March 03, 2010 | By: Laurie Campbell

Money, Men and Women

A peace plan for the financial war of the sexes

The artillery sounds from the shores of the Atlantic to the beaches of the Pacific. But it is not the boom of cannons that can be heard across the continent; it is instead cries of frustration and anger between couples - married and unmarried alike – who are at war with each another over issues of money.

It’s an age-old thing. The financial war of the sexes has been going on since the dawn of the dollar, or I believe it was called a shekel in ancient Sumerian times. Back then, hubby doubtlessly got a berating from his spouse for imbibing too much wine with the boys late into the evening. There were mouths to feed in the hut, after all. But hubby had his own beef. Why was the wife shelling out so much for the overpriced pottery? Trying to impress the neighbours no doubt. 

From here, it’s easy to imagine the argument taking a turn for the worse - getting personal and ugly. It’s no different today. At Credit Canada, we are deluged with stories about troubled or ruined relationships between couples who want for skills in money management and who fail to understand the important role psychology plays in financial literacy. Burdened with debt, anxiety, and often depression, they reach out to us for counselling and guidance.

We give it to them in the form of what we call tough love.

For most couples facing crippling debt, coming to grips with the whole issue of money is not easy. The first big hurdle is the realization that - for the gainfully employed - financial problems are almost always symptomatic of deeper issues stemming from neurotic behaviour, unhealthy attitudes towards money and an unwillingness to do some honest self evaluation.

But here’s the good news. Once these painful matters come to be accepted, the foundation is laid for an action plan that can turn people’s lives around. Through processes of goal setting and monthly budgeting - and with the aid of Credit Canada’s debt management programs - couples can vastly improve their relationships and often salvage them from pending disaster.

Now, you might be asking yourself, how are unhealthy, neurotic attitudes towards money first identified? The answer can be found in the approach you and your mate take when speaking to one another about money. At Credit Canada, we have identified four major personality types in relation to this matter. Here is a synthesis:

• The Infantilizer

The Infantilizer speaks in ways that treat spouses and partners as though they are children in matters of money management. To cope with a lack of self-confidence and/or financial knowledge, the Infantilizer speaks down to others in the unrealistic hope that gains in self-status can be made by reducing the status of others.  For example, a statement such as, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it,” translates to, “You wouldn’t understand. “ Or a statement such as, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you,” translates to, “You’re not able to take care of yourself.”

• The Information Controller

The Information Controller is ambiguous, evasive and dishonest about money issues. Those who fall into this category often lie about losses and about what they owe. They are also apt to conceal documents that give their game away. When pressed, they may lash out and refuse to discuss money issues altogether. In a nutshell, they attempt to reduce mates to a powerless state through the suppression of financial information. For example, a statement such as, “I don’t want to talk about it,” translates to, “It’s my business, not yours.”

• The Money Martyr

The Money Martyr is a classic neurotic. Individuals in this anti-heroic league are apt to make irrational financial sacrifices. For example, they deny themselves something in order to buy designer jeans for the kids. Then they rub it in, railing on about the sacrifices they make.  Often complaining about how hard they work at a hated job – and appearing to sacrifice everything – the Money Martyr attempts to play on a partner’s guilt in the hope that the partner will feel indebted to the martyr. For example, a statement such as, “After everything I do for you, this is the thanks I get,” translates to, “You can never thank me enough.”

• The Unilateral Decision Maker

Let’s call them UDMs for short. Or you could call them petty tyrants. They exercise power through unaccountable spending, and they do not concern themselves with the needs and opinions of others when it comes to spending. UDMs are apt to take out loans and/or use up savings without consulting their partner. And there’s no mistaking where they stand. For example, a statement such as, “I’ll buy whatever I want, it’s my money,” translates to, “Your opinion doesn’t matter to me.”

So those are the four major personality types in relation to couples and the unhealthy attitudes they might hold in relation to money. If you and/or your spouse reflect any of these categories in whole or in part, take heart. A lot of people are in the same boat. None of us are perfect. It can take a half a lifetime to finally grow up and come to accept one’s personal shortcomings.

The chief thing to remember is, once you get started on the road to self-awareness and financial literacy, you might be amazed by how a troubled relationship can transform into one of joy.

On that note, let me just say, give peace a chance.


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