Couples who have a penthouse on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, send their children to the most exclusive private schools, have a home in the Hamptons, and ski at Davos in the Swiss alps in the winter, may often feel stretched financially as the pressure to maintain a certain life style is enormous. While everything looks perfect on the outside, the internal structure may be crumbling. Money pressures are often high on the list of pressures that couples struggle with and often exceed in-law troubles and sexual issues. These reactions might go as far as feelings of enormous shame at the prospect of driving a less expensive car. In addition, the sharing of one’s personal wealth in a relationship is often tied in with self worth and can cause stress and anxiety when one partner, for example, is more dependent on the other partner financially or if there are different spending patterns between partners.
The need to maintain outward perfection and to maintain a certain life style often covers internal insecurities. It may also arouse the envy of others and create alienation in the couple relationship as well as filtering down to the children who must wear name brand sneakers and designer jeans. Money can concretely symbolize confirmation of worth and value. One will desire more and more money as long as nothing challenges the belief that money can command emotional as well as material goods from others who maintain similar belief in its validating power. When one believes strongly that money is able to answer emotional needs, the desire for it is insatiable. Freud wrote: “Money questions will be treated by cultured people in the same manner as sexual matters, with the same inconsistency, prudishness, and hypocrisy.” More than 90 years later so many can talk of sex yet remain elusive about money, and nearly all feel considerable anxiety, embarrassment, and conflict over openly dealing with money.
Dianne Heller Kaminsky, LCSW, BCD
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