Chapter 8: Root Issues Behind Money Fights
Money fights are one of the leading causes of conflict in relationships, and at times, if things don't change, those money fights can escalate and build up, leading to divorce. But with all problems/challenges that arise in relationships, there are “The Root Issues”, and then there is what grows from “The Root”, and that is “The Fruit”. The fruit that I am talking about in this chapter is “The Money Fight”. But in order to understand and overcome “The Fruit that Grows in our Life” (the Money Fight), we have to dig deeper to discover what “The Root Issues” are.
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Root Issues Behind MONEY FIGHTS
1. Spending Money as a Drug to Feel Good
In our lives, there are many reasons why we become fixated on gaining and collecting more and more “STUFF”. And most of us, here in America (the land of opportunity), have closets full of “STUFF”, garages full of “STUFF”, and even storages full of “STUFF”. Some Stuff we haven’t seen in years, because it’s buried in boxes, covered by the dust of “The Desires of Yesterday”! It’s great that we live in a country where most people have the freedom to make money, and then to spend their Money how they see fit. And although this is one of the things that makes our nation great, it is also one of the things that can create “challenges”.
One of the challenges I am referring to, has to do with our main stream media here in America. Seeds are planted in our young people's hearts through the commercials they watch, through the movies and TV shows they view, all the way down to the music they listen to, and the social media that they are glued to from sunrise to sunset. It all blends together to paint a picture in their minds of what having "a great life" is all about. And the main message that gets drilled into them (so that companies can sell their products and services) ... is .... "Happiness in life can be yours, all you have to do is buy our product, or pay for our service" (it's called Marketing)! The underlying message is that "Acquiring New Possessions + having More Fun = a Higher Social Status, resulting in an Amazingly Wonderful Life! After all, as long as you work hard in life, you deserve to have whatever pleases you, it's your right"!
As a young person they usually don’t have the ability to “access” that happiness “yet” (because their parents have all the money). So all they can do is hope that their parents will “let go of their money”, and spend it on them, so that they can be happy “like all their friends” (social status).
As time goes on, our young people eventually get to the place in life where they can get a job, make their own money, and then start to enjoy the freedom of spending money how they see fit. But little do they know, that there is a chemical reaction that occurs in a person’s brain, as they go through "The 7 Stages of Getting More Stuff”, and that the chemical reaction that gets triggered, makes them “Feel Good”, which acts very similar to a Medicating Drug (And the high is addicting too).
The SEVEN Stages of “Getting More STUFF”
1. Identify: We “Identify” a Possession that we want to own.
2. Plan: We come up with a Plan for "Attaining" the new possession (Cash? Credit? Theft?).
3. Anticipate: We "Anticipate" Owning the Possession ("if we can just get it, it will make my life better").
4. Peak: We finally "ATTAIN" the Possession, at any cost, achieving Peak-Happiness (Hooray, look what I have!).
5. Plummet: Peak-Happiness wears off in time, as we “Get used to owning the possession”.
6. Toss: Our "New Possession" eventually becomes “our Old Possession”, and ends up getting tossed into a Closet, Garage or Storage.
7. Repeat: We identify a new possession, then Repeat Steps 1-6.
As I look back on my childhood, I can remember celebrating Christmas with my family. Each year I would anxiously wait for Christmas morning to roll back in. With baited anticipation I would spend countless hours dreaming about all the “new toys and new STUFF” that I would have in my possession by mid-morning, on the 25th. My siblings and I would take turns opening our gifts in the hopes that our “Christmas Dreams” would soon come true.
There was one particular Christmas that really stood out. It was at my Grandparents house in Indiana, and as we began opening our presents that year, it seemed like every gift I received, was “off the charts Amazing"! (Ever have a Christmas like that?) I was in heaven that year, and can remember the feelings of joy that lasted for days and days, in fact I think it lasted almost an “entire week”! As you know, the feelings that we have, as we “search for, and anticipate owning a possession”, can almost be more enjoyable than the feeling that comes from actually “attaining it” (because that “happy” feeling wears off with time).
Looking back, it’s almost as if that Christmas morning messed me up, because each year I would walk away from the Christmas Tree feeling a little sad and depressed, realizing that the “$500 per child” budget, would never be attained again!!! Year after year, all I could do was convince myself that one day, I would be able to just buy the “Possessions of my dreams”, all by myself. Then, and only then would I truly be happy (happy like I was on that one Christmas morning).
Why do we keep going through this process, again and again, the process of wanting, getting, then getting bored with our “STUFF”? We do it because it’s “The Hunt”, or "The Anticipation", that makes us "feel good". Some would call it “Retail Therapy”, and yet others would call it “An Easy Sell” (That's what some Sales People see us as), and then other people would call it “CBD” (Compulsive Buying Disorder).
Retail Therapy or CBD (Compulsive Buying Disorder)
I recently looked up Retail Therapy on Wikipedia, the online Free Encyclopedia, and what I found made a lot of sense. It said that the other term for "Retail Therapy" was "Compulsive Buying Disorder" (CBD), which comes from the Greek word “oniomania”. The first part of the word “onio” means “for sale”, and the second part of the word “mania” means “insanity”.
CBD is described as being a disorder that causes a person to have “irresistible and uncontrollable” urges to engage in excessive and time-consuming retail activity … retail activity that is prompted by negative circumstances in life, such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and stress ... and inevitably leads to destructive social, personal and financial difficulties due to out of control impulse spending (debt, money fights, bankruptcy, divorce, etc).
CBD has it's roots in childhood, and is believed to stem from family situations to where the parent-child relationship is not there, and so the young people learn to find comfort and solace in the possessions they own (it replaces the care, attention and nuturing a parent would normally give the child). A person with CBD will use shopping as a “mood lifter”, which works very much like an “opiate to the brain”, and "can be" therapeutic, if a person does not go overboard, spending money they do not have (causing debt), or purchasing things they do not need (filling closets, garages and storages), which both lead to relationship challenges that turn into the
ever-so destructive "Money Fight". Researchers have also discovered that the “shopping experience” triggers a drug in your brain called dopamine, and when the dopamine kicks in, it gives you a euphoric “High”, just like other drugs do, helping you to "feel better".
University of Kentucky did research back in 1995 where they did a test on lab rats. They analyzed the reactions of the rats as the rats explored "new rooms" in a large cage. It showed that their dopamine level was heightened when the rats explored "a new room" in the cage, and yet going into a room that they had already been in, "did not" raise their dopamine level.
The study goes to prove that it is not the “Attaining", of the material possession that creates the Brain High, as much as it is “The Pursuit", of A New Possession, or New Experience, that gets you high. The "Moment" the New Possession is attained, the high starts wearing off, resulting in a new "Desire/Urge/Impulse" to find and acquire "A Newer-New Thing".
2. Different Spending Priorities
As we go through life we begin to learn and develop a certain “Value System” for what we believe we should, and “should not”, spend money on. Then one day, we fall in love, and decide to live together with someone for the rest of our lives as husband and wife, and yet because we’ve been raised in two completely different worlds, our Value Systems for spending money are different. For example, a person that grew up in the Great Depression in the 1930's is going to have a different Value System for what they spend money on (they tend to pinch more pennies thinking they won't have enough to make it), compared to a person who grew up in the Housing Bubble of the 2000’s (they tend to spend money in a more care-free fashion thinking they will always have plenty).
In my own marriage, I lived as a single man up until the time I was married in my mid-thirties. And when my wife and I got together I had grown up as a military officer’s kid, traveling the world, pretty much having all my needs met, and yet I was taught to be thrifty in my spending (some would call it “being a cheapskate – LOL). Then in my twenties I went through some rough years, to where I often times didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. Finally, in my thirties I began working for Churches, and believe me that is one of the quickest ways to find success, if your goal is to “not get rich”, and yet I was always blessed, and always had enough.
Then I got married, and I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn. I was completely flabbergasted that a person could actually spend money on clothing, shoes and make-up, in one shopping trip, and then proceed to spend more money on clothes, shoes and make-up just one week later. I thought for sure that my wife needed some therapy (I later learned that is was therapy, retail therapy). Then one day I was in a room with some other men that I highly respected, and they were all joking about how their side of the closet had been getting smaller and smaller until they were asked to move all their stuff out of the closet to make room for more of their wives clothing, shoes and purses. That is when I realized that I was the one that needed therapy, because women really do have much different spending priorities than men (for the most part).
The bottom line is that two people in a relationship, have different value systems, they have different priorities on what they feel comfortable spending money on, and that is okay.
3. Different Spending Personalities
I love how Dave Ramsey classifies the two different personalities that often times make up a relationship. The first one he calls “The Nerd”, and that is the type of person that is very mathematical, enjoys working with budgets, tries to live life in a “Thrifty” manor, saving where they can, and avoiding making what they consider to be, “unnecessary purchases” (This is me).
The second personality, Dave Ramsey calls “The Free Spirit”, and that is the type of person who pays very little attention to budgets, pays very little attention to how much money they actually have in their bank account, and basically freely spends money knowing that “everything will work out one way or the other” (this is my wife, and yet she is not "wrong", she just has a different personality than me).
When it comes to relationships, spending money is not the problem, the problem comes into play when you and your spouse are not on the same page. If both people were Nerds (which is the case at times), then everything is good (except they don’t have much fun together, because they pinch "every" penny). If both people are Free Spirits then everything is good "Conflict-wise", (except they might end up "Shopping" themselves into Bankruptcy). So the best case scenario is for two people to understand their personalities, and work together as a team to “spend within their means”, avoiding the dangers of debt.
In Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Seminar, he strongly recommends that both the Nerd, and the Free-Spirit, sit down and whole heartily agree together, to take their Credit Cards and destroy them. Then begin the process of learning how to spend only what they actually own (it's possible you know, people do it every day).
Here is a simple "Credit" analogy ... if you work at your job and receive $1000 for one month's pay, then you pay all your bills that total $800 (food, gas, rent, auto, etc.), you would then have $200 left over to do what you want with (money to buy things, have fun, etc.). At that point you could either budget to spend your $200 at a "$50 per week" rate, or you could spend it faster.
The Going Into DEBT Cycle
1. We're brain washed to believe that we deserve to get whatever we want, at any cost.
2. We spend too much time "chasing the high" that comes from acquiring the "New STUFF" (so that we can feel good and relieve our stress).
3. When we get our $200 we spend it right away (Impulse Shopping), then later on when we really "need something" we're broke, so what do we do? We borrow money to get what we need (swipe our credit cards), because we've already spent all our money on getting what we "impulsively wanted, at that moment".
So payday rolls around again ... and last month, we spent our $200, but then we borrowed an extra $100 ... so if we pay back the $100 (out of our monthly $200), how much "Fun Money" will we have for the Month?Answer: $100 (that's not much fun). So what do we do? We pay back $25 of the $100 we borrowed (leaving us $75 in debt), then we spend our $175 (Leftover Fun Money) right away, then later on we need something so we "Swipe our Credit Cards", bringing our DEBT up to $175 ($75 + $100) ... Making a $25 Monthly Payment, bringing our new debt amount to $250 ... and so on, and so on.
Schedule time to discuss the Five P's of Finances with your Spouse
1. Personality: Discuss what each of your personalities are (Nerd, Free Spirit, A Blend of both). Then discuss the concept of working toward "excepting" your significant other, as having a different personality than your own. Brainstorm and discuss possible ways for the two of you to use your different personalities "as a team". Perhaps one would create a budget (sharing the details with the other), while the other could come up with "creative and thrifty" ways to have fun, based upon a budget that both of you are comfortable with (Making "We Decisions" together).
2. Priorities: Discuss how your “Spending Priorities”, are different than your Spouses, and how "it’s okay" for them to spend money on things that you don’t have on your "Spending Priority List". Remember, if you are going to exert a lot of time and energy on trying to change your spouse (and change their spending priorities), it will only lead to a life of "walking on eggshells", and you will never have the fun together that you used to "back in the beginning", when it was okay for them to be who they were.
3. Passion: Talk about the process that we go through when we passionately desire “just one more" possession, in life. First we “Identify” a new possession, then we “Plan” to acquire it, after that we “Anticipate” owning it, then finally we "Attain" it (thinking that it will bring us happiness or fulfillment in life). Then give each other permission to hold the other person accountable for their individual “Pursuit of the Possession”, knowing that the feeling that comes from owning “STUFF” is only temporary. And that it would be better to just use their money to make purchases “Together” realizing that Making “We Decisions” is much healthier than making “Me Decisions” (See Chapter 2 on the Power of Making We Decisions).
4. Planning: Sit down with your significant other and make a list of all your bills and their amounts. Then signify a monthly date/dates to pay the bills. For example, because I am the Nerd in the family, I draft up our list of monthly bills on the 15th of every month, I show them to my wife, and then we pay them using a joint account that both of us put money in. We then pay our mortgage around the 1st of every month, using the same account. This way she knows how much money is going out each month, and so do I. This helps us to avoid a lot of trouble. It was a lot of work to get started on making our budget list, but the peace that it has brought, is definitely “1000% Better than our old way”.
5. Purpose: One of the reasons we use money to feel good, or to relieve stress, is because we are lacking purpose in our lives. For a lot of us, we often feel like all we do is go to work, come home, do more work (cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids, etc). Then the weekend rolls around, and all we can think of is how we can relax, unwind, or have fun in some way. So what do we do, we grab our wallets or our purses, and we go out and "Spend Some Money"!
But what we are really missing is something most people don't see much, and that is called fulfillment. So in this last step of the homework, I want you to discuss ways that you can use your free time, to do things that you find fulfilling, instead of focusing on things that make you "feel good for the moment". It could be sponsoring a child in Africa, or finally doing what it takes to get more exercise, or volunteering in your child's school, or in your Church. Or it could be that you have a job or career, that you really don't feel fulfilled in, so maybe you need to map out a plan to back to school to get training and educating on making the switch to "working 40 hours a week", to doing what you love to do for 40 hours a week. That's what I did, and I haven't really worked in years, because I switched from "having a job", to "doing what I love to do", all week long.