• Margaret Curtis, MD

Some Good Relationship Advice

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

"Choose the right person" is the best relationship advice I have never heard. If you are in a relationship with someone who just isn't your match, I don't have much to offer you - sorry. If, however, you know your partner is the right person for you, and your goals and values generally align, then the odds are good that you will be able to figure the rest out.

Meant to be.

Even so the two of you will probably struggle with money. The only way I know of to avoid any financial conflict is to have essentially infinite funds or have one partner make every single decision. The first only works if you have Saudi-oil-level income (and maybe not even then) and the second is a recipe for disaster - just ask anyone who has woken up to find that their ex emptied the kids' piggy banks and left.

Some couples do an end-run around this problem by keeping their finances entirely separate, but unless you plan to live in separate houses, too, this won't keep you from the tough conversations.

My next best piece of advice is to figure out where your partner got his/her attitude toward money. Someone who grew up with not-enough may need a certain amount in the bank to feel secure, or may have a weakness for buying some particular item(s) that represent safety. My kids mostly wear hand-me-downs, but they sleep under down comforters and brushed-flannel sheets. By the time I could get to the bottom of this in therapy the kids will be out of the house, so my husband just accepts this as the cost of being married to me.

The alchemy of personality + life experience with money creates some very strong habits. We can all change these habits, but it takes some work. While your partner is working on their own attitude, you can work on yours.

It also helps to understand how your partner sees money. I work better on the large scale, and watching the nickels and dimes makes me slightly anxious. My husband finds the micro-finance comforting. He likes to think of money in separate “buckets”, I have one big mental “bucket”. Since the goal is to be more than the sum of our parts, we try to play to each of our strengths.

And a few more things I have learned along the way:

1. The only people whose opinion matter are you and your spouse. Don't bother to make a budget/buy a book/solicit advice from people online and show it to your spouse. No one has ever been won over by "everyone on this forum says I’m right.”

2. Listen to yourself first and last. If you feel uneasy, either you need to educate yourself more or you need to make changes.

3. Financial problems aren't really about money. They are about attitudes, control, fears, you name it. Money just adds stress to the fault lines that already exist in any relationship.

So, if you and your Perfect Match are going around and around about the same money issues, you may need to stop talking about money, and starting talking about everything else - with the help of a good therapist if need be. The money stuff will still be there when you are done, and you will be all the better for it.

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