or Break a Marriage]. Premarital counseling gives couples an opportunity to consider things that were not relevant in their dating relationship, but will be very significant once they are married, including finances, how they discuss emotionally charged topics, family relationships, shared goals and dreams, how they solve practical problems together, negotiating roles and expectations, and more.

On this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m speaking with expert premarital counselor Rachel Harder about the changes that happen in a relationship once couples get engaged, plus the skills and strategies that she teaches her premarital couples to help set them up for success. If you’re recently engaged listen to our interview to hear about the most important domains of your relationship to focus on in order to build the foundation for a happy, successful and satisfying marriage.

And, CONGRATULATIONS!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LMFT and Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C

PS: Here’s the link to the premarital counseling class Rachel and I were discussing : Lifetime of Love Premarital and Relationship Class

 

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Ways Your Relationship Changes After You Get Engaged

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Building Better Relationships

Building Better Relationships

Building Better Relationships

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Communication & Relationship Skills To Make Your Good Relationships Great

 
Building Better Relationships: Have you ever left relationship books laying around, or put a relationship podcast on hoping that a certain someone may reflect on their own behavior and be a better partner or friend for you? Have you ever dropped a hint (or SEVEN) to a coworker, boss, or friend about how you feel in your relationship with them, and how you hope they might change?
 
So often, we feel helpless around how to improve our relationships, because we feel like the quality of our relationships depends on what OTHER people are doing or not doing. Relationships are frustrating when it feels like people aren’t communicating well with you, or aren’t meeting your needs, or respecting your boundaries, or are just being plain annoying.
 
It is totally natural and normal to think that our relationships would be better if only the other person got it together. (And hey, that would be much easier! I hear you!) However, needing the other person to be the change you wish to see in your relationships is not just frustrating, it’s disempowering. If you believe that having better relationships are all about how to get someone else to change it deprives you of the ability to actively build better relationships, and leads to a cycle of hurt and resentment.
 
Not knowing how to improve our relationships can lead to feelings of disappointment, resentment, and frustration. When relationship problems go on for too long, these feelings can begin to erode the fabric of our relationships. Hurt and resentment can lead to conflict in our relationships, or even worse, lead us to withdraw.
 
You don’t have to struggle with frustrating or disappointing relationships. There is an empowering path forward, and a way to build better relationships. A way YOU control.
 

Improve Your Relationships, Improve Your Life

 
You deserve to have fantastic relationships. You deserve to feel loved and cared for. You deserve to have your friends, family and partner show up for you. Our relationships — particularly the quality of our relationships — can be the single greatest source of happiness… or pain, anxiety and frustration. Building better relationships with your family, your friends, your coworkers, and your partner can be one of the most powerful strategies to improve your mood, self esteem, and overall happiness and life satisfaction.
 
Research shows that happiness is strongly correlated with the quality of your relationships. (As does health, and longevity for that matter.) The key to building better relationships with everyone starts with you: YOUR ability to communicate, to listen, to be assertive, to handle conflict, to manage your emotions, and to understand others. In short, your soft skills.
 

What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They So Important?

 
This may sound counter-intuitive, but by focusing on your own “soft skills” you can transform your relationships single-handedly. What are soft skills, and why are they so important? Soft skills are communication and relationship skills that contribute to high-quality, harmonious relationships.
 
Soft skills are vital to success in the workplace, happy, healthy marriages, and fulfilling, supportive relationships with friends and family. As a matter of fact “soft skills” are tied for first place with creativity, for the most important qualities that employers are looking for. But aside from your ability to get ahead in your career, investing in improving soft skills can lead to immense rewards in every area of your life. Why? Because although you cannot change others, you can change the way that people respond to you through developing excellent communication and relationship skills.
 

Building Better Relationships: It’s All About Empowering YOU

 
So today, on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m taking to my colleague (and relationship expert) Kathleen Carroll-Stutts. Kathleen is a life coach, individual therapist and couples counselor here on the team at Growing Self. She is the facilitator of our Online Relationship Skills Group, and is here today to share her system for how to develop yourself so that you can build better relationships with the most important people in your life.
 
Whether you’re hoping to have better relationships with your coworkers, wanting to heal rifts with your family, develop more close friendships, if you want to get better results in dating, or have a better relationship with your partner, you get some ideas about the communication skills and relationship skills that will empower you to get better results with other people.
 

How To Improve Your Communication Skills

 
Listen to our interview to learn how to develop the communication skills and relationship skills that can help you build better relationships. Specifically:
 

Foundational Relationship Skills

  • Self awareness – How understanding yourself, your needs, your feelings and your personal values can help you build better relationships with others.
  • Emotional regulation – How being able to manage your feelings can help you communicate more effectively in relationships.
  • Self respect – How having healthy self-esteem and self-love helps you have stronger and more authentic relationships.
  • Assertiveness – How to develop your voice and your truth in order to communicate your needs, rights and feelings to others.

Intermediate Relationship Skills

  • How to improve your communication skills by cultivating both self-expression skills as well as listening skills.
  • Setting boundaries – How to set appropriate and healthy limits with others.
  • How to manage conflict.

Advanced Communication Skills and Relationship Skills

  • Identifying our triggers – How to use our self-awareness, self-respect, and communication skills to avoid situations that would be bad for us and bad for our relationships.
  • Empathy – Learning how to understand the needs, rights, feelings and perspectives of others, and how to use that awareness to improve communication and build better relationships.
  • How to cope with relationship challenges including dealing with toxic people, how to deal with criticism, and what to do with bullies.

 

We sincerely hope that this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast helps to give you some direction for building better relationships in your life!

xo,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and Kathleen Carroll Stutts, M. Ed., LPC

 

Resources:
 
Personality Test: Enneagrams
 
 
 

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Building Better Relationships

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Design Your Life Around What Matters Most

Design Your Life Around What Matters Most

Design Your Life Around What Matters Most

What’s Most Important To YOU?

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WHAT MATTERS MOST | It’s so easy — especially for smart, determined, proactive and successful people — to spend a lot (a LOT) of time and energy pursuing goals that, at the end of the day, are not actually the most important or meaningful ones to them. Sounds crazy, but it’s true: We’re all vulnerable to absorbing messages from our families, social media, our culture, and certainly the combined efforts of many savvy marketers about what we should want. About who we should be. About what we should do with our lives.

You Are The Author of Your Own Life Story

At the end of the day, buying in to someone else’s hopes and dreams for your life can lead you down the wrong path. Even if you — by virtue of your intelligence, determination, and hard work — are successful in creating all of it and achieving the ideals that you were handed, they will still feel hollow to you. Because they were never genuinely meaningful and important to YOU. And you will have spent so much of your precious time, energy, love, and devotion to achieving goals that — at the end of the day — could have been spent creating the life and reality that was your heart’s desire.

You deserve better. You deserve to own your own goals and create a destiny that will lead to your heart overflowing with authentic happiness and gratitude. You deserve, at the very end of your precious life, to have zero regrets. You deserve to feel pride and appreciation for what you have created, and what will last long after your time on this earth has passed.

How to Design Your Life Around What Matters Most

To help you create this reality — the clear-eyed pursuit and attainment of the goals that are actually the most important and precious to YOU — I have a very special gift for you. On the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing a very wise and insightful man, author Chris Meyer.

Chris has a fascinating story: He spent many years as the director of a funeral home. (Stay with me here!) Over the years, he sat with many families as they planned their final goodbyes. He sat with people who were dying, and grieving families, and heard their stories — their gratitude, and their regrets, and the profound insights into what really mattered…. from the perspective of looking back on their lives.

Over and over again, he had family members say the same thing to him: Their heartfelt insights about what really mattered most to them, and the things they realized when their time was over. Chris put all of these lessons into his book: Life In 20 Lessons: What A Funeral Guy Discovered About Life, From Death.

Today, he is here to share these insights directly with YOU. He is bringing you the messages from people at the end, so that YOU can design your life with intention, clarity and love, and maintain you focus on what really matters most to you.

It’s a heartfelt gift for you, on this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. I sincerely hope that it helps you get clarity and self-awareness for how you’d like to design YOUR life as we enter into a new decade, together.

Now, question for you: What did you think about as you were listening to this podcast about what was genuinely most meaningful and important to you?? I hope you share your thoughts and feelings with the Growing Self community in the comments below.

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: This episode is personally meaningful to ME because it’s in alignment with what is most important to me: Being of service to YOU. I have so many things planned for you on upcoming episodes of the podcast this coming year. If we’re not already connected, please join me on Instagram @drlisamariebobby, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast!

PPS: I’m now routinely embarrassing myself on YouTube too! Watch the video version of this episode below, or keep scrolling for the audio only version.

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Design Your Life Around What Matters Most

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits:  Rodellos Machine, “Beauty of Your Life”

Spread the Love Happiness & Success

Please Rate, Review & SHARE the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

How to Stop Fighting About Money

For many couples entering couples therapy or marriage counseling, differences around money are a significant source of conflict in their relationship. And of course, money fights are common, because money is one of those things that means different things to different people.

For some, money a stand-in for love and connection, and for others money means security. Some people view spending money on things they enjoy as what gives life meaning, and others view accumulating money to pass on to the next generation as the purpose of life itself

Other people view money as freedom, and still others see it as a tool. People can also have negative associations around money, including guilt or fear. Other people can even tie their sense of self-worth to the money they have in the bank, or to outward displays of wealth.

Money is, in short, a loaded topic.

So it’s only natural that all couples usually have at least some differences around money, because they’re different people. Even if a couple is in basic agreement about their values around money, there will still be differences. In general, financial values exist on a spectrum between “spending” and “saving.”

Why Couples Fight About Money: Savers vs Spenders

In every relationship, there is a person who has a “saver” orientation and a person who has a “spender” orientation. This is even true between two people who are freer with their money than other couples, or within a couple who generally saves more than other couples. They, as a unit, may appear aligned around what they’re doing with money, and yet still find things to squabble about between themselves.

Saver fights: “I thought we agreed to put $1500 into the retirement account and bump the mortgage payment by $500 from now on. We can totally live on a $300 a month grocery budget — you eat too much anyway. Don’t you want to have the house paid off in three years???”

Spender fights: “No, I’m excited about Rekyvic and Dublin and Amsterdam, but I really had my heart set on Prague too. I mean, if we’re going anyway shouldn’t we embrace it? We’ll pay it off! We can use the line of credit from the condo in Vail, it’s appreciating like crazy. Why are you such a kill-joy?”

Of course, in couples who are even further apart on the spender / saver continuum than these examples, you can only imagine how intense fights about money in a marriage can get. This is never more true than around the holiday season, when budgets get blown faster than you can say “Fa-la-la.”

As we speed toward the holidays, life can become a twinkly blur of get-togethers and activities. The internal, sometimes even sub-conscious drive to have a “nice holiday” can drive us to spend way more money than we intended. In some couples, holiday spending can even be hidden between partners, creating a rupture of trust when it’s disclosed in the sober grey light of January.

Yes, “financial infidelity” is a real thing, and it causes real trauma to relationships. When couples are frequently fighting about money to the point where it feels like it’s impossible to communicate about finances, people will begin to hide spending, hide debt, or get overly controlling or even aggressive about money. This can lead to splitting up finances, which is often a symptom of avoidance in a relationship.

When it feels impossible to come to agreements about money, when communication about money always turns into a fight, where there is a lack of financial trust, or vastly different values around money, couples move towards separate bank accounts… and sometimes, sadly, eventually separate lives.

Financial Therapy For Couple

By the time couples arrive in marriage counseling to discuss the ongoing conflict about money, it has often evolved into a bigger deal than can be solved by simply making a budget together, or getting scolded by a financial planner. Feelings have been hurt. Trust may have been broken. Even worse, couples can start to fear that they are too far apart in their basic values around life and money to even be compatible.

This can be a scary time for couples. I remember how it was in my own marriage when money was the number one thing my husband and I were fighting about.

I felt like we barely had enough money to get by, and was frantic in my efforts to conserve our resources — even if it meant wearing second-hand clothes from thrift stores and packing PB&J for lunch every day.

My husband, on the other hand, felt stifled, unhappy, and constrained when I attempted to squash the flow of money through our life. He felt that without having anything to enjoy or look forward to, life felt empty and burdensome.

At the time, of course, neither of us realized that we were both right, and so we fought endlessly over who’s perspective was more true and noble. I’d give him hell for spending $4 on a latte at a bookstore (or god-forbid, buying one of his fancy art-magazines), and he’d make crappy comments about how gross it was to buy used shoes.

We finally got into marriage counseling, and only then, learned how to listen and understand. We no longer have conflict around money. We have conversations about money. It’s good. You can do this too.

Marriage Counseling Around Finances

It can be hard for a couple, particularly a couple in distress, to see through their own anger, fear, and moral judgment to see the other person’s perspective about money for what it usually is: A deeply held personal value, often related to core emotional and psychological needs.

However, without a high level of understanding and empathy, it’s very hard for couples to get on the same page about money. That’s where great marriage counseling, financial therapy, and relationship coaching come in: They can all help you stay calm enough to talk through your thoughts and feelings in a way that fosters understanding and empathy about money, and what it means to each of you.

For example, when I put down my shining sword of virtue and justice long enough to hear what my husband was actually trying to communicate, I learned that his less-privileged background led him to view money as something to be pounced upon and enjoyed while it was there (before it evaporated again), as opposed to accumulating it and cultivating it. I understood him more deeply, and had empathy for what money represented to him: Pleasure and meaning in the moment, and not anything that could be counted upon.

Over time, I also came to understand that being open to his perspective was good for me, too: Because of him, I’ve had more fun, more  interesting adventures, and, frankly, better furniture and clothing than I ever would when left to my own devices.

And as the conflict between us diffused into curiosity and openness, he learned that I inherited a deep anxiety around money from my immigrant family, who fled Europe after the second world war when Stalin appeared to be the next maniac drumming on the horizon. As a first-generation-American who grew up watching her Belgian father save scraps of wire, unbend pulled nails for a second use (stored in glass baby jars he’d saved from my earliest months), and literally cut off the moldy parts of the cheese before proclaiming it perfectly fine, I had a deeply ingrained survival instinct to conserve money.

I’m pleased to report that my perspective influenced my husband too. He now tolerates my budgets and squirreling, and seems to like the fact that we have a financial buffer between us and disaster, as well as a plan for the future.

We no longer fight about money. However — and this is the important part — our alignment about finances is NOT because either of us have changed who we are. He is not exactly like me, and he never will be. He still thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to spend $900 on a BMX bike, and on the rare occasions I shop for clothes, it’s usually at consignment stores.

But he understands me, and accepts that saving money and avoiding debt as much as possible is a wise way to live. And I understand him, and have accepted the fact that it’s important to be generous, and that nice things and meaningful life experiences are worth paying for.

That level of acceptance and understanding is always my hope for the couples who come to us for help in getting on the same page around money. If fighting about money feels like it’s destroying your relationship, please know that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Particularly during this time of year — the holidays, and their aftermath — you have lots of opportunities to talk about finances. This year, I hope you consider giving each other the gift of listening with the intention to understand. Ask your partner what money means to them, and try to get on their side of the table. Don’t have a conflict. Have a conversation.

If you want to solve your financial disagreements for once and for all, the answer is not controlling or changing each other. It lies in developing empathy, understanding, and a sense of common purpose that unites you as a couple and as a family. Hard to do, but so, so worth it.

With love and respect to you both,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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