I am a recovering control freak and codependent. And throughout my earlier life, money was been a tool to tip the scales in my favor—because money can control others. Even the lack of money can be used to control others (as in, see how much I am giving up to be with you?).
I realized I had created a world for myself where I had control, but no meaningful connections. No true collaboration or support. People were around because of what I could do for them, and not because of my intrinsic, lovable self. That sucked. So I changed.
My entire network fell away. Once I ceased my money manipulation, the only people who stuck around were the ones who cared about me regardless of whether or not I paid. I became a lot more critical about how money interacted in all of my relationships, and a lot more conscious of how money came into play in the relationships around me.
I realized that security is an illusion. Everything that I thought went into stable (controllable) relationships was a lie—in reality, I was the only thing that could make or break my feeling of love, stability and security—not even my partner had that power. And once I realized I was in control, I quit trying to get more of it.
Does Money Fuel Your Control Illusions?
Nowadays, I can see in others how they allow money to fuel their illusions—about themselves, relationships and business. For example:
- Chris thinks her job that makes her miserable is the only way she can make money. Her spouse agrees with her.
- Jason thinks his divorce is 100% his fault, so he doesn’t want to keep any of the assets that he and his wife built together.
- Jennifer wants her husband to earn more money, so she tries to help him with his work. And then gets frustrated and resentful when he doesn’t follow through.
- Bob thinks that he needs to “help” his wife with her job search. He creates tasks and “to do” items for her because he knows she wouldn’t get anything done otherwise.
These thoughts—that they need to control their spouse for a desired outcome–make them unhappy. I see the beginnings of marital strife (they might not even notice). They think their issues are about money, but they aren’t. It’s really all about intimacy and vulnerability. What I discovered through my (continuing) recovery from control and codependency:
- Your spouse can’t be invested in where you work; otherwise, your job becomes more important than your feelings and relationship.
- When financial mistakes are made, each spouse is 50% responsible . . . the “active” person usually gets blamed, but the “passive” person acquiesced.
- You can’t “help” your spouse be more successful; then his professional actions or inaction become more important than who s/he is as a romantic partner.
- Disappointment over someone else’s professional obstacles is an intimacy killer.
What Control Means…
When I realized I had issues in my relationships stemming from my need to control–and that I actually was attracting people who wanted to take part in that unconscious tendency on my part–I took a time out. But I know this: The reason your relationship is not working isn’t because your spouse isn’t doing well at work, or made a financial mistake, or isn’t heeding your professional advice: it’s because you’re choosing control over intimacy.
- Control means you keep track of mistakes; intimacy means forgiving and forgetting them.
- Control means you judge progress or tasks finished; intimacy means you simply enjoy being with someone, regardless of their progress.
- Control means you interpret all of your partner’s actions as a means to make you happy or unhappy; intimacy means you make yourself happy first before coming together with someone else.
- Control means you give something to get something else back; intimacy means you give of yourself when you can, but are also honest about when you have nothing to give.
- Control means you use your moods to manipulate your spouse; intimacy means you figure out how to meet your own needs, but also speak openly about them after you have a handle on your emotions.
- Control means you are invested in events playing out a certain way and stay anxious about them; intimacy means you detach from outcomes so that you can appreciate what your spouse is experiencing in the present, regardless of what that means for the future.
- Control means you don’t trust your spouse to solve his or her problems without your input; intimacy means you trust them to make the right choice and know if they don’t, things can still turn out all right.
Keep in mind, these are the attitudes I believe in when it comes to a relationship where everyone’s cards are on the table and there is already complete honesty. That’s always the first step.
If there are money issues causing conflict with your partner, you need to clean up your own behaviors and attitudes before judging your loved one. Intimacy, love and support go a lot further toward solving money problems than control, judgment and accusations. Whenever you feel a conflict coming on, ask yourself, are you choosing intimacy or control?
You might find that when you release control, you may find that your loved one continues to engage in bad behavior and not meet your expectations. But I always say, this is never just isolated to money; chances are if there are financial disappointments, there are even more symptoms that span all areas of your lives.
It’s not easy to choose the unknown over the controllable, but I promise, every time you do, you’ll get a little closer to a sense of peace and satisfaction that sticks around regardless of your current financial state or relationship challenges. Not only will you be on your way to a better relationship with your money and your partner, you’ll be on our way to a more meaningful life.
Actions This Week
- Assess. Do you have the propensity to be a control freak? (I know I still do).
- Experiment. What happens if you release your expectations regarding a specific outcome and just go with what happens? It’s probably not as disastrous as you thought.
- Discuss Outcomes. When I was a control freak, I focused on HOW someone would accomplish a task, instead of my ideal outcome. When I started changing, I would simply say what my ideal outcome was, and let the other person decide how to get there. It’s so nice to realize you can depend on people!
If you can relate to this, you might like my free ebook, Money Chakra, which starts to help people understand how their attitudes and energy affect their money decisions – you can get that here.