Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Couples and Money: The Law of Fellowship & Getting on Board

There's a 1950's Americana perspective of personal finance that highlights an image of Dad going out to "bring home the bacon," while Mom stayed home, tending to all things related to children and the home.  Dad was seen as the person that handled the family finances, taking charge of debt repayments, savings, investing, and the like.  Mom's contribution would entail frugality and matters of "home economics."  From this era sprung generations of adults with disconnected views of how money should operate within their relationships. Perhaps in some cases, the roles have reversed with Mom being the clever one with money, and Dad staying out of her way.  Regardless, the theme remains one of disconnection.

I've been with my partner for more than 13 years, and our relationship with money started off in a similar boat.  I was knowledgeable, focused, and determined when it came to our finances, and she was happy to stay out of my way.  In all actuality, she was much less committed to our finances, with the saving grace being that she was at least mildly afraid of doing something with our finances that would upset me. Unfortunately, "being afraid of making a mistake" was also a poor setup, as it already established a pattern of resistance that had taken hold inside of her own relationship with money.  As much as we'd like to, we can't force our partners to be willing to work on their relationship with money.  This has to be something they come to on their own.  What we can do is help them to get there.  We can play a critical role in discovering the "why."

The Law of Fellowship suggests that when two or more people of a similar vibration come together for a shared purpose, their combined energy will be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled when directed at the attainment of that shared goal. This universal law is used in covens, churches, meditation groups, and yes, even personal finance.  I'm sure you've read stories about how some family of four paid off some insane amount of debt in a super short period of time, or how a couple in their thirties somehow managed to quit their job and travel full time. This didn't happen by accident.  This is a prime example of the power of the Law of Fellowship.  These examples show the power of having a unified vision.

Now, I'm sure a number of you are ready to run into the other room and yell at your partner that they need to "get on the same page" with you about money!  Don't do that!  It doesn't work, I've tried!  But all joking aside, naggings someone isn't an effective strategy if the goal is to get unified.  In fact, it's likely to cause more resistance to the idea than anything.  So what do you do?

Create A Shared Purpose:

I'm probably the only person I know that finds organizing debt payoff strategies, fun.   Most likely, your partner will not be enticed by the idea of simply eliminating a debt or have a savings account.  Those are the actions you want to inspire, but they aren't the inspiration itself if that makes sense.  You need something bigger.  You need a "why" that you both care enough about.  The first step to creating the sense of unity you desire, is to set up a "Dreaming Date."  We have dream dates periodically.  Often times, we have a "living room happy hour" where we pour a glass of wine, have no television on, nothing to distract us, and just talk.  We talk about our dreams.  No limits.  No plan.  This isn't the time for that.  There is no dream too big or too small.  You should plan to go first.  This is the moment to share your dreams fearlessly.  No judgment.  Don't stop yourself midway and announce to the room that you "know it isn't practical."  Just let it flow.  Let your partner jump in if they want to add to your dream.  This often happens; it's co-creating at it's finest.  Ask your partner what they would do if they had no limitations.  I can tell you that at ours we say things like "I want to own a van, and use it to travel across the U.S. and Canada." We might also say "I want to be able to work from anywhere, so we can travel the world."  Everything is fair game. You see, the "Dreaming Date" isn't the place to talk strategy or to develop an action plan.  It's the place to co-create a vision for your future.  The action plan will come later.  

Inspired Action:

The "Dreaming Date" should have you both feeling really good, and that's a good time to say "How can we make some of this happen?"  You may be inspired to start working on one or two of these ideas immediately, or you might find yourselves drawn to several smaller actions that build in the direction of something you discussed.  If you are both drawn to the larger purpose, you will find yourselves inspired to do certain things that build toward it.  The truth is I'm not entirely sure I can tell you the precise moment my partner "got on board," but she did.  I started to notice that I was no longer working alone somewhere after we decided that we wanted to buy our own house.  Something that had come from our dreaming together was a shared desire to live in a home that we owned.  That shared desire inspired her to want to be a part of creating that situation for us.

The Monthly Money Meeting:

Once or twice a month, we have a "Money Meeting."  We make it really nice.  Sometimes we have coffee or tea, some mellow music, but no distractions.  My partner pulls out the pretty little book she uses to document her financial life.  It really is beautiful, and I think somehow that adds to the feeling that this meeting is a time for us to co-create our financial lives for the month.  We have joint accounts, as well as separate ones.  Having her very own savings account that was all hers was instrumental in her transformation into someone that has a positive relationship with money. Her resolve grew as she was able to see small successes along the way, and these Monthly Money Meetings can help with that.  These money meetings are used to give us permission to do things with our money that we really want.  That makes this an exciting time, not "the dreaded bill payday."  Most of our bills are on autopilot, so there's not much to say about that.  

She might say "I went through my credit card.  We put $500 on it for the car rental, gas, and food for that little trip we took.  We also put $200 in grocery delivery on it.  So, I'm transferring $200 from our joint checking to take care of the grocery portion.  I also transferred $50 into the savings for health expenses."

Then, I will add "Okay, I am transferring $500 from the vacation account into joint checking.  You can take that for your credit card too.  I've already transferred our usual amount into the joint savings."

We both get to speak in the manner in which we use our money.  She might suggest that we save even more this month toward a goal, or we might discuss that I've been seriously craving Thai food and that we want to plan for take-out this weekend.  My partner and I have both reached new highs in our individual savings accounts as well as our joint one.  In part, this is due to our ability to work together in organizing our finances at these meetings.  

I must say, my relationship with my partner has probably never been stronger, and her relationship with money has never been stronger.  When I spoke to her about writing this piece, I wanted to know what changed for her. She told me "I had to have a vision, and I had to see my progress."

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