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Episode Summary

We’ve all seen, heard and read that money is cited as a leading cause of divorce in marriages.

Of course, financial advisors who work with couples don’t need research to convince them.

Working with couples doesn’t just mean navigating their finances. It means navigating an emotional and complex relationship dynamic.

It’s not just a matter of aligning the numbers. Oftentimes, it’s a matter of aligning two completely different belief systems.

Let’s use an example of a couple experiencing tension around spending decisions.

The husband wants to live in an expensive house located in a prestigious neighborhood, prefers to fly first class, only buys high-end brands and has become best friends with the Amazon Prime delivery people.

The wife sees the mortgage payment from that house and thinks of all the others ways that money could be saved.

She doesn’t understand why you fly first class when the coach seats get you to the same destination, she sticks to generic clothes brands, and she even takes all of this to the extreme in an attempt to compensate for the husband’s spendthrift ways.

For most financial advisors, the initial reaction will be to conclude that the wife is responsible and the husband is irresponsible.

But, what looks irrational on paper makes complete sense when looked at through a different lens.

We’ve had a few different podcast episodes now with guests explaining how our past experiences, particularly in childhood, are the primary influencers of our current attitudes, beliefs and behaviors around money. (See links to other episodes below)

The husband was raised in a family environment that saw his parents divorce when he was young. And, out of guilt and in an attempt to win back his love, both parents would shower him with lavish gifts and experiences. Thus, he grew up equating love with nice things and the implicit understanding that money gives you status.

The wife, on the other hand, grew up in a family where nothing was fixed unless it was absolutely necessary (think duck tape on the bumper of a car). She wasn’t given the nice things she wanted. In fact, if she really wanted something, she had to work, earn money and save up for it. She learned that spending money was a waste and it was better off being stored up.

Our past experiences and upbringing form our current attitudes, beliefs and behaviors around money, which guide our current financial decision making today.

And when you combine two different upbringings with two different sets of beliefs around money, that’s where the tension occurs.

But it’s also why you have to go backwards to go forwards.

In other words, in order for couples to align themselves on the path to what Ed Coambs calls “financial intimacy,” they first have to develop an understanding of, not only, their past experiences, but also, their partner’s.

Once you do that, you develop a level of sympathy and understanding for your partner’s financial decisions.

So, when the husband wants to book a 5-star luxury hotel on their next anniversary, the wife now has a lens through which to understand this decision.

At the same time, it’s the husband’s responsibility to also look through this lens and understand why he wants to stay in a 5-star hotel and start working on detaching money and status.

This is a key step on the path to financial intimacy and success as a couple.

The challenge for advisors, though, is knowing how to uncover and use that information in meetings with their couple clients.

Ed Coambs combines a background in financial therapy and financial planning and offers some insights on how to understand and navigate the complex dynamics of working with couples.

Things You’ll Learn

  • Why most money arguments among couples aren’t actually about money
  • How our upbringing and experiences from our past inform our current attitudes and beliefs around money
  • Why our upbringing and experiences from out past is the main source of money conflict in relationships
  • The Four Attachment Styles: A framework for understanding how people navigate their relationships
  • How your money beliefs actually start when you’re in the womb
  • How family history plays into your current attitudes, beliefs and behaviors around money
  • Implicit Money Memories: The lessons that were “caught” not “taught”
  • Examples of how your attachment style manifests itself in financial decisions with a spouse
  • The most effective way to engage and involve a spouse that is not interested
  • How to navigate the conversation when one couple is a dreamer and the other one is overly rational

About Ed Coambs

Ed Coambs is the founder of Healthy Love & Money, the author of The Healthy Love & Money Way: How The Four Attachment Styles Impact Your Financial Well-Being, and an international thought leader in financial therapy.

He leads couples from financial despair and frustration into financial intimacy using the latest in love and brain science. He has a master’s degree in business, counseling, and financial planning.

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