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Family or Marriage Finances & Money

Dealing With a Money Mistress

By Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil

This is a guest post by Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil. Dr. Weil has been an internationally acclaimed relationship therapist for thirty years. New York magazine named her one of the city’s top therapists and Psychology Today named her one of America’s best therapists. Her most recent book, Financial Infidelity, is available on her site, http://doctorbonnie.com. As a note, she uses the word “Mistress”, but this topic applies to both sexes.

If you’re aware of financial or sexual infidelities going on in your relationship, you’re likely to fall into some financial infidelities of your own, or succumb to the “money mistress.”

A few examples of financial infidelity

  • When one partner does not tell the other about work-related bonuses, but instead keeps the money for themselves
  • Overwriting checks at drugstores or overcharging groceries and pocketing the cash
  • When one person uses money or spending as a way of “keeping score”

When you know things like this are going on in your relationship, it’s tempting to retaliate with similar behaviors of your own. You may even be in a relationship where you’re aware of a sexual affair, and you’re using your bank account to “get back” at the other person.

In addition to this money mistress you’ve now created, you’re also taking part in what I call a “PoP shot” – or a “Pi$$ed-off Purchase!” You’re fueled by anger towards the other person’s infidelities – whether they’re sexual or financial – and you decide to take action by using the bank account for leverage.

Of course, there are other versions of this situation that aren’t as drastic. Perhaps one person in a relationship tends to make spontaneous or significant purchases that put a shared budget in distress. The person may try to justify this behavior, but if it keeps happening time and again, it’s only a matter of time before resentment and distrust will begin to influence how the couple interacts around money. If one partner continues to spend, the other may feel entitled to spend a similar amount, or in a similar way – creating another type of money mistress.

There are many underlying issues here, but one key solution is to learn to fight fair. Don’t let money be your weapon. Here are a few rules to make sure you talk about money, while not letting it control your relationship:

Rules to Help Money Conversations

  1. Make an appointment – you want the other person to be engaged in the conversation, so make sure it’s a good time for them, too. You should make an “appointment” for a specific time to make sure that the issue will be handled.
  2. Put time limits on the “fight” – it’s OK to walk away and come back later as long as it’s mutual and done with respect. Everyone has different thresholds for what they can tolerate during an argument.
  3. Use “I” sentencesdon’t blame or criticize
  4. Echo what you hear and validate your partner’s feelings – truly listen to the other person and let them hear you repeat their thoughts and concerns back to them. This assures them that you ARE paying attention and not just continuing with your “agenda.”
  5. Detach from your emotions – try not to let your responses be emotional, but rather focus on the facts and the truth.

After a fair and productive fight, remember things that each person needs to work on, and commit to trying to change the behaviors that may have created “money mistresses” or “pi$$ed-off purchases” in the past.

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