We all know families who live modestly and have no financial disputes, but we also know wealthy couples who fight over money all the time. Why is it so? Because it’s not about income and expenses, it’s about the level of financial relationship the partners are in.
Modern family life is different from the scenario in which mankind has evolutionarily evolved. There are a lot of services that have taken over the provision of everyday life, and we have more time and opportunities. The masculine and feminine are not the same now as they were a hundred years ago.
Couples take it to a new level: they start to communicate more and value their partner as a person rather than as a resource. From this comes the desire to reasonably negotiate with each other in all matters, including financial matters. But for agreements to be reached and implemented and for the couple to be strong, the spouses must be at the same level of attitude towards money and be able to identify each other’s financial “risk profile”.
LEVEL 1: PATRIARCHAL INHERITANCE
At a basic level, money is a cult. Archaic worship of the golden calf is still common. Family capital here is formed by one member of the couple, often the man. This is a very authoritarian story because only the earner decides how much money to allocate for the family, what to spend it on. The woman in this culture is ‘cut off’ from the process of resource extraction, so she usually deifies the male breadwinner and at the same time hates him, realising that she will not be able to survive on her own. This is a classic Stockholm syndrome situation.
But strangely enough, a basic attitude towards money can make a marriage very strong – of course if both spouses are in the same developmental cycle. Then the established hierarchy is not challenged by anyone and the thought of divorce never crosses anyone’s mind. If, however, one spouse has moved to a new level in their relationship to money, conflicts within the family are inevitable.
LEVEL 2: THE UNFAVOURABLE COURSE
On the second level there is a struggle for resources between husband and wife. Each wants sole control over all income, while suppressing their partner and feeling independent.
The whole life of such a couple is an exchange of one resource for another at different rates that depend on social stereotypes. For example, sexual attraction is exchanged for comfort and stability, having a child for guaranteed security. It is at this level that couples usually experience the most acute conflicts – they occur because of an intuitive disagreement with the partner’s “inner courses”.
If the breadwinner in the family is male, he runs the risk of becoming the hero of sex jokes
This currency eventually begins to depreciate in his eyes and its exchange rate falls. The female breadwinner has even more problems with the internal exchange rate: any man who is inferior to her in terms of income automatically becomes a regular client of the psychoanalyst because of the eternal neurosis caused by an inferiority complex and the destruction of identity.
This, of course, does not add to the durability of the relationship. Especially since modern women are often guided by two financial stereotypes:
- A man should earn more;
- all of his money should be considered as shared funds of the family (as opposed to a woman’s personal income).
The conflict line at the second level of the relationship runs along the boundary of ‘should-expect’. Therefore, couples who find themselves here need to learn to negotiate, regardless of social conventions and cultural traditions. Either clearly define a hierarchy in money-related matters, delineate rights and responsibilities. A prenuptial agreement, for example, may be a good way out.
LEVEL 3: EQUALITY
People who have moved up to this level feel equal in all relationships, including financial relationships. The couple usually have some common interest or common business that allows both to develop. A man and a woman are together not because of a resource, but because they are looking in the same direction. They are not interested in societal customs, they form their own norms for themselves, based on individual freedom and respect for each other.
The money they earn is the fuel that allows them to move on. A common interest, common priorities leave no room for arguments about where to spend the money left over from household expenses. They have a goal that is more important than resource issues, so the man and woman can easily agree on contentious issues.
Family budget of such a couple is not difficult to build
Man and woman agree that each of them should contribute to family account, for example, 50% of their income, and keep the rest for personal expenses. This scheme works in all circumstances, even if one of the spouses has no income. The family is perceived as a common project. The distribution of the family budget is also a joint effort. 10-20% should be set aside and invested immediately, and the rest should be divided between necessary purchases, payment of bills, and entertainment expenses.
With this approach, you don’t have to give your entire salary to your wife or agree on who buys what for the house. Common budget, which absorbs only a part of personal income, is transparent to both spouses, it eliminates conflict and strengthens the marriage. But this ideal arrangement only works if both spouses are on a common third level of financial relationship.