New Year’s resolutions are usually personal in nature, but also reflect what is happening in our relationships. We tend to want to improve ourselves in order to improve our interactions with others.
The complexities of money and relationships are magnified this time of year when most of us have struggled to implement the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations to set aside differences and stick to a budget over the holidays. Psychology Today highlights how “financial troubles and differences” are one of the most common reasons for relationship failure and/or stress. This is true for couples as well as families, and is largely due to the culture of silence and discomfort surrounding money.
Healthy money dynamics in relationships rely on effective communication. In 2017, the google search for “spend less/save more” as a New Year’s resolution went up by 17%. Every year people become more desperate to find solutions for managing their relationship with money. What if we shifted the resolution to finding a way to deepen relationships with others by stepping into conversation about money?
Here are some tips for improving communication about money with your loved ones in 2019.
- Initiate difficult conversations with a statement of intention. For example, “I want our relationship to remain strong, which is why I feel we need to talk about….” As the dialogue progresses, revisit that intention (I want our relationship to remain strong) to recalibrate and remind each other of the larger, more important, goal.
- Walk while you talk. If you know you need to have a tough talk or sense that a conversation is moving in that direction, take it outside and go for a walk. There is science behind the positive impact of bilateral stimulation (walking). However, all you need to do is trust that your brain and body will help you have a more constructive conversation if you move while you do it.
- Use “I” statements. When you approach a conversation focused more on how you feel and less on blaming the other person, you will experience more progress. Easier said then done, try to catch when your “I” statements subtly shift to blame. For example, “I feel sad because you always…”
- Understand your personal relationship with money. The more you understand why you behave the way you do with money, the more you can communicate about how it plays out within a relationship. Start by looking at the messages you received about money when you were a child. What is your earliest memory about money?
- Seek the support of facilitated conversations. Facilitated family meetings and/or couples coaching can help you enhance communication skills and have more effective conversations about money. It is much more difficult to slip into negative, unhealthy, and old habits when you have an outsider guiding the conversation.