So as confirmation of my point about couples and money earlier this week, last night I watched my first full episode of Househusbands of Hollywood and what was every couple talking about… Money!  Now I am not a big fan of reality TV (for reasons that I’m sure will make it into another blog post) but the dynamics of these couples, all of whom have women as the primary breadwinner, was an excellent example of the variety of ways in which money can be a sticking point for any couple.  Jillian (Barberie) Reynolds and her husband, Grant, were a great example of how even when there is more than enough money to pay the bills, differences in spending habits can quickly escalate into serious conflict.  As they debated the validity of her $8000 shopping trip to Neiman’s, it was easy to see that the issue of money is not just about making ends meet. In fact, another couple on the show had similar difficulty in reaching an agreement about how much spending is too much spending and it had nothing to do with how much was in their bank account.

Even outside the fantasy world of Hollywood, there are many couples (including many in the DC metro area) that are fortunate enough to not have to worry about how they will make their next mortgage payment or if they can put food on the table. While nearly everyone agrees that financial hardship often leads to marital conflict, many people might ask… do couples with financial stability really need help talking about money?  In a word…  yes,yes, yes!

We each attach a value to money that goes beyond its intrinsic ability to buy things.  These emotional values we place on each dollar impacts how we spend, how we save, and how we perceive our partner’s financial choices.  An argument over spending can quickly turn into a moral issue between spouses, just ask Jillian and Grant.  Power and control are also major players in the dance couples do around finance.  Whether its figuring out who makes the final decision on joint purchases or who manages the day to day finances, the underlying issue of who controls the money, and the relationship, is an important discussion for every couple to have.

Whether it’s worrying about paying for your childcare, saving for retirement, or just wanting to stop arguing every time one of you racks up a bill at Nordstrom, some form of couples counseling (like our Money & Marriage group) is a great place for every couple to start.  I think that far too often therapy is seen as a last ditch effort to save a relationship that’s been broken for a long time.  Why not view it as a tool to prevent problems or at least turn them around before they become overwhelming.  Whether it is a few individual sessions or a couples group, therapy offers couples an opportunity to communicate differently and get feedback on how to improve their connection to each other.

So, what do you think?  If you’ve seen Househusbands of Hollywood, what do you think of the couples ability to manage their money?  Have you learned how to talk effectively about finances in your relationship?  Do you have any tips for other couples struggling to work as partners when it comes to money? And as a side note… was anyone else completely surprised to learn that Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) from the The Cosby Show and Ron (Daryl Bell) from A Different World were a couple?  Who knew?!

Just a Reminder: A new couples money and marriage group is beginning this October and there are still spaces left.   And for those of you who are not married we are in the process of developing a similar program for single parents.  Keep checking the website for details coming soon.