Fighting about money? Financial therapy gets to the heart of the matter | Guest Post by Connie Linas

This is a guest blog post on the theme of enhancing relationships, to celebrate the launch of Keely Kolmes’s upcoming monthly Relationship Skills Workshop. The first workshop will meet on Saturday, April 11th. The second one, just for singles, is May 16th. You can sign up here for newsletter updates. Those who receive the newsletter will get bonus videos and tips!

Fighting about money? Financial therapy gets to the heart of the matter

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One of my areas of specialty is counseling people in relationships about their feelings and values around money. Often, people aren’t aware of the underlying emotions they have during arguments, especially about money. One of the ways I help is to guide partners in a process to discover and talk about their feelings and the needs they have. This process helps root you in developing a connection with your partner, and for many people, this is a brand new way to resolve conflicts.

This blog post explains a little more about some of the themes and emotions that frequently come up when partners have fights about money.

Fear Motivates

Fear comes up often around money. Most of us can identify fear when we delve deeply enough to see what motivates us. What’s behind the job offer we just accepted and the other job we never applied for? We might admit, at least to ourselves, “I was scared.”

Of course, fear is an essential emotion. It alerts us to run from the proverbial burning building. So we can’t live without it, but do we know how to recognize it and get support when we’re in it? Most of have a hard time with that and need some help. A relationship counselor can help you identify the emotions you’re having and provide a supportive environment to discuss them with our partner.

When Security Turns to Fear turns to Anger

In addition to fear, we also might feel very positive during conversations with our partners about money; many of us feel adventurous, secure, appreciated, and grateful. And yet I’ve seen each of these emotions turn quickly to fear.

For example, someone will tell their partner about their ideal vacation plans for an adventurous time away, filled with excitement in one of our sessions. But fear may creep up and anger can turn to rage when their partner brings up all the debt they’re trying to pay off. The shift can happen in the blink of an eye.

Very quickly, they may start to try to prove to each other why they need to spend money this way or that. They may even start to feel their very relationship is being threatened…how can anyone spend the rest of their life with someone who will never go on a vacation?! And how can anyone think NOW is a good time to spend money on luxuries…we must not have the same priorities so this will never work!

The Heart of the Matter

Here, as with many money arguments, they’re missing the dialogue that will get to the heart of the matter: an open hearted dialogue about what they’re feeling and what underlying needs their actions are fulfilling. For example, what does an adventurous vacation mean to your sense of vitality or other needs you have? What would it feel like to share that experience with a partner? And how do you feel when you’re in debt and want out? Would paying debt meet your need for autonomy and freedom? Or perhaps there are other needs that would be met?

According to Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, this process of developing awareness of – and sharing with others – our feelings and needs brings us to a natural state of compassion for ourselves and our loved ones. For most of us this is a new mindset and a new way of viewing conflict.

CONNIE LINAS, LCSW (LCS22837) is a financial therapist, couples counselor, and psychotherapist in Oakland, California specializing in the areas of money, health, and relationships. Learn more at