There are two major , and overlapping, themes that emerge in my therapy room : sexuality and money. He will present with an erection difficulty or early ejaculation and she will express no desire for sexuality.
Disagreements over money are one of the top causes of couple fights and divorce. We feel shame, and this shame prevents us getting financially naked with a partner. We keep our finances private so the idea of talking about them with a partner, can be terrifying. We shut down . And sexually and emotionally it will keep us in deficit for sure.
Sitting quietly with a couple who presents with a sexual difficulty, very quickly I get that the root of the problem is not sexual but financial. Finances are so deeply personal and so deeply political too. Money smacks of personal success and leads to terrible social and personal stigma – as if there is something wrong, broken or deficient about you if you don’t have it. Or if you too little savings. debt, poor financial hygiene.
As you think about your own family narratives & history around money, I am sure you feel it somewhere in your body – either a sudden stomach , head /neck/shoulder contraction as you remember your world changing when your dad lost all his money or when your mother struggled to get maintenance out of him, or when your father found out that your mother had gambled away all the monthly money.
This makes you money weary , afraid , so you will either give it away , show it off, bank and hoard it and be surprised when you end up in a relationship in which sexuality is dependent on feeling financially secure.
Consider your own money story. Did you grow up in a traditional culture that stated the man is the primary (even only) breadwinner, or an egalitarian family in which women were equally expected to share the financial burden. Perhaps you were raised by a single mom who left you with a psychologically independent relationship with money , making it difficult for you to depend on anyone else to contribute … but leaves you feeling over burdened and thus sexually cut off? Or you may just be a product of evolution that gets women to be more attracted to men with money or with high ambition so despite being a millennial woke person , you still want him to pay for dinner?
There are three different types of financial problems couples often bring to therapy: those directly related to the external facts of the economy, those deriving from money conflicts within the relationship, and those reflecting the chronic addictive financial behaviors of one or both partners. Whichever afflicts you , it matters to your sexuality and intimacy.
Get a sense of your current money issues by answering these questions :
* Have you lost a job or had a pay cut?
* Unexpected medical expenses?
* Lost significant investments or retirement funds?
* Do you have a long history of arguing about money ?
* What are the main issues that you argue about over money ?
* Have you worked out your own financial “style” and negotiated the difference between yours and your partners. For example, not only how how you spend money , save it, record keep, budget, but also your values re materialism and lifestyle aspirations
* Do you have money secrets from your partner?
I recall a couple in which the man was the primary breadwinner and his wife was dependent on a monthly allowance from him. With great courage, as it is never easy for a man to talk about money lack, he asked her to be more frugal with her allowance as he was going through a dark time financially. He wanted her to buy only necessities and save the rest of her allowance. A month later she continued to spend on what he considered frivolous items such as ear rings , scarves and sushi meals. She refused to get a job and contribute to the household.
This forced him into controlling her financial behaviour . She felt like a child . And as you can imagine , this led to intimate detaching and sexual withholding .
Talking about money means discussing decisions about work, ambition, spending habits, debt and more. Here are some ideas on how to do this :
CREATE FINANCIAL INTIMACY
1. Make a time to discuss finances – this ensures contained conversations. Rather than being reactive about money when a crisis occurs or when you feel afraid or excited about wanting something, a contained conversation allows for less financial anxiety.
2. Stop judging and listen . You have different values due to different family beliefs and your own financial histories. Intimacy occurs when you feel heard and respected. Expand that into your financial discussions.
3. Embrace the differences: Speak about each other’s “wants’ versus “needs” . Try understand and not personalise why your partner wants to spend his/her/they bonus whilst you want to save it. Just like you embrace sexual and intimacy differences, so you embrace financially emotional differences.
4. Don’t keep secrets. Do not buy stuff and hide it from your partner. Or lie about the price tag. You will be found out. It will make your partner feel as if you are cheating on them . It’s no different hiding a lover from your partner.
5. Make a financial commitment to honouring agreements you have made as a couple- taking into consideration your differences. for example, commit to being accountable for all major purchases and decisions on where money is spent.
6. Save for a rainy day. Ensure there is a back up plan. It equals relationship commitment . And when there is commitment , intimacy is heightened.
for more information on financial intimacy, contact me