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What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

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.

Married With a Crush?

 

So, you are married but you have a crush on someone else. Hey, it happens. Married people, even happily married people are also human and as such, are vulnerable to developing crushes on attractive others. A crush, aka, “Romantic Infatuation” can happen with anyone who you spend time with and who has attractive or, interestingly, anxiety-producing qualities. 

What does is mean if you are married and have a crush on someone else?

Having a crush on someone else when you’re married doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. It also is not a reflection of your marriage. Believe it or not, having a crush may not mean anything at all. In fact, people in happy, healthy, committed relationships can still develop fluttery feelings for attractive others. Crush-y feelings don’t need to mean anything about your marriage or your spouse, or about the person you have a crush on.

Feelings just happen sometimes.

We have crushes because we’re living, feeling human beings who are designed to fall in love. Particularly in long term relationships where the zing of early-stage romantic love has faded into a steady, warm attachment, the part of us that longs for exciting, romantic love may be tickled awake by the presence of an interesting new other.

However, smart, self-aware people in good, committed relationships need to not follow those feelings, but rather handle them maturely and with wisdom. 

The Smart Way to Handle Having a Crush When You’re Married

While developing a crush is not unusual, it is extremely important to be very self-aware about what is happening and redirect your energy back into your primary relationship as quickly as possible. (If you want to stay married, anyway.)

Developing an infatuation can actually be a positive thing for a relationship, particularly if you are self-aware enough to realize that your feelings for someone else might be informing you about what you’d like to be different about your primary relationship. 

Then you can build on the existing strengths of your relationship to add “crush ingredients” back in, like spending time together, novelty, emotional intimacy, flirtation, and fun. Your relationship will be the stronger for it.

When Crushes Cross the Line

Crushes, when not handled well, can also be an on-ramp to an affair. Consider that very few people intend to start an affair. Most affairs begin with people having fluttery, crush-y feelings for someone who is not their spouse… and then leaning into them rather than intentionally extinguishing them.

Developing a crush or romantic feelings for another can be extremely dangerous for the stability of your family and your relationship. While it’s not unusual to develop a mild crush when you’re married, if unchecked, your innocent-seeing crush could bloom into an emotional or even sexual affair. 

While everyone can have a crush bloom, it’s very important to know how to handle yourself and your relationship when crushes happen in order to protect yourself, your relationship, and your integrity.

Protect Your Marriage From an Affair

Here at Growing Self, we are strong believers in the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That is never more so than with relationships: It’s much easier to educate yourself and learn how to handle common situations successfully, and in such a way that they strengthen your relationship rather than harm it.

Knowing how to handle yourself if you start to develop a crush on someone when you’re married to another is one of the most important ways of protecting your relationship from an affair. Even though couples can and do recover from infidelity, infidelity is terribly traumatic and difficult to repair. Affairs destroy marriages and destroy lives, and at the end of the day tend to result in disappointing relationships with the affair partner.

Take it from a marriage counselor (and, ahem, author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love”) who’s seen the destruction that affairs create: Don’t do it. The key? Catching those normal, crush-y feelings early and learning how to use them to re-energize your marriage, while simultaneously learning how to extinguish the crush.

What To Do (And Not Do) When You Are Married And Have a Crush

Today on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m talking all about how to handle yourself and your relationship when you have a crush on someone else. We’ll be discussing:

  • The mechanics of a crush; how and why crushes develop
  • The difference between a crush and a platonic friendship
  • Why happy, committed married people can have crushes on others
  • How crushes can turn into something more serious
  • How to use self-awareness, integrity, and honesty to protect your marriage
  • How to use your crush experience in order to add energy and intimacy into your relationship
  • Warning signs that your crush is developing into something else
  • Why extramarital affairs are always a bad idea, and rarely end well
  • How to stop having a crush on someone else
  • How to avoid embarrassment and professional ruin if you have a crush on a coworker
  • How to protect your relationship and stay true to your values even when you’re having feelings for another.

All this and more on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: If it’s not you you’re worried about, but rather that your partner may have a crush on someone else, here are some other resources for you: Signs of an Emotional Affair, and How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship. Play them in the car and see what your partner thinks… LMB

 

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Married With a Crush? What To Do (and Not Do)

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

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Are You Compatible?

All relationships are a mixed bag, and it can be hard to tell if you're with "the one" or if there's a better match for you. On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast we're talking about what matters (and what doesn't) when it comes to relationship compatibility. Read More
are you compatible are you settling dating advice premarital advice relationship advice denver premarital counseling online

Building Better Relationships

Healthy relationships = A happy life. Learn the relationship skills and strategies to make your good relationships great, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Read More
Relationship Skills Relationship Coaching Online Life Coach Denver Therapist Online Communication Skills Training Online Therapy Denver

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.

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. (Relationship skills group, anyone?) 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

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Are You Compatible?

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

Enjoy the Podcast?

Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Google Play

Are You Compatible?

All relationships are a mixed bag, and it can be hard to tell if you're with "the one" or if there's a better match for you. On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast we're talking about what matters (and what doesn't) when it comes to relationship compatibility. Read More
are you compatible are you settling dating advice premarital advice relationship advice denver premarital counseling online

Building Better Relationships

Healthy relationships = A happy life. Learn the relationship skills and strategies to make your good relationships great, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Read More
Relationship Skills Relationship Coaching Online Life Coach Denver Therapist Online Communication Skills Training Online Therapy Denver

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.

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 for 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 are the links in case you want to follow up on anything you heard:

 

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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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Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

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.

Letting Go Of a Toxic Relationship

We’re approaching a new year, and as such, you may be thinking about changes you want to make in your life. If you’ve been stuck in a relationship with someone who is not treating you well, and who is causing you hurt, anxiety, pain and frustration, now is a wonderful time to consider leaving your toxic relationship behind… and creating a new year full of healing, health and happiness for yourself.

Toxic Relationship Warning Signs

Letting go of a toxic relationship can be one of the hardest things for anyone to do. In my work as a life coach, therapist, and couples counselor, I have had the privilege of walking with many people through the experience of first recognizing that their relationship is toxic, then ending a hurtful relationship, and then healing after the “toxic relationship experience.” Toxic relationships take a toll on you, at every level. And every step of this journey is hard. (Necessary, meaningful, and empowering… but hard). I know, I’ve been there personally too.

Letting of a toxic relationship often starts with people working to improve their relationships.  At this stage they often believe that if only their partner could make changes, then they’d finally get the love, respect, and consideration they deserve. They come in to life coaching or even drag their partner in to couples therapy, hopeful that they can make improvements. (And I will say that almost all the time when two people are both committed to a relationship and willing to make changes, relationships can be transformed).

However, if your relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to be healed in marriage counseling or couples therapy. Instead, you’ll continue to feel frustrated, hurt, angry… and then elated when it seems like your partner is finally hearing you and caring about your feelings… only to be crushed when they disappoint you again. [Read: “Are You Addicted To a Toxic Relationship?”]

But in many genuinely toxic relationships, the biggest “warning sign” of all is when your partner routinely shows a lack of interest or follow-through in changing anything about the relationship. Instead, you when you bring up your feelings you get yelled at, blamed, rejected, or made to feel that the problems are all your fault.

Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

In these situations of course, attempts at couples counseling often end badly. Most of the time, since their partners are unwilling to work on things with them, people in toxic relationships wind up entering empowering life coaching or effective therapy on their own.

Only over time (and often through deep personal growth work) do they then learn how to spot the characteristics of a toxic relationship, and come to terms with the fact that the only way to improve their situation is to take their power back and move on.

But until then, people in toxic relationships often struggle. They struggle with the mixed signals they get from their partner, because sometimes they are loving. They’re told that things will improve, and maybe they do for a little while. Many people believe that if THEY work harder at the relationship, are more loving, are more generous, and more patient that their partner will eventually change. (Because often, their partner is telling them in both overt and covert ways that the relationship problems are their fault).

Over time, a genuinely toxic relationship will destroy your self-esteem, interfere with your other relationships, make it hard to focus on positive areas of your life, and consume all of your time and attention. But through self-reflection, self-love, self-compassion (and sometimes excellent therapy or life coaching) you can begin to see that you have become attached to a profoundly unhealthy partner who is never going to give you the love and respect they deserve.

Then you can work to create positive, empowering changes: Like insisting that you are treated well, and setting firm, clear boundaries with anyone who doesn’t — especially the one who’s supposed to love them the most.

Can a Toxic Relationship Be Healed?

Ending any relationship is hard, and even people who are addicted to profoundly toxic relationships can hold on hope that the relationship can improve, sometimes for years. Many people (understandably) need to know if their toxic relationships can be healed before ending them permanently.

In fact, I get many, many relationship questions on the Growing Self blog about this very subject. Of course the writers of the questions are not labeling their relationships as toxic. They are instead describing extremely frustrating, hurtful, even crazy-making relationship experiences and then asking, what should I do? (Usually phrased as, “How do I get this person I love very much to stop treating me badly?”

If a relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to change no matter how hard YOU work at it. Why? Because it lacks the fundamental building blocks of a healthy relationship: Empathy, commitment, personal responsibility, and true love.

Your toxic relationship will finally be changed forever, when YOU decide that you’re not going to participate in it anymore. When you commit to yourself that you are worthy of love and respect, when you recognize your toxic relationship addiction for what it is, and when you learn how to cultivate the type of healing mindset that will set you free, you can end your toxic relationship for once and for all.

Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship

Because so many people have been reaching out for relationship advice on how to deal with these types of toxic relationship situations, I decided to devote an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to this subject. On this episode we’re going to be talking all about toxic relationships, including:

  • How to identify toxic relationships. I’ll be sharing the top 5 signs that you’re in a toxic relationship. Listen and give yourself the mini, “toxic relationship quiz” to find out if your relationship is actually toxic, or just temporarily frustrating.
  • Why toxic relationships are so addictive. Instead of beating yourself up for remaining in a bad relationship, learn why you’re biologically predisposed to developing intense attachments to others and why toxic relationships are actually MORE addictive than healthy relationships.
  • The difference between healthy vs toxic relationships. Just because your relationship feels hard and frustrating does not mean it’s toxic and irredeemable. Learn the difference between toxic and healthy relationships, and get access to some relationship resources to help you determine whether you should keep working at this, or move on.
  • How to leave a toxic relationship with your dignity intact. Too many toxic relationships end with, ironically, the person who was caring, trying, and hurting getting broken up with. If you’re in a toxic relationship, don’t continue to dangle on this string, waiting and hoping it will get better until they end it. Take your power back, and decide for yourself to be done. If you’re realizing that it’s time for you to pick up your self respect and move on from a toxic relationship, we’ll talk about how. We’ll discuss how to cultivate  self-compassion, self-respect. and the ability to stop depending on an unreliable, hurtful person to love you, and instead, learn how to love yourself.

 

You might be listening to this podcast at the cusp of a new year (or other major life change) and ready to leave this relationship for good. You might be just starting to explore whether or not the relationship you’re in is salvageable. You might be realizing that your relationship is toxic, but still in love and not sure how to end things. You may be caught in a toxic relationship cycle of breaking up and getting back together again. Or, you might be sitting in the pain, anger and heartbreak of just having been hurt again for the dozenth time, and looking for answers.

This podcast is for YOU.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: One of the tools I mentioned if you’re still in that “can this relationship be saved” space is my relationship quiz that can help you learn whether your relationship is fundamentally strong, or fundamentally toxic. Here’s the sign up box in case you’d like to take it. xo, LMB

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

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

Enjoy the Podcast?

Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Financial Therapy For Couples

Financial Therapy For Couples

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

 

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
Growing Self
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