Ask Elizabeth: Money Troubles

Elizabeth Brennan

“I am having a great deal of difficulty in coming to an agreement with my new partner about finances.  In my previous relationship, this was not an issue.  We pooled our finances and then it was my job to pay the bills and do the budgeting.  It worked well; that’s what I was used to and presumed the same thing would happen with my new relationship.  But she is so adamant that she controls her own money, doesn’t want to talk about it.  It’s driving me bonkers.  I love her but don’t think I can live this way.

Bonkered Bobbie

Financial management in any relationship is a lot more complicated than simply deciding who manages what, how much to save and what to spend.    Inevitably it involves good communication skills, and trust between partners.  However, it also involves something more primal, something that might not be recognized consciously.

All of us enter our adult lives and relationships with hidden baggage. That baggage contains all that we learned in our formative years from our Family of Origin.  For most of us, our Family of Origin is the biological family in which we grew up.  For others, it could be foster or adoptive parents ororphanages and other child care agencies.

Attitudes towards and ways of dealing with daily chores and struggles are learned in those formative years and thusconstruct the baggage we take into our adult lives.  We may be conscious of some of that baggage; we may make certain decisions that we are gong to do things differently than they were done in our Family of Origin.

However, most of that baggage remains in the sub-conscious and we default into automatic drive when living out our daily lives and relationships.  And because so much of the baggage is in the sub-conscious, we routinely presume others have the same experiences and expectations on how relationships are managed.

As in all relationship issues, to resolve your frustrations and concerns, you must be prepared to spend the necessary time in communicating with your partner:  putting in the time, being honest, prepared to listen, being open to change.

In doing so, there are some particular approaches that could prove beneficial.  Ask her what she learned in her Family of Origin about financial matters:  how they were managed, was their only one ‘bread-winner’, who paid the bills, was she given any pocket-money and did she have to account for it, what she learned about budgeting, etc. etc.  And you do likewise – unpack your Family of Origin baggage and share your experiences, the expectations you have brought into your adult relationships regarding finances.  If you are prepared to spend the time, you could come up with a mutual agreement on:-:

  • How much financial independence you both shall have;
  • How decisions will be managed so both of you can be involved to the extent you desire and have the level of transparency you each require;
  • Whether you will maintain separate bank accounts or combined or, maybe, two separate accounts and one combined account;
  • How each of your needs can be catered for – when the purse strings can be loosened or tightened accordingly
  • Times when personal expenditure doesn’t require approval of the other, allowing each of you to have some financial autonomy.

Just remember:  we are all different. We all bring into our adult relationships different expectations, different ideas and different ways of doing things.  And when you remember that, thank the Universe for that difference, for that diversity.  How boring life would be without it. Alleluia!

Please send questions on relationships to Elizabeth Brennan, Relationships
Australia, PO Box 1206, West Leederville, WA 6901, or email
[email protected]
Elizabeth is only able to answer your enquiries in print in OUTinPerth and cannot give personal replies.

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