You aren’t the only one making decisions that affect your financial future. If you have a spouse or partner, their decisions are an integral part of the development of your wealth. To a lesser extent, the decisions of your other family members, including your parents, your siblings, and your children, and even the decisions of your friends, can also affect your own finances.
If those relationships are healthy, supportive relationships, they can stimulate your financial growth and help you towards success.
If those relationships are toxic or filled with distracting drama, they may be holding you back.
Earlier this month, we talked about building a great professional network, but today, we’re going to focus on fostering healthy personal relationships.
Let’s get started.
Communication Is The Key
I think any relationship can be improved with good communication. People aren’t mind-readers, and they very often do not know what you need from them, unless you tell them.
When it comes to your spouse (I use the term loosely — take it as any long-term romantic relationship), communication is vital.
Your partner must be included in financial discussions. They must be informed and have a good picture of the state of your finances together. Even if one partner makes most of the financial decisions for the household, it’s important that the other partner have a voice in the decision-making process.
I think people are often confused by just what communication is. Communication isn’t screaming at each other when someone accidentally overdraws the checking account. It’s not making passive aggressive comments on Facebook about how your wife spends too much money, and it’s not pointedly sniping at your dad about his gambling addiction.
Communication is calm, honest, and direct interaction that leads to progressive decisions.
To communicate with someone, you have stay calm. Volatile emotions like anger or frustration make everyone involved defensive, and when we feel attacked, we want to isolate ourselves and put up barriers. Even if the other person has a legitimate point, and even if we can recognize that point, we may not want to back down, simply because their anger makes us feel like we need to defend our behavior.
Good communication is honest communication. I don’t just mean that you have avoid actual lies. You certainly should do that, but dishonest communication is more subtle than overt lies. Honest communication requires you to resist the temptation to tell someone what you think they want to hear.
To communicate honestly with someone, you have to put aside worries about how they’ll react to what you say. If you’re anxious that they might become angry or disgusted with you (even if those are irrational anxieties), that’s a barrier to honest communication. If you’re worried they’ll think less of you or leave you, that’s a barrier. Honest communication requires a degree of vulnerability and trust.
Communication is direct. When you have something to say to someone, you have to say it TO them. You have to put away the distractions, and you have to look directly at them, and make sure they have your full attention.
Remove Toxicity and Drama From Your Life
Some relationships are just bad. That’s true of the friends we keep, it’s true of the people we fall in love with, and it’s even true of our relationships with our parents. Often, these relationships are long ones that have a history of bitterness, disappointment, and conflict tied up in them. Untangling all of that is a complicated and exhausting process, and it can ONLY happen if both parties want to make things better.
Sometimes, this toxicity is mental or emotional. Your mother ruthlessly crushes your business dreams by saying you’re too stupid to ever make money with your idea. Your friends mock you for trying to save money and flaunt their extravagant lifestyles. Your boyfriend gets explosively angry and defensive at the first mention of a financial discussion.
Sometimes, this toxicity crosses a line and starts having a very real and tangible effect on your financial health. Your brother manages to open a credit card in your name and ruins your credit. Your sister steals money from you to support a drug habit, or the girlfriend who moved in six months ago blows all her income on new clothes instead of helping you with the rent.
Fixing these relationships isn’t easy. You can tell your mother that it hurts you when she crushes your dreams, but she has to make the choice to stop doing it. If she isn’t willing to make that choice, that toxicity will persist, until you decide to step away from it entirely. If your sister steals money from you to support her drug habit, that toxicity will only change if she decides to seek help for her problem. You can take steps to protect your money from her so she cannot steal it and you can encourage her to seek help, but that may be the most you can do.
It’s difficult to have good communication in a toxic relationship. How can you stay calm when trying to communicate with someone who mocks, derides, or attacks you emotionally? How can you be honest with someone who does not make you feel safe and who you do not trust enough to be vulnerable with? How can you tell someone what you need them to hear if they are too wrapped up in their own concerns to listen?
If a person does not want to work to develop a healthy relationship with you, then healthiness in your relationship is out of reach.
Some Habits For Healthy Relationships
Fostering a healthy relationship can be a lot of work, but there are some habits you can develop that can help. Here are a few:
- Reach out to your spouse and make a conscious effort to sit down regularly to discuss your finances.
- Practice being honest with yourself; if you catch yourself avoiding a necessary topic or saying things you don’t mean in order to please someone else, turn yourself in a different direction.
- Ask questions and seek more information when you don’t understand something the other person is doing. Ask them to explain it to you from their perspective.
- Learn to recognize that other people do not necessarily think the same things you do, and even the shape of their thought processes may be different. Explain how your mind reaches certain conclusions.
- Practice saying exactly what it is you need from someone.
- Be vigilant and watchful for signs of toxicity in your relationships.
Tomorrow: Invest In Your Work
This whole week is all about investing in your future. Often, there’s no better investment than investing time, energy, and money into your career. Tomorrow’s topic is all about professional development.
Do you practice good communication?
How well do you feel like you communicate with others? Do you have toxic relationship in your life? How do you deal with them? Tell us in the comments!
Photo by Fro-Dol-Foe.