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  • Writer's pictureAmy Kay Cole, PhD

Sex, Money, and In-Laws

Sex, money, and in-laws. Those are three of the most common battlegrounds in a marriage. I have discussed these issues with many couples and have found that money battles are uniquely complicated. How we spend money reflects our values. Couples might pursue counseling to address money problems and soon discover they are addressing core differences in what they value. All couples differ in some values simply by being raised in different homes. Differences are not insurmountable unless they cannot be discussed. Couples counseling is one avenue for addressing those differences productively.

Financial landmines exist soon after couples begin dating. Who pays for dinners, movies, and trips? What happens when there is a large disparity in income? What if one spouse doesn’t work? I’ve worked with couples who like the idea of an allowance for a spouse who doesn't work outside the home, while other others are offended by that suggestion from their partner. What about bank accounts, student loans, helping in-laws? How much money will go for children’s cars, tuition, and first apartments? Merging finances becomes even more complicated when merging families with children from previous relationships.

Marriages between a spender and a saver are obviously difficult. Financial infidelity can occur between all couples and includes lying about purchases or hiding money from a partner. Healthy long-term relationships have shared goals and many goals have a financial cost. Some partners are more willing to sacrifice for those goals than others. I have worked with clients who don’t think about money. Sure, they spend it, but they don’t have a general philosophy about what they spend or when they spend it. On the other end of the spectrum, I see clients who are obsessed with money and evaluate their worth based on how much they have accumulated. Everyone has a complex history around the concept of money. It is highly unlikely that two individuals who fall in love will have identical financial perspectives.

Many couples come to a shared, healthy financial perspective on their own. Some couples struggle for years with financial conflict. Couples counseling can provide a calm, safe space where couples can discuss money without the discussion getting overheated and unproductive. Before considering couples counseling, think about reading the attached article and following the advice with your partner. I'll address sex and in-law conflict in future blog posts. Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

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