The psychological effects of money in a relationship


"I have to make a confession," a young bridegroom said to his bride shortly before their wedding. "I only earn 2,000 dollars a month. Do you think you can make a living with that?"

"In a pinch yes," the bride replies in this old joke. "But what do YOU want to live off?"

Men earn money and women spend it - this cliche is true for less couples compared to just a generation ago. But has the way of handling money among married couples truly changed? Many believe it hasn't. Our relationship towards money is archaic.

If couples fight about money, then this is usually subconsciously connected to financial conflicts in their family background, according to Professor Rolf Haubl, a social psychologist in Germany.

A "money handling style" is learned early on and then remains stable. "Often latent relationship problems are expressed through money," says Haubl, who is the director of the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt.

Money signifies something different for men than for women. Men link money to success and power, while for women it signifies security and autonomy. In a society like ours, where money plays such an important role, it becomes a medium that "structures all our relationships surreptitiously," Haubl says.

He considers "monetary competence" one of the most important cultural techniques. "Not only should we learn early on what to do with money, but what it does with us."

Jochen Cunz, a relationship counsellor, rarely meets couples that fight over money. He has coached almost 500 couples and helped them through crisis situations in his more than 20 years work experience. The most common problems are communication and sexual problems.

Another observation: "Women use their power over children and men over money."

If you look at your circle of friends you will find two types of couple. One will follow the mantra: "Why shouldn't we share our money? We share everything else as well: children, house, bed, name - why not the bank account?"

The other group will have a different point of view: "It's unthinkable for me to give up my bank account. It's living proof of being autonomous." Both groups will probably have known couples from their childhood where the husband paid his wife a monthly housekeeping allowance.

Banks have little in the way of information to supply about the question of how couples handle money today. Interesting question, they all agree - but no-one can provide answers. There are, however, a few theories.

"Younger couples are less likely to share a bank account than their parents," says one expert for the area of bank account strategy. The reason: "The pursuit of financial individuality and autonomy tends to result in more single bank accounts."



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